My most vivid memory of the reopening ceremony of the United States Embassy in Havana this past Friday, August 14, in the morning is not the impressive sight of the handing of the flag by the marines that had so lovingly and protectively taken it down so many years ago. It isn’t Secretary Kerry’s moving speech of reconciliation or Richard Blanco’s wonderful poem. I reveled in all these things, but what stands out in my mind is the sea of umbrellas shielding so many of my Cuban brothers and sisters from that bright, hot sun.
The abuelas holding tight their grandchildren’s hands, the fathers carrying their children astride on their shoulders so they could bear witness to this historic occasion, the mothers, the young people and all the sea of faces under those umbrellas. They are, after all, the point. The reason for the struggle of too many years to end this cruel and pointless hostility between two neighbors. I was not physically present in Havana on Friday, but was incredibly blessed to be in Washington, D.C. as the Cuban flag was raised and flew once again at the Cuban Embassy. After so many years of sacrifice, sweat, blood and a struggle to never give up, we now have embassies on both sides of the Florida Straits and the real work begins. I thank the leaders of both countries for having the courage to step forward and say enough! To so many in both governments who worked so tirelessly to bring us to this moment. To Pope Francis for his part in bringing peace forward. Lest we forget, let us honor so many Cuban Americans who fought so hard for so long for this beginning. Some paid with their lives, others lost careers, jobs, marriages and social status, but never wavered from a path they recognized to be righteous.
My heartfelt thanks as a Cuban for all your sacrifices. To all those organizations in the United States that joined us in the struggle, my gratitude for all your hard work. None of us wavered even when it seemed we would never achieve our goals.
We have a sacred responsibility to move forward. There is an embargo to be lifted, a base to be returned, and financial issues to be resolved. For now, we can take a well deserved but short rest. Drink a mojito, light a Cohiba, and then take up the fight again. To those who continue to oppose the path of peace, be aware, you do not speak for the Cuban people, you do not speak for the American people. Your time is rapidly coming to an end. You can choose to join the tide of history, or be left behind. There is hope for peace for the first time in a long time, just take a look at the sea of umbrellas in Havana!
Elena Freyre Foundation for Normalization of US/Cuba Relations FORNORM 7866838241 101 Sidonia Avenue, #104 Elena Fr Foundation for Normalization of US/Cuba Relations FORNORM 7866838241 101 Sidonia Avenue, #104 Coral Gables, Florida