Local expatriates see rare protests in Cuba as hopeful sign

Loud cries for liberty heard in communist relic country

Local expatriates see rare protests in Cuba as hopeful sign

SAN ANTONIO – More than 60 years after communist dictator Fidel Castro seized control of the island nation, the recent mass protests in Cuba tell Jorge Felipe Gonzalez that “Cubans are not going to put up with this anymore.”

Yet, by going on the record, Gonzalez said he might not be allowed to go back to Cuba to visit his family.

Gonzalez, an assistant professor of history and a Ph.D. at UTSA, said, “The government has prohibited Cubans to speak against the regime as a requirement for entry.”

“It’s the least I can do for my native country. It’s the right thing to do,” he said.

Even so, soon after Sunday’s protests, he said many of those who were chanting “Liberty” and “We are not afraid” in Spanish paid the price.

“Police going to people’s homes and taking them, and some people have been killed,” Gonzalez said.

But Gonzalez predicts the protests won’t stop, despite what he calls “very mild reform” by the Cuban government in response, allowing travelers to bring in unlimited amounts of food, medicine and hygiene products duty-free.

“What it shows is that they are scared, that they know things cannot be as they used to be,” Gonzalez said.

Susana Baird, a local realtor brought to the U.S. by her parents as a baby, said this was only the beginning.

“I know that every Cuban American is going to support them in any way they can,” she said.

After all, she said, “It’s got to stop. It has to stop. They’ve got to be strong. They’ve got to continue.”

As it is now, they said many are starving and dying from COVID-19 because the vaccine that Cuba developed has not been widely given, much less the lack of other medications and necessities.

Gonzalez said the average monthly pay is $25-30, while as a professor in Cuba, he earned $40 a month.

Although the internet helped spur protests, Gonzalez said the signal is spotty and unreliable.

What happens now, he said, will be up to the Cuban people but also “moral, political, international and diplomatic support” by the U.S. and the international community.

About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

William Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.