I'm still working on getting used to being back in sunny SoCal. I STILL wake-up everyday and have to remind myself I am no longer in Cuba. I hear the silence of my house and miss the sounds of my great aunts and uncles starting their day.
When my phone rings it usually surprises me, if I hear it at all.
And when I'm falling asleep I still find myself thinking, "Somewhere, not too far away, there are men suffering for their beliefs. God, please bless and protect them." (Which was the thought I had every night as I would go to sleep while I was in Cuba.)
Being back has been a struggle for various reasons. In Miami, you can throw a rock and you are very likely to hit a Cuban (No, I'm not advocating rock-throwing or any violence, for that matter, it's just an idiom).
L.A. is not like that. The Cuban community is not as tight here. We Cubans blend in a bit more. Sure, we get together for a yearly Cuban Festival in San Dimas, but I get the feeling that many people miss out on it because it isn't well publicized.
**For those of you who ARE in L.A. and DO wonder when the 2010 Cuban Festival in San Dimas will be taking place: Sunday, May 2nd is your answer. For more information you can click here.**
Where was I? Ah, yes. Cuban community. We L.A. Cubans just aren't as easy to spot as in Miami which has me rather frustrated. HOW are we going to work to bring about change in Cuba if we don't work together?
Thankfully, there are other Cubans in L.A. who felt the same way and have taken it upon themselves to do something about it. They formed a Facebook group that now has almost 900 members. If you're a Cuban in Los Angeles or Orange County and you are looking to get connected, this group, appropriately called "Cubans in L.A." is a great step in the right direction.
What I found most encouraging about the group is that they are just as hungry as I am to see change in Cuba and they are doing something about it.
Through the magic of the internet, we Cubans in L.A. are going to show our solidarity with the Damas en Blanco (Ladies in White).
For the uninformed, the Damas en Blanco are the female relatives or the 75 dissidents that were imprisoned during the Black Spring of 2003. Every year on the anniversary of the wrongful imprisonment of the 75 brave men, the women dress in all white, carry a flower, and march peacefully in protest of what the communist regime is doing to their loved ones. This year, the women were assualted by an angry "pro-(c)astro" mob and their march was stopped by official agents of the regime. The women were forcibly relocated to the home of their leader, Laura Pollan.
The Cuban-American singer, Gloria Estefan has called for all Cubans who live in the freedom of the U.S. and anyone else who supports Human Rights to show their support for the Ladies in White. Gloria will be heading up a march in Miami on Thursday, March 25th, in Little Havana. The march, which will begin promptly at 6 p.m., will take place on 8th Street from 22nd to 27th Avenues. Those wishing to take part should assemble on Beacom Blvd., between 7th and 8th Streets, before 6 p.m.
For anyone NOT in the Miami area and wanting to help show support for the Damas en Blanco and call for the release of the political prisoners in Cuba here is what you can do:
1) Join Oscar-winning director Pedro Almódovar and legendary Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa in calling for the immediate release of all Cuban prisoners of conscience by signing the online petition.
2) Pledge to fast 12 hours on Sunday, March 28th from 6am to 6pm.
Orlando Zapata Tamayo died a month ago after being on a hunger strike for more than 80 days. Many of the other prisoners have begun their own hunger strikes.
3) Change your Facebook profile picture to one of the Damas en Blanco shots or of Orlando Zapata Tamayo or of Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet.
4) Get the word out. The power of "Hunger for Change" lies in spreading information about what’s happened and demonstrating solidarity with those involved. The more people know, the less likely the Cuban government is to continue repressing those in Cuba who dare to speak their own beliefs.
5) And for those of us in the LA and OC area:
We will be meeting in front of the Jose Marti statue in Echo Park at 2pm. Please wear white, bring a flower and a poster board / sign commemorating the political prisoners, Las Damas, etc. We are going to march around around Echo Park, wear white, and carry flowers and images of the 75. The march will begin and end at the Jose Marti Statue.
If you can make it, please come find me and introduce yourself. I am always so encouraged to find other like-minded Cubans in SoCal. (Also, I look fabulous in white!)