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.”
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.