From bakeries to coffee shops, Cuba’s influence is all over Southwest Florida. Now Cuban businesses like Cafeteria El Chocolate are using their food to send a message. What do protestors in SWFL and on the island want to happen?
Many Cuban-Americans say they are fighting for a better future and better living conditions for those they love because they see their families on the island demanding more from their government then ever before. Despite their dissatisfaction with the state of affairs in Cuba right now, they still have an undying passion for their country and their culture.
Francesco Masala, a Florida Gulf Coast University professor of Hispanic studies, says the protestors want the world to do something, but specifically the U.S., whether it’s loosen the embargo placed on Cuba since the 60s or encourage the Cuban government to accept foreign-made doses of the COVID-19 vaccine so that more than 15% of their population can get vaccinated.
“What I saw—which to me was, you know, shocking, and very eye opening—was, for example, the lack of food… the fact that you cannot find food,” Masala said. “You go to the grocery store, and the grocery store is closed for three or four days and you just cannot imagine going to Publix and… Publix is closed for three or four days, and you cannot… you don’t have access to food.”
The Cuban government maintains that the country’s economic woes are caused primarily by a decades-old embargo from the country’s largest natural trading partner. Masala says one of the biggest problems with gauging the situation in Cuba right now is that the information coming out of Cuba has been stymied due to a lack of internet access.
“Hundreds and thousands of people interact, they interact in social media, they are the only ways to obtain information,” Masala said. “You know, that’s where people read the news, for example, they simply use social media. The fact that Cubans don’t have access to that, well, I do believe there is a reason for that… it’s not because they cannot afford it, it’s because they don’t want people to have access to these resources, and they don’t want them to know too much.”