Things That Matter

Here’s How Some People Tried To Show The Reality Of Cubans During Cuban Independence Day

Cuban Independence Day was May 20 and people were definitely celebrating the day that Cuba declared their independence from Spain. However, while people danced, drank, and partied in the name of Cuba, others questioned the significance of the day considering the government of the island nation is still Communist.

May 20th was Cuban Independence Day and, of course, there were several celebrations.

The Cuban Revolution was in full force in the 1890s when Cuban nationals started to fight back against the Spanish rule. By 1895, the Spanish government sent 100,000 soldiers to Cuba to squash the revolution. Yet, the post-Civil War United States decided to get involved in a fight on behalf of the Cuban people and Cuban independence. The United States did take control over Cuba after the war with Spain’s rule in Cuba was over in 1898 and by May 20, 1902, the Republic of Cuba was born.

Cuba earned its independence from Spain in 1898 following a 5-year war. The United states stepped in during the war to help free Cuba from Spain’s hold on the island nation and the U.S. maintained their control of the island until 1902 when Cuba became a self-governed republic.

There were small memorializing services like the rededication of 22nd Ave. in Miami to Generalísimo Máximo Gomez Ave.

Generalísimo Máximo Gomez fought in two wars in Cuba. He first fought in the Ten Years’ War and then joined in the fight for the revolution and independence of Cuba later.

People even reacted to Trump’s Cuban Independence Day statement.

“Today, we remember patriots like José Martí, who devoted himself to making Cuba an economically competitive and politically autonomous nation,” reads Trump’s statement. “He reminds us that cruel despotism cannot extinguish the flame of freedom in the hearts of Cubans, and that unjust persecution cannot tamper Cubans’ dreams for their children to live free from oppression. The Cuban people deserve a government that peacefully upholds democratic values, economic liberties, religious freedoms, and human rights, and my Administration is committed to achieving that vision.”

But the celebrations on social media were paralleled with the reality of what Cuban people face.

Despite the U.S. attempting to normalize ties with Cuba, Cuba continues to be a Communist country with Raúl Castro, Fidel Castro’s brother, still calling the shots. Raúl is currently the president, the first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, and he is the head of the Cuban military.

Many people echoed this sentiment of wanting true freedom and democracy for the Cuban people including Esteban Bovo, the Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners for Miami-Dade County.

Ana Navarro tweeted on the day to remind everyone that even though U.S. policy toward Cuba is changing, it is still a country ran by a regime that oppresses human rights.

The Human Rights Watch reports that the beatings, public shaming, and the firing of all those who dissent and question the government publicly have increased since the U.S. began softening their stance. The Human Rights Watch reports that the Cuban government still relies on arbitrary arrests of political opponents, critics of the government, and independent journalists. An example The Human Rights Watch points to is the arrest of about 300 political dissidents in advance of President Obama’s visit in March 2016.

While no one tried to say not to celebrate Cuban Independence Day, they did ask that those celebrating think about what is left to make Cuba the democracy Cubans and Cuban-Americans crave.

In the words of Pitbull from his “Fate Of The Furious” single “Hey Ma” featuring J Balvin and fellow Cuban Camila Cabello: “Pa’lante con la libertad de Cuba/Y que la isla entera suba.” (“Forward with the liberty of Cuba/And that the whole island rises up.”)

READ: Gay Activists Met In Havana To Talk Cuban LGBTQ Rights

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In Cuba, Where Food Is Unreliable, Savvy Cooks Have Turned to Facebook to Share Recipes


In Cuba, Where Food Is Unreliable, Savvy Cooks Have Turned to Facebook to Share Recipes

Photo via Getty Images

COVID-19 hasn’t been easy for Cubans. Not only have Cubans been physically affected by the virus like the rest of the world, but the drop in the island’s gross domestic product has stymied local economic productivity. The island can no longer look to tourism to add to their GDP.

Because of this drop in GDP, food shortages on the island have become more severe than in recent memory. And Cuban cooks are feeling the effects.

Cubans must stand in line for hours at markets with no guarantees that the ingredients that they want will be available.

This way of living is especially hard for Cuban cooks, like 39-year-old Yuliet Colón. For Colón, cooking is both a creative expression and a stress reliever. “The kitchen is my happy place, where I am calmer and I feel better,” she recently revealed to the Associated Press.

Yuliet Colón is one of the creators of a Facebook page called Recetas del Corazón that has changed the cooking game for thousands of Cubans.

Now, thanks to Colón and other curious and generous Cuban cooks like her, Recipes from the Heart is now 12,000 members strong.

The goal of the page is to help struggling Cuban cooks cope with food shortages. Members of the page share creative recipes, tips, and food substitutions. Launched in June of 2020, the page was an instant success. Its success proves that Cubans have been desperate to find ways to adapt their cooking to the post-COVID-era.

To AP News, Yuliet Colón laments about the lack of rice, beans, cheese, fruit, and, most of all, eggs. “What I like the most is making desserts, but now it’s hard to get eggs, milk or flour,” she revealed.

The brightside is, however, that Cuban cooks are finally able to share food-related tips and tricks with each other on a much larger scale than they were before the internet became more widespread in the country.

Now that many Cubans have access to communication apps like Facebook and WhatsApp, they can now connect with one another and make the most of what they have–however little that may be.

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This Is How Cuba Is Developing Its Own COVID Vaccine When It Can Barely Get Daily Necessities To The Island

Things That Matter

This Is How Cuba Is Developing Its Own COVID Vaccine When It Can Barely Get Daily Necessities To The Island

Cuba has long been a biotech juggernaut in the Caribbean. When health crises emerge around the globe or there’s a medical disaster, Cuba is often one of the first nation’s to send medical staff and emergency workers to help. Its medical team has become part of the country’s diplomacy.

But the Coronavirus pandemic has brought economic devastation to a country already facing severe economic issues. Many on the island struggle to even find daily necessities like Tylenol or Band-Aids yet the Cuban government is just steps away from developing its own vaccine against COVID-19. How is this possible?

Cuban researches are making their own Coronavirus vaccine and seeing great results.

Currently on the island, there are five vaccine candidates in development, with two already in late-stage trials. Cuban officials say they’re developing cheap and easy-to-store serums. They are able to last at room temperature for weeks, and in long-term storage as high as 46.4 degrees, potentially making them a viable option for low-income, tropical countries that have been pushed aside by bigger, wealthier nations in the international race for coronavirus vaccines.

If they’re successful and developing and rolling out the vaccine, Cuba – a country where the average scientific researcher earns about $250 a month — could be among the first nations in the world to reach herd immunity, putting it in a position to lure vaccine tourists and to export surpluses of what officials claim could reach 100 million doses by year’s end.

If they pull this off, it would be a big win for the communist government.

Achieving success would be an against-the-odds feat of medical science and a public relations win for the isolated country of 11 million people. Cuba was just added back to the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism in the final days of the Trump administration.

It could also make Cuba the pharmacist for nations lumped by Washington into the so-called “Axis of Evil.” Countries like Iran and Venezuela have already inked vaccine deals with Havana. Iran has even agreed to host a Phase 3 trial of one of Cuba’s most promising candidates — Soberana 2 — as part of a technology transfer agreement that could see millions of doses manufactured in Iran.

“We have great confidence in Cuban medical science and biotechnology,” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza told The Washington Post this week. “It will not only be fundamental for Venezuela, but for the Americas. It will be the true solution for our people.”

So how is Cuba managing to pull this off despite all the challenges they face?

Cuba is an authoritarian, one-party state with strict controls on everything from free speech and political activism to social media and LGBTQ rights. But the island has always invested heavily in education and healthcare, which has led to an unusually sophisticated biotechnology industry for a small developing country, with at least 31 research companies and 62 factories with over 20,000 workers.

Should Cuba’s vaccines succeed, its researchers will have overcome even more hurdles than their peers in Western labs — including shortages of equipment, spare parts and other supplies, due in part to U.S. sanctions

A successful vaccine could also become a vital new source of revenue for Cuba, which has been suffering a brutal economic crisis that has citizens waiting hours in line to buy scarce food, soap and toothpaste. The economy worsened under Trump-era sanctions that tightened the long-standing U.S. economic embargo of Cuba by curbing remittances, scaling back U.S. flights, ending cruise ship passenger traffic and further complicating Cuba’s access to the global financial system. President Biden has called for a possible return to Obama-era policies, but he has made no such moves yet.

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