Cries of “Abajo la dictadura!” rang out amidst honks from passing cars as a group of protesters stood at the corner of University Avenue and 13th Street on Sunday evening.
The Facebook group Una Voz por los Cubanos Oprimidos (A Voice for the Oppressed Cubans) organized the event to raise awareness of the ongoing situation in Cuba. The group hosted another rally last week at Al Lopez Park in Tampa.
“I’m hoping that, at least, it’ll stay in people’s minds before the next news story comes in and forgets Cuba,” said Lydia Woloszyn, one of the organizers.
Her father, a choir director, escaped from Cuba after refusing to arrange a communist anthem, a choice that led to other confrontations with the government.
Woloszyn said her mother and siblings joined him in the United States only through a miracle, and Woloszyn was born in New York.
“It’s an inhumane situation, and things haven’t changed,” Woloszyn said.
Mass protests erupted in Cuba two weeks ago over food and medicine shortages. In response, the country’s communist government has blocked internet access and cracked down on protesters.
“You go to the store and there’s nothing to buy,” said Patrick Woloszyn, Lydia’s husband. “It’s scary.”
Last Saturday, another group occupied the same corner holding “S.O.S. Cuba” and “Patria y Vida” signs.
Mi Apa Latin Cafe posted to Facebook that it stood with the Cuban people, and the TV in its 34th Street location flashes a slide that shows the restaurant's support.
At the protest, Michael Phillips, a Gainesville resident, said he and his wife waited for an opportunity to demonstrate in support of Cuba. The protests in Tampa and Miami have been too far away, but when they saw this protest on Facebook, they decided to come.
Phillips said his wife’s family fled Cuba to find freedom.
“Our children will be first generation Americans because they left that life and were able to find freedom here,” he said. “I hope people understand that and more attention is brought to it to potentially help Cuba.”
On July 22, the Department of Treasury sanctioned the Cuban Minister of Defense along with the Brigada Especial Nacional Del Ministerio del Interior for repressing the protests of July 11.
In a press statement, President Biden said the administration is engaging the international community, ensuring Cubans have internet access and talking with Cuban American leaders.
But states away from the halls of the federal government, Lydia Woloszyn stands with her husband, children and grandchildren, holding signs and hoping for change.
“I feel impotent,” Woloszyn said. “I don’t know what good this does, but I’m wanting other people to realize that if my family [in Cuba] is taking the risk of getting killed for protesting, at least I can stand out here and say the same thing. Because, I’m not getting killed.”