Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The door to change is open

Posted on Tuesday, 09.29.09
The door to change is open

During the weeks before Juanes' concert in Havana, controversy was
simmering in Miami. Many Cuban Americans, including myself, were
skeptical, believing that somehow the presence of such a prominent
artist would provide the Cuban dictatorship with useful propaganda.

Two Sundays ago, we beheld the spectacle of more than one million Cubans
willfully filling the Plaza of the Revolution to the brim and saw images
that were transmitted all over the world. For Cubans, especially those
with family on the island, it was hard not to shed more than a few tears.

For 50 years, Cubans have lived under brutal and humiliating conditions.
That Sunday, our Cuban brethren had a rare opportunity to have a good
time and to hear a message of peace and reconciliation in the very plaza
where hatred and division have long been dispensed. For a while they
danced and partied and enjoyed a moment of bliss, temporarily forgetting
the daily struggles they would face when they returned home.

How is it possible that this has lasted for 50 years? I asked myself why
there were more than one million people gathered that day overcoming
great obstacles. Why were there two groups of Cuban Americans on Eighth
Street shouting at each other?

What is wrong with this picture?

I know that there is much pain in our community; yet, we don't hold a
monopoly on pain. There are those like my father, who lost a of lifetime
of hard work so that my brother and I could enjoy freedom and democracy.
That generation of exiles paid a big price. Their lives could never be
the same. There are those leaders of exile organizations, like Armando
Perez-Roura, who have worked tirelessly to keep us from giving up on
Cuba after 50 long years and to keep the flame of passion burning
bright. They all had a difficult time accepting a concert in Cuba.

Cubans are hard working and ingenious. Cuban Americans demonstrated this
when this great country generously gave us the opportunity to realize
our dreams. The dictator will soon be gone.

Once given the opportunity, I have no doubt that Cubans on the island
will work hard to craft a bright future for themselves and for the Cuban
nation. Our responsibility is to go back and help them rebuild.

The concert took many here by surprise. What we saw was totally
unexpected. Olga Tañon's first song, Ese hombre es mentiroso, (That man
is a liar) whether intended or not, brought joy to all Cubans, here and

In my opinion the concert was a success. Juanes had good intentions --
and they showed. He offered a message of love and unity for all Cubans.
He shouted ``Cuba libre'' more than once, and his song about an island
in the middle of the sea, begging for liberty, jerked tears from everyone.

Juanes opened the door to change; it is time to rethink our strategy.
With three Cuban-American members of Congress, and one in the Senate,
and many well-meaning Cuban-American leaders of hundreds of different
political organizations in exile, it is time for one of them to come
forward and unite us behind a new and more effective approach that
focuses on the Cuban people first.

Sergio Pino is president of Century Homebuilders of South Florida.

The door to change is open - Other Views - (29 September

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