I attended Friday’s No Mas Chavez rally here in Los Angeles with good friend and fellow Babalusian Mora. We estimated the size of the crowd to be around 200. They were a very organized, very vocal crowd of freedom loving Venezuelans. There were also a number of Hondurans present, equally roused in defense of their country’s freedom—they are truly a David standing up to the U.S. Goliath. I told them that the Obama administration does not represent the true American view, and we support them. It’s a sad day when the sitting U.S. president is on of the side of the bad guys. Maria Conchita Alonso was there; and she was great. Also in attendance were folks from Colombia, Peru, and Chile.
Canvassing the crowd, I made eye contact with a sweet elderly lady, and recognized her as Cuban. I closed the distance between us, and we spoke. I was wearing the Babalu t-shirt, I told her about what we do, and we spoke for a while. It was one of those encounters where no words are necessary, where a shared glance is enough to acknowledge fifty years of history, and the real reason for the evening’s event.
I went off and mingled with the crowd, but kept finding my way back to her to continue our conversation. Every so often, she would point to the logo on my t-shirt and touch her heart, again thanking me for what we do, and overwhelmed by her heartfelt appreciation, I found myself at a loss for words. I thanked her in turn, swallowing humble tears. No mere words are adequate to express the debt we owe her and those of her generation who stood strong, and sacrificed so much, in the name of freedom. All of us here are the beneficiaries of their sacrifice.
Today, this Labor Day, as I sit in front of a computer and write, I thank Raquel, an elderly Cuban woman with the heart of a lion. It is thanks to her legacy that we attend events in support of freedom, to denounce a dictator, or challenge a collaborator. The fact that my life is intact, that my family’s photo album isn’t missing an everything before, is in part because of Raquel’s sacrifice. She who lost everything, is not bitter and in defiance of her age, came to this late evening rally for Venezuela, because as she said. Chavez is a dictator, and he has to go. Never mind that there are no similar rallies for a free Cuba, the country of her heart. Those events, along with the accompanying dreams are for her relegated to a memory. Cuba was included in the “Viva” chants for freedom, and it was both heartwarming and bittersweet.
Thank you Raquel. No más dictaduras, y viva Cuba libre, ahora sí!