Cuban dissidents visit Tampa and raise their flag

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Forty people gathered Thursday in Ybor City’s Jose Marti Park to quietly take down a tattered and weathered Cuban flag. In its place, they raised a new flag, one brought directly from Havana.

They then burst into the Cuban national anthem, followed by shouts of “liberty” and “viva Tampa.”

Tampa flag raising

Thirty of these participants are Cuban dissidents and guests of Casa Cuba in Tampa. “It’s sort of a seminar that they are visiting, and the seminar covers democracy, human rights, the way our system here of democracy works, and it gives them a first hand experience of how you can unite and assemble. You can go to a park and speak your ideas and all those freedoms are a part of democracy,” Rafael Pizano of Casa Cuba said.

The group gathered to hear about Marti’s stay in Tampa and what he did here for Cuban freedom. They also heard about American democracy.

“It’s a great experience,” said Erich Cedeño, who had to pause as he began to shed a tear thinking about the flag, his anthem and the moment.

Cedeño said that, like many other Cubans, he had high hopes when President Barack Obama first announced changes between the two countries. “I thought it was a good idea and I keep thinking in this way,” Cedeño said

When the changes were first announced, the Cuban government allowed many new private businesses to open, creating a new economy and job opportunities for many.
Cedeño says lately he’s noticed another change.

“The Cuban government, when they see it is changing, the reality and they are losing the control, they close the key. They close the door and throw the key,” Cedeño said.

Change in his country is slow. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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