Protest shows support in fight for Cuban freedomJuly 20, 2021
By CHRISTINE STEPHENSON
JASPER — On an otherwise quiet Saturday afternoon on the Dubois County Courthouse Square, a group of about a dozen people stood in the streets holding signs that said, “Freedom for Cuba,” “No more dictatorship” and “Patria y vida,” which means “homeland and life.”
About a week ago, thousands of people in Cuba took to the streets to protest for freedom, as well as basic necessities, such as food, medicine and COVID-19 vaccines. They are demanding that President Miguel Diaz-Canel step down amid a shortage of food, medicine and publicly available COVID-19 vaccines, as well as a suffering economy worsened by the pandemic. It is one of the biggest anti-government protests in Cuba in decades, and people are risking their lives to join the movement.
Across the United States, protests are breaking out to show solidarity in the fight for freedom for the people of Cuba and put pressure on the federal government to pull its economic sanctions on Cuba. On Saturday, Cuban families and individuals living in Dubois County joined that fight through a peaceful demonstration.
Edilia Chancho, who lives in Dubois County but is from Cuba, where much of her family remains, said the demonstration was to show support, raise awareness of what Cubans are facing and ask local officials for help.
“The local government may not be able to do anything on their own, but they can take our voices to the federal government,” she said.
Just about everyone at the demonstration has family still living in Cuba, from parents to brothers and sisters, Chancho said.
“We Cubans in Dubois County are nervous, worried, it’s difficult to eat or sleep, it’s difficult to work and to continue our regular lives,” a document organized by Chancho before the demonstration read. “We need to act, and we ask for the opportunity to help our families in Cuba.”
Chancho said she loves living in Dubois County because it is safe and provides her with freedom, job opportunities and the ability to “live as a human being.” She said she hopes the people in Cuba, especially those who do not have family in the United States and therefore may not have any connections to outside resources, will someday have the same opportunities. This will not happen unless everyone takes a stand and refuses negotiation, she said.
“We want the dictatorship to go down,” she said. “When you have negotiation … the people are going to continue having the same problems that they have now. They may have food, they may have medicine, but they will never have freedom.”
The phrase “patria y vida” has become an anthem of the movement. It comes from a song made by several Cuban artists and plays off the phrase “Patria o Muerte,” which was often said by Fidel Castro and those who support the regime, meaning “homeland or death.” Chanting “patria y vida” is to say that the people of Cuba want to reclaim their homeland and live to see freedom.
“We’re saying ‘no more,’ ” Chancho said.
Another peaceful demonstration will take place at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Courthouse Square in Jasper. Chancho said she and the other Cubans in Dubois County who will be at the protest encourage everyone to come out and support the cause.
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