UF alumni Karolyn Ranero spent the first three years of her life in Cuba. Her immediate family then moved to the United States, but Ranero still has aunts, uncles, and siblings there. With her strong cultural ties to the region, she has closely watched the unrest and anti-government protests that are dissolving.
“The first protest I heard about was in one city, but suddenly we heard of several protests in different cities,” said Ranero.
Ranero says it was emotional for her and her family to watch these protests. While she says she often hears about the fighting her family and other Cubans face, it was unlike anything she had seen before.
“It was very emotional for us to see crowds on the streets screaming for freedom and saying that they are hungry,” she said.
She also pointed to the government’s response to these protests. Police brutality and limited access to the internet are some of the tactics the Cuban government has used to try to quell the riots.
“Monday and Tuesday were the days when we were least connected to our family in Cuba, and we haven’t heard from them for a while,” said Ranero.
After this brief period of low communication, Ranero said she was able to get in touch with her family. For now, Ranero wants to amplify the voices of the struggling Cuban population instead of politicizing the issue.
“Even if we [the Florida Cuban community] This is really emotional because in the end it is the people of Cuba who take to the streets and are at risk of arrest to use their voice and protest, ”she said.
This feeling also applies to the former president of the UF Cuban American Student Association, Thalia Fernandez. She also has a family in Cuba and says it is unsettling to see them fight.
“It’s time for a change,” said Fernandez. “More food, more medication, just a better quality of life.”
Fernandez said the conditions her family members live in are not ideal. A Fernandez family member was recently billed $ 300 for a Tylenol used to treat back pain.
This is an ongoing issue throughout the communist regime in Cuba. Food and fuel shortages, as well as limited access to medicines and COVID vaccines, have made many Cubans struggle in recent years.
“COVID is one reason these protests broke out, but one of the biggest contributors to these protests is freedom from this regime,” she said.
Fernandez is determined to spread awareness of these problems that their Cubans face. She said the government has been oppressing the people of Cuba for over 60 years and she is ready to see a change.
“People die; There is no food, no clean water, no medicine, there is nothing, ”she said.
Fernandez said that because there weren’t many CASA members in Gainesville, they weren’t able to organize a unified protest. However, she said individual members of the CASA community, particularly in South Florida, have gone to protests in their own cities and raised awareness on social media.
At the national level, other people in the US are also taking action. Many South Florida people are moving to the nation’s Capitol this weekend to call on the Biden government to provide resources to help Cubans through this crisis. Protests are also taking place in cities across Florida, including Miami, West Palm Beach, Lakeland, Pensacola, and Melbourne, according to the Palm Beach Post.