By Melanie Rodriguez, Junior
I was enveloped by the rhythms of the guaguanco just the night before; dancing to “Yo Naci en un Solar” fueled solely by the six-eight beat of the Afro-Cuban rhythms. The energy flowing through the room, guided by the same passion and traditions running through our veins for infinite generations connected every person, from the youngest to the oldest, in a state of euphoric celebration. Everyone was out of their chairs and dancing in the aisles— even the Arsht Center’s strictly enforced etiquette rules could not contain the emotion of having the Havana Cuba All-Stars here, despite being so close to home, for the first time ever after years of restrictions placed on them. However, little did we know that the cause of such a great part of our suffering had vanished as we were celebrating what had been taken away from us throughout the course of so many years. Ironically enough, the self-proclaimed father for the hatred of American capitalism had died on Black Friday. Fidel Castro was, this time, actually dead.
As the child of Cuban political refugees who understands the suffering that so many people on that island have incurred, I could not help but feel complete relief when I awoke the following morning to news that seemed would never come. I want those who question why the streets of Little Havana were flooded with people celebrating the death nonstop from day to day during this time to understand the suffering these families have endured because of one man. Imagine the horrors of being at sea for days without the guarantee that you will ever reach the country claiming to provide you with freedom. Imagine everything you own being rationed by the government Imagine not being given the opportunity to study the career of your choice for not agreeing with others ideologies despite the country’s claim of having one of the highest literacy rates in the world. Imagine being jailed and beaten for disagreeing with the government’s ideology as seen by the public humiliations of the Damas de Blanco almost every day. Imagine never being able to witness your heritage first hand because you are threatened with never being able to come back. Imagine witnessing all of these occurrences. No, this is not a best-selling dystopian novel. This is the reality that so many people endure daily. That is why, when receiving the news of someone’s death, so many of us broke down into tears of joy and not tears of sorrow. That is what I need you to understand.
Just like Fidel Castro took control of Cuba on January 1st, 1959 with the “Cuban Revolution”, I have hope that on January 1st, 2017 we can use this symbolic death of repression to be inspired to take action and commence a revolution to completely free this beautiful land from any oppression, so its own people can go back to enjoying the rhythms of the guaguanco within their homes.