Lopez-Cantera: Younger Cubans still committed to a free Cuba

Much is said about the views of the younger generation of Cuban Americans and how they see Cuba. As we commemorate another 20 de mayo, while Cuba still remains hostage to the cruelty of sibling dictators, it’s an appropriate moment to look a bit closer at the sentiments of my generation.

Our parents and grandparents were given refuge by the most generous nation on Earth, making us proud Americans. Decades later, I believe, we remain deeply committed to a free Cuba. Why?

Cuba’s independence in 1902 was achieved despite insurmountable odds. The tenacity and courage of the Mambises forever marked Cuba’s national identity. I was raised knowing the stories of a generation that in their youth had to abandon Cuba; family members that were imprisoned; and countless examples of bravery from the Plantados to Bay of Pigs to the Escambray.

They never surrendered nor never gave up. More important, they never lost hope. Many from that generation have passed away without seeing a free Cuba, but that has served to strengthen our commitment to continue their cause. Not just out of loyalty to our heritage but also because there are countless men and women in Cuba today that are sacrificing their lives for its freedom.

It was moving to see a photo of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas’ family, as they met last week with His Holiness Pope Francis. Payá Sardiñas, an activist for democracy in Cuba and one of the more recent victims of that brutal government, instilled in his family the importance of faith, a strong code of ethics and a profound love of country.

Those values drive Rosa Maria Payá, the youngest of the Payá siblings, to travel the globe in search of justice for her father’s murder and solidarity for Cuba’s freedom. You would think that after the pain that that family has endured that they would look to live a less tumultuous life, but the legacy is strong and the responsibility to freedom greater.

The same holds true when we reflect on the life of Jorge Luis García Pérez, “Antunez,” who spent 17 years as a political prisoners whose only “crime” was to suggest publicly that Cuba was not free. Upon his release, he was given the option to leave Cuba, to seek a more peaceful existence. His reply: “Ni me callo, ni me voy:” I will not shut up and I will not leave. Today, Antunez courageously leads a national pro-democracy movement on the island under constant intimidation by the ruling government.

It is from these modern-day Mambises that the children of exiles find today’s inspiration to never forget. That is a sentiment that will never be captured in any opinion poll. The generosity of spirit and meritocracy that is the United States of America allows the son of a refugee to become the first Hispanic lieutenant governor of Florida.

That makes me keenly aware of the responsibility that comes with doing what I can so that the counterparts of my generation in Cuba, can one day, in the not too distant future, live in a society where citizens have the opportunity to reach their ultimate potential.

It is in the love of freedom and in the commitment to never forgetting that the Cuban tyranny will find its demise. Because there are legions of Cuban Americans born in freedom and legions of young Cubans on the island yearning for freedom, who believe in a day where Cuba’s genuine independence will be realized.

What may have started as our parents’ and grandparents’ desire that we not forget our history has become a charge inspired by the lives of those willing today to sacrifice it all for freedom. The best way to honor their life’s work is with our unconditional solidarity.

Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera is a former state representative from Miami and House majority leader from 2010 to 2012.

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