Luis Rondon Paz
HAVANA TIMES — Obama’s speech at Havana’s Gran Teatro, a stone’s throw away from the “Capitolio” Capital Building replica in Cuba, is without a doubt a historical event for both countries. Access to an area spanning 2 kilometers from the venue had been restricted, but that was to be expected.
Since I got there late, I obviously was not allowed to enter the Parque Central Hotel, where the Paz Communications team was working, so I made use of the time taking some pictures and shooting some videos of the surroundings to capture what was going on in Havana minutes before the speech by the US president.
The speech was objective, transparent and eloquent. Without a doubt, he earned the position of president of the world’s most powerful country fairly. Personally, it moved me to the depths of my being, for I have suffered the differences between the two countries directly: the indoctrination at my primary school, where they tried to teach me that all Americans were bad, then nearly all of my primary school friends leaving the country in an avalanche, two of my sisters leaving the country, lack of communication with the outside world, poverty and terrible food throughout the Special Period, my desperate need to flee Cuba, the feeling of impotence in seeing how hard one works and what little one gets, the resignation, the pain of living in a country that discriminates against me for being different, frustrated love, and many other memories and feelings that came to me while hearing Obama’s words.
I wasn’t able to hold back the tears when I heard him pronounce such words as “the future of Cuba has to be in the hands of Cubans,” his faith in the new generations, in Cuba’s youth, and my own hopes of building a freer, more equitable and truly just Cuba.
Once again, I was able to confirm that having decided to stay in Cuba at the age of 24 and, sometime later, out of conviction, to have devoted my life to activism, was not a mistake. No one had explained this to me, but I felt that change had to begin inside me, as a sexual minority and as a key link in the process of empowering citizens. This feeling was reaffirmed again on hearing Obama’s address.
I believe we will soon see more employment opportunities and that we will be able to travel to the United States more easily, to study, work and contribute to improving the quality of life of Cubans. Perhaps, we won´t even have to consider going after the American Dream, because life will be better in my own country.
I feel that the ball is now on the side of the court of Raul Castro and the Cuban government. There was total frankness on Obama’s part. All we need is for my country to become involved in the matter and to become more open to participative democracy, to trust the society it has educated for over 50 years.
It’s time for citizens to become more directly involved in the country’s development, to promote the rule of law and real justice for everyone. Of course, we don’t need anyone to tell us what to do, but we need to have enough political maturity to listen to what others think, respecting differences and being able to take the best from those who have a democratic system different from Cuba’s, a mechanism I feel should continue to change to address the needs of the new generations and changes worldwide.