Luis Rondon Paz

People waiting along the Malecon seawall to watch Obama pass by.

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.

Obama speaking to Cubans.

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.

Luis Rondón

Luis Rondon Paz: Activist, Queer, computer scientist, actor, photographer, student and apprentice journalist. Originally from Santiago de Cuba. I believe that people are life projects in constant transformation. I am consistent and responsible for my actions, committed to just causes and a lover of good deeds. Today I write about Cuba in exile, free of psychological torture and persecution of the Cuban dictatorship.

12 thoughts on “Obama Reached the Hearts of Many Cubans

  • Describing Obama “with his white shirt sleeves rolled up” is a compliment. It describes an easy-going, approachable man who most Cubans took a liking to. That Obama chose to bring his mother-in-law along with his wife & children to Cuba endeared him to Cubans, who have deep respect for family, and many of whom live with in-laws & grandparents.

    Moses is correct: next to the relaxed Obama, Raul looked like an uptight, fussy old dictator, which is exactly who he is. I have several criticisms of Obama’s visit to Cuba, from a strategic policy perspective, but his optimistic manner was an excellent example of his smart political skill. Obama made a positive impression on the Cuban people.

  • You have misunderstood …again. My comment regarding my President whom I voted for twice is a compliment. I admire the the fact that this Harvard – educated leader of the free world is willing to roll his sleeves up and take in an afternoon ballgame. I also recognize that Raul is a very old man. In fact, the time has long passed where he should be on his farm in retirement enjoying his great grandkids and not continuing to destroy Cuba. When I am 84, God willing, the only work I want to be doing is chasing my Cuban wife around in the bedroom.

  • The “clear choice” for Cubans on the island is to make sure that they and not self-serving benefactors off the island chart their futures and the island’s future. Disrespecting a great President, Mr. Obama, and the office he holds is typical of the bullies off the island who want to dictate to the people on the island. Demeaning Mr. Obama — “with his white shirt sleeves rolled up” — is despicable and that is particularly so when the motive is because he is doing all he can to help the maligned people on the island. And, Moses, you might be “tired and grumpy” when you’re 84. And his “dark blue jacket?” His age, his attire…uh, anything else?

  • The choice that I am referring to is more ethereal. Castro represents the past and Obama is the future. I did pick up the age difference though. Pretty sharp right?

  • Something that I picked up on was Obama’s praise of famous Cuban singer Celia Cruz and the Cuban American singer Gloria Estefan, two artists who until very recently were banned in Cuba. What does it say about a regime that banns artist? I love the way he stuck it to Castro ….with subtlety.

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