Florida officials, Tampa Bay residents show support for Cuba protests

·2 min read

Protesters took to the streets in multiple cities in Cuba on Sunday, calling for the end of its dictatorship and demanding basic necessities amid worsening economic conditions and rising COVID-19 cases.

Hundreds of miles away in Tampa, demonstrators gathered Sunday evening to show their support of the Cuba protesters.

About 150 to 200 people waved Cuban flags and played Reggaeton music in front of Jesuit High School on Himes Avenue in Tampa on Sunday evening. Some demonstrators had been out since the afternoon. Police shut down nearby roads.

The gathering remained peaceful as people chanted “patria y vida” and held up signs. “Patria y vida” translates to “homeland and life,” and is also the title of a song from Cuban artist Yotuel Romero released earlier this year. The phrase is considered a reproach of Cuba’s revolutionary slogan meaning “Homeland or Death.”

Councilman Luis Viera, who represents District 7 in Tampa, attended the rally Sunday, tweeting that he’s “a proud son of Cuban refugees & am proud to use my voice to support change in Cuba.”

Twitter users posted videos showing some American flags in the crowd and a mostly celebratory mood among participants.

Around 10 p.m., police asked an organizer of the event to begin directing people to clear the road. A Cuban flag remained on top of a police cruiser, and police were allowing people time to leave.

Politicians across Florida react

Politicians across Florida also shared statements Sunday supporting the protesters.

“The Cuban regime does not allow free press, the Cuban regime does not allow political organization,” U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said on Twitter. “They will never allow these people to organize themselves and speak freely, so we have to be those who give echo to their voice.”

“Florida supports the people of Cuba as they take to the streets against the tyrannical regime in Havana,” Gov. Ron DeSantis wrote on Twitter Sunday.

Nikki Fried, Florida’s agriculture commissioner and a Democratic candidate for governor, tweeted in English and Spanish her hope for Cuban’s ability to “write their own future.”

Jeanette Nunez, Florida’s lieutenant governor, released a statement and also posted a video in Spanish supporting the protesters and decrying the regime.

Tampa Bay Times photographer Luis Santana contributed to this report.