A Cause We've Inherited: Cuban-American Millennials and the Fight for a Free Cuba

Wednesday, May 14, 2014
By Rudy Mayor:

A Cause We've Inherited: Cuban-American Millennials and the Fight for Freedom in Cuba

Both of my maternal grandparents passed away within six months of each other last year.  As with anyone who’s lost a close relative, it’s a time of deep sadness mixed with fond memories. Even the seemingly mundane, like drinking a cafécito on the porch of my Hialeah home with them is today a fond and longed for memory.

As someone who has always been interested in advocating for democracy in Cuba, I also long for their old stories about the island. Of course, to my grandfather they were stories of a time and country long lost. To me, they were much more. These stories were rich in history, significance and deeply personal. I quickly realized that I would never hear another story of theirs again. Today I regret all the times I tuned out when Cuba would once again become the subject of conversation at the dinner table.

Whether we’re ready for it or not, millennial Cuban-Americans are inheriting the cause for freedom and democracy in Cuba. It is indeed a heavy burden and responsibility considering the giants that we are inheriting it from - the Rafael Diaz-Balart’s, the Ricardo Nuñez-Portuondo's, the Eusebio Peñalver's, the Huber Matos’, our grandfathers – who are without a doubt members of the greatest generation of Cuban-Americans.

As more Cuban-Americans are American born, the further we are from Cuba’s reality. The pain of losing Cuba to totalitarianism is not as heartfelt to millennials as it was to our forefathers. They – not us - personally witnessed the rise of Fidel Castro and the accompanying loss of freedom. Having our business and homes confiscated, the pain of exile and struggles of immigrating to a new country are struggles we are lucky to not have experienced.

There is no generational shift in Cuban-American views toward the embargo, but there is a generational disconnect. The Castro regime is banking on the Cuban-American millennial’s relative indifference to the issue of democracy in Cuba to achieve its long-sought goal of normalizing relations with the U.S. The ultimate goal of the regime, of course, is the unconditional lifting of the embargo; a policy that has limited their ability to profit, repress and export Castro style dictatorships to other countries. To the Castro brothers, the only thing better than the overnight influx of billions of US dollars and tourism would be the symbolic victory over the exiled community; a victory which would effectively legitimize and absolve the regime of its crimes and tortures.

As a millennial myself, the more I talked to Cuban pro-democracy activists and studied the American civil rights leaders who continue to inspire them, the more supportive I became of sanctions against the Castro regime. I, along with other young professionals, have helped found the U.S. Cuba Democracy PAC’s Young Leaders Group to bridge the informational gap we ourselves had to overcome. Our group’s intentions are clear: the more we inform millennials about the uninterrupted fifty year history of repression in Cuba the more likely they are to support sanctions against a regime that deserves them.

Millennials must make it a priority to understand the nature of the Castro regime to form informed opinions about issues like the embargo. No university professor’s narration of Cuban history or analysis of the nature of the regime can replace the oral histories of those who lived through it. More importantly, no oral history is a more moving call to action than your own family’s. It is only when the Cuban-American millennial understands his or her place in this cross-generational struggle for freedom that they will feel the heavy burden of this inherited cause and responsibility to pursue it.

Rodolfo "Rudy" Mayor, 25, graduates this month from The George Washington University's Law School in Washington, D.C.