Cuban exiles remain hopeful for a free Cuba 2 months after historic protest on the island

People flooded streets protesting government’s response to pandemic, suppression

ORLANDO, Fla. – It’s now been two months since the uprising in Cuba where thousands of people across the island flooded the streets protesting the government’s response to the pandemic and suppression. But those who are in exile have not lost hope, like Annia Torres and her father, Leonel A. Pérez, who left Cuba after religious persecution.

“At school, every year they would come out to intimidate us really and they would ask who belongs to a church here,” Torres recalled. “I was always like very into faith so I was not ashamed of it, and I would always raise my hand.”

Torres and her parents were targeted in Cuba back in the 1970s because her parents were Evangelical pastors in her hometown of San José de las Lajas -- a town south of Havana. After communism took over the island, any religion was prohibited.

“Yo varias ocasiones tuve, ejemplo: en un servicio religioso cantando corito y de buenas a primeras una pistola aquí en la espalda y así preso y cuántas cosas,” Pérez said in his native language that on several occasions he had a gun put to his back during service -- detained and jailed one time for several days. He was a pastor in Cuba for 17 years.

“En los primeros años de la revolución se crearon campos de concentración en el año ‘65; pastores desaparecidos, seminarios clausurados,” he said during the first years of communism, the Cuban revolution created concentration camps in 1965; pastors disappeared, and seminaries were closed.

In 1981, the father of two said after an agreement between the Cuban government and Cuban leaders from south Florida allowed for pastors, their wives and children to leave, he boarded a flight with his family to the U.S.

“Cuando llegué aquí, con una pluma en el bolsillo, el pasaporte en la mano y con el corazón lleno de esperanza,” Pérez said when he arrived in the U.S. he had a pen in his pocket, his passport in hand and a heart full of hope. That same hope he felt on July 11 when he saw his people on his beloved island rise up and protest against the regime.

When asked if he still felt that hope two months after the protest, he said, in Spanish, everything has its timing and it will be at God’s timing when he decides when his people’s moment will come just like it happened with the fall of the Soviet Union without a shot fired.

“I do {believe}. I do, and even though you don’t see a lot of people now on the streets because of course, we have to go back to work, and you know but we still are there, and some communities are still going out and protesting,” his daughter, Annia said.

Annia, who has spent most of her life on the real estate industry, said one of those protests was recently held in New York City on Tuesday in front of the United Nations, where according to Annia, the discussion did not include the situation in Cuba.

“They did not mention Cuba and I’m thinking: what are they thinking? We have a lot of issues with human right in Cuba, and the United Nations did not mention Cuba, so yeah, we’re mad about it,” she said, adding she joins every opportunity she can to advocate for her people.

“If you’re within the Cuban community we’re all kind of active still you know,” she said “I’m one of the persons that keep faith in you know that July 11 was a point where I think a lot of people came out and they don’t have the fear anymore.”

About the Author:

Carolina Cardona highlights all Central Florida has to offer in her stories on News 6 at Nine. She joined News 6 in June 2018 from the Telemundo station in Philadelphia.