If You Think All Cubans Are Trump Supporters, You Need To Hear What America Valdés Has To Say
Photo via americavaldess/Instagram; Photographer: Jordan Patterson
America Valdés is an anomaly. The singer, model, actress is one of few (if not only) Gen Z activists fighting for the world — and Americans in particular — to truly understand what is happening in Cuba.
In July, Valdés posted a series of videos to her TikTok page breaking down what was happening in Cuba. The videos went viral, reposted everywhere from Instagram to Twitter to Facebook.
In the video, Valdés faces the camera, selfie-style, explaining why Cubans are finally taking to the streets to demand freedom.
“The people are sick and tired of living under this regime,” she said. “Cubans everywhere on the island are protesting right now, which is incredibly dangerous because there is no freedom of speech in Cuba and you can be jailed for protesting.”
For those who aren’t well informed about Cuba, Valdés’s explanation offered crystal-clear insight into the situation. Insight that wasn’t biased or partisan or agenda-driven, but instead rooted in a concern for human rights and human rights only.
Right ahead of the international protests decrying the Cuban government, mitú sat down with Valdés to have a conversation about everything from social media to disinformation to generational trauma.
Valdés, who is the daughter of famous Cuban comedian Alexis Valdés, shared that the reason she wanted to create a video series explaining the situation in Cuba is because she saw a lack of accurate information circulating on social media that was targeted towards people her age.
“There was a total lack of content in English and content just explaining things. Content that was non-biased to any political party. I wanted to make content that could reach Gen Z and Millennials, because, when we care about something and something is explained to us right, we get shit done,” says Valdés.
“I felt that it wasn’t fair to get mad at people not caring about Cuba without them having any way of properly informing themselves about the situation.”
So, she took it upon herself to be the educator. And the task hasn’t always been easy. Because, as we know, in the U.S., both the left and the right have strong opinions about who is actually to blame for the suffering of the Cuban people who are still on the island. Is it the embargo? Is it the communist regime? Is it something even more complicated than that?
So, how do she approach addressing the conflict in Cuba without angering her audience?
The answer? Valdés doesn’t care if she angers people on social media.
“I feel like the only people I am currently pissing off, surprisingly, is a lot of young American leftists. And I’m a leftist,” Valdés explains. “Whenever I do try to spread awareness about what’s happening in my country, I do get flooded with messages from these people.”
“Most of them are white, most of them are very young and most of them have probably never met a Cuban person,” she said. “Most of them probably live in an American suburb. You have to think: Why do you feel so much authority to speak on what’s happening in the developing world?”
But to her, the mission of educating people on the truth of what she knows as a Cuban-American is more important than getting hate on social media.
“Cuba is generational trauma,” she says. “It is generational pain. It is something that you grow up feeling and it is very present. And that’s why I hate when people try to invalidate first generation, second generation, third generation Cubans because that is in you. And people are talking about that from the moment you are born and you feel that from the moment you’re born.”
As an Afro-Latina, Valdés also understands the impulse for Black Americans and non-Cuban Latinos to be suspicious of the #SOSCuba movement because of the stereotype that exists of the “typical Miami Cuban.”
“People say, ‘Our idea of Cubans is that you guys are white, that you guys are racist, and that you guys are Trump supporters.’ And that’s so unfair,” she explains. “And I say that as someone who lived in Miami and was targeted by these fascist Cubans because I publicly supported Black Lives Matter.”
Valdés goes on to explain that not all Cuban-Americans have the same political beliefs — herself, her friends and her family are living proof of that.
“I don’t know anybody that’s my age who’s a Trump-supporter in Miami,” she says. “All of the Cubans I know, including generations older than me, are all progressive Cubans. And it’s like, you are judging a community that’s been emigrating for almost seventy years now, based off of what a percentage — a big one, I will give you that — of Cubans in Florida think politically.”
In her eyes, it is unfair to blame Cubans still on the island — the majority of whom are Black and/or brown — for the political beliefs of expat Cubans, who are no longer living on the island, still hold.
That’s why America Valdés is happier than ever that Cubans’ fight for freedom is finally getting the international spotlight it deserves — although, there is still work to do.
“We’re marching for basic human rights. We’re marching for a right to freedom of expression, the right to leave your country if you want. The right to proper food for your children, proper medical care for your family.”
To help Cubans and the #SOSCuba movement, Valdés suggests a few things. First, there are organizations that are collecting money to send recargas (cellphone minutes) to Cubans abroad, which Valdés says is especially important to keep Cubans on the island connected to their family members across the diaspora during this uncertain time. Cuban-American activist Gemeny Hernandez is one of the leaders in this department.
And the second step is to listen to Cubans and uplift their voices. “Amplify Cuban voices before anything else,” Valdés says. “If you see Cubans putting out information, help us move that information, because that’s the most important thing that you can do.”
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