December 19, 2014
By: Vanessa Garcia (Vanessa Garcia is a writer, playwright, and journalist. She is a doctoral candidate at the University of California Irvine.)
Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014, Obama made history, there's not doubt about that. He opened diplomatic relations with Cuba after over half a century of closure. As someone who thinks about Cuba often, I've sat down to write my response to this event, started and stopped, hundreds of times in the past several days.
If I were an American that was not the daughter of Cuban immigrants, it would be easy to write this article. It seems obvious: Great news! Next, lift the embargo.
If I were a Cuban exile hardliner, it would also be easy: How can we lift the embargo when human rights are being violated in Cuba on a daily basis?
But I'm neither of those things. I am an American Born Cuban, an ABC. My voice sits on the line that views both camps with understanding, detecting the ironies, paradoxes, and complexities of our story along that line. I was raised Cuban in the United States. The language of home and love for me is Spanish, but my thoughts and dreams spin out in English, the language of my education.
It's a voice -- shared by many of my peers -- that is of utmost importance in the current debate surrounding the new policies towards Cuba.
I will say straight away and clearly that I am anti-embargo, and that Dec.17th's news made me literally jump for joy in my bedroom; cry in my car with tears that seemed conjured from some deep-rooted place inside me. I whole-heartedly want the United States to have a relationship with Cuba. And I am not alone. 90% of young Cuban-Americans want this, according to Florida International University's 2014 Cuba Poll, which gathers the opinions of Miami Cubans on Cuba Policy.
And yet, I understand when the Cuban dissident, photographer and blogger, Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, defiantly writes on my FB wall that there should be no exchange with Cuba until Raul Castro promises to give Cubans the fundamental freedoms necessary to live in a civil society.
I also understand the forum down in Little Havana -- a forum many are calling a circus. I understand that Versailles -- the mirrored restaurant on eighth street, where the Cuban exile community has been gathering for years, after their grandchildren's ballet recitals, as well as to argue any news coming out of Cuba -- is ironically symbolic of democracy.
I say ironically because the restaurant is named after Louis XIV's palace of the same name. At the same time, I speak without irony about the restaurant being a symbol of democracy. Exiles come here to argue when something stirs in the news regarding Cuba because they are grateful for their right to do so. They left a place where they could not speak their minds in order to come to a land in which they could. Here are people who never saw their mothers again; whose fathers were killed in Cuba; whose brothers stayed behind; whose children were murdered and/or imprisoned by the Castro regime. This is not to be taken lightly. It is for this reason that they raise their voice. Because in America, you can do that. And they are not to be laughed at even if they seem clownish to some who may not understand the history behind their cries.
The one person it is very hard for me to understand is Senator Marco Rubio. This is problematic because he's supposed to represent me. But he does not represent me. This is dangerous, because the embargo, which I, and others of my generation, wish lifted, will not be lifted until congress approves.
Marco Rubio seems not to care about our opinion, however. "I don't care if the polls say 99% of people in Florida want to lift the embargo. I would still be for (keeping) it," Rubio said Wednesday. "My goal is freedom and democracy in Cuba, and the embargo gives us leverage."
Again, the ironies here abound. According to the same FIU poll mentioned above, 68% of respondents favor restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba. 69% of all respondents, young and old alike, favor the lifting of travel restrictions. 71% agreed that the US embargo against Cuba has not worked. These numbers tell our story.
These numbers tell a story of change that Rubio no longer represents. This is a democracy in which we are supposed to be, as a people, represented by our congressmen and women. If Senator Marco Rubio cannot understand that, then how does he plan to bring "democracy" to Cuba?
It will be up to us, the majority, to go out and vote in the next election and make sure that our voices, as ABCs, are heard beyond social media (which is our own contemporary Versailles). It will be up to us to take a lesson, paradoxically, from our parents, whom we often disagree with, and not take our democratic rights for granted. Our voice, as people who can see and understand both sides of this debate, is of utter importance going forward. We have longed for a bridge and now we have the ability to become that bridge, finally connecting Miami to La Habana after so many years of drifting.
About Vanessa Garcia
Vanessa Garcia is a writer and mulit-media artist