It is seldom a good time to be a dissident Cuban, in Cuba or in Miami. As far as my compatriotas are concerned, I am not a very good Cuban.
Since I became an American citizen in 1973, the first one in my family to do so, I forged my own path: as a gay man, a convert to Judaism, and most importantly, a member of the political left. Most of my nuclear family members, like most Cuban Americans in Miami, are conservative Republicans. I am a progressive Democrat. They support aggressive action against Cuba’s communist regime. I support Barack Obama’s detente with the Island and regret that President Biden retained Donald Trump’s regressive moves. I oppose the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, agreeing with the vast majority of nations that oppose it at the United Nations. All that would make me, as some would say, a Cubano arrepentido, a Cuban who is ashamed to be Cuban.
This is not true. I am proud to be a Cuban American; proud that I was born in Havana to parents who were themselves born in Cuba. We are a great people, as proved by our success in the Cuban diaspora. I have no illusions about Cuba’s totalitarian regime, which like all tyrannies cut off access to the Internet once their people began to complain and protest in early July. Those who believed that anti-government feeling was limited to a few old fogeys playing dominoes on Calle Ocho were surprised to see many young Cubans and Cuban American, in greater and Little Havana, women and men who were born long after the Revolution of 1959, take to the streets on behalf of Patria y Vida (homeland and life). This is not the first time that Cubans and Cuban Americans gathered in front of the Versailles Restaurant on behalf of Libertad on the Island. They did so when the Soviet Union fell (1991) and when Fidel Castro died (2016). And though the protesters might be disappointed again, they will never give up, because hope springs eternal in the human breast.
Like the buen Cubano that I believe I am, I look forward to the day when Cuba’s democracy is restored, and its people are free. But change must come from the Cuban people themselves. It must not come from the United States, which has a terrible record at nation-building, whether in Cuba, Haiti, Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan, among other countries that it messed up. Opportunistic American politicians like Senator Marco Rubio have made political hay out of the suffering of the Cuban people (and the Venezuelan people) for far too long. Though I do not intend to return there to live, I would like to see my native land, for the first time in almost 60 years, and be among a people who survived and prospered, no matter what the circumstances.
Jesse Monteagudo is a freelance writer and journalist. He has been an active member of South Florida's LGBT community for more than four decades and has served in various community organizations.