I was a little shocked. I have a Cuban cousin with that name, but I knew her family to be hardcore communists. However, when I clicked on the link, I saw her familiar face. It was Regina. Blogging about the harsh realities of life in Cuba today.
This photo was taken in Cuba in 1959. I'm the 2nd cowgirl from the left. Regina is over to the far right.
Unable to contact her, we surreptitiously sent a zip drive with Amy (brilliantly attached to a make up bag - see that photo in this post) and hoped and prayed for the best.
Amy was able to not only meet and spend time talking with and interviewing her, she got to go on A Dissident Adventure with her in Havana.
Here's that story:
Kikita wrote this post and is PUTTING HER FREEDOM TO WORK.
By some amazing chance (or Divine Intervention), I was able to get my cousin Regina alone and deliver the flash drive. What struck me was how grateful she was not only for the flash drive, but for the make-up that came with it. She LOVES make-up.
While she went about pulling out the various compacts, we were having the most amazing conversation about her blog, La Mala Letra.
She told me that she is not afraid, which is why she has her picture and full name on her page, but her family is. She does it for herself more than anything because she just couldn't stand to keep quiet any longer. She had been a strong communist for over 20 years and then became disillusioned with the "Revolution."
While I was in awe of her courage, what impacted me even more was her view of what she is doing. She explained that she does not expect to make any big change by herself; that she feels like one small pebble falling from the ceiling each day, but hopes that one day she will look around and so many other pebbles will have fallen that the ceiling will collapse.
Her son was born 16 years ago and she has been wanting a better life for him ever since.
This is him and his friend, Brian, being teenage boys. My eyes well up every time I watch this. He is a junior in high school. After he graduates he will have to serve in the military for at least a year before going on to college. He is the best English speaker in his class and asked me when I was coming back, but then decided he would like to visit California better. I think he looks like a combination of Lucy and Jonathan. He was such a sweet boy. It kills me to think of what possible future he has if he has to continue growing up on the island prison.
Regina woke up one day not too long ago and realized she HAD to do something about it. And not just for her son. She wants the youth of Cuba to have hope for a better future instead of just hoping to one day leave. She said she writes what she sees. She writes about the realities of Cuba. And she is part of a group of bloggers that meet on a weekly basis at THE HOME OF YOANI SANCHEZ. YES!! Ms. Generación Y herself! My eyes began to leak when I heard that Regina was going and I practically begged her to take me. I explained that I had harbored a secret hope that I would be out walking somewhere and just run into Yoani.
But . . . I was staying in the house of Tío Timbiriche, a communist. Regina and I shared the sentiment that we absolutely adore our family, especially Timbiriche, and that is why we never discussed politics in front of him (or the youngest of abuela's siblings: Mari, who is also a firm believer in "la Revolución). Because there was no way we could tell the truth about where we were going, Regina told them she was taking me to La Plaza de la Revolución.
I couldn't believe it. I was participating in dissident behavior! Lying to everyone and keeping a big secret in order to go to a meeting . . . AT YOANI'S HOUSE.
We had to take a couple of buses. And then we had a long, hot walk. But I smiled when I saw the door.
And I couldn't believe how many people were inside. There were easily 25-30 and more showed up over the 2 hours while I was there. Honestly, it reminded me of a prayer meeting.
And seeing all those people gave me a new hope for the future . . .
For Cuba. For Cubans. For LIFE in general.
And then they asked me questions that I felt like I had no business answering.
"What do the Cubans over there think of us?"
"What do people say about us?"
"Sometimes people send me gifts and I'm embarrassed to take it, why do they do that?"
I just kept telling everyone how much support they had from "la Yuma." That people were for them and would do whatever they could to help. That they send gifts because they want to help and don't know how. I told them to be encouraged because they WERE making a difference.
One of the guys from the group, Porno Para Ricardo was there.
I couldn't help feeling like a fish out of water. These people were incredibly courageous. They risked their lives every day. What was the worst that could happen to me? I get deported? Sent back to my comfortable life in Southern California? While these thoughts were swirling in my head, the other thing I kept thinking was "They are just people trying to make a difference."
Then Yoani came out. (Mami posted about Yoani back here.)
AND I GOT TO MEET YOANI SANCHEZ!
And then we had to hurry up and get to La Plaza in order to create our alibi.
What a dichotomy I was living! I was right in the thick of it!
Morning at Yoani's house, afternoon at La Plaza. SHUT. UP.
The buses were on time for us all day and Regina mentioned that that RARELY happened.
I gave her my easy answer, "That's because Jesus loves me."
I asked her to send a message to our family . . . so my big, fat, Cuban family I am proud to introduce you to my cousin Regina Coyula: