Cubans denounce the perception that being democratic means to be in favor of socialism

Marquelina Pavón atendiendo a su clientela en su mayoría de origen cuban en la tienda Latin Food & Cafetería en e sur de Louisville. (Foto J. Donis).

By Cindy Hernandez and Jose Donis

As the presidential election date draws near, Cuban community members in Louisville want to make it clear that despite what people might think, not all Cubans are Republican or pro-Trump.

Many Cubans in Louisville have expressed their support for President Trump and have held several rallies and caravans to protest socialist ideas. However, several Cubans in the community believe that it is important to denounce the perception that being Democratic means to be in favor of socialism.

Gabriela Castillo, 34, a live performer and resident of Louisville said that it has become a generalization and a stereotype to think that all Cubans are Republican.

<<< Gabriela Castillo.

“Maybe the reason why we see that perception is because Cubans that are supporters of Trump have been very vocal about it,” said Castillo. “I think that Trump supporters are quite loud about it because it’s an identity that they have taken ownership of.”

Castillo said that since Trump was elected, it has been the first time she sees Republicans show that level of support and “fanaticism” for a president.

“It’s not a Cuban thing, it’s a Republican thing and I think that it’s temporary,” said Castillo.

A local business man says that the Republican party has used misinformation about the Democratic party to create fear and confusion within the Cuban population. He said that Cubans’ fear of communism is what has solidified their support for Trump, despite him being the reason that it has become more difficult for Cuban families to migrate to the U.S.

“This is a democratic country and it will never be socialist but they use it as a threat to create confusion in the population,” he said. “What the Cubans who follow him do not see is that after the elections, everything he said and everything he has promised will change. It’s part of his character to deceive and confuse people. They don’t realize that he is acting like a dictator.”

In June, Trump signed a decree to suspend immigration and family reunification from Cuba until the end of the year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yulieth Martinez, a tailor says she believes that the fear of returning to a communism country has created a divide within her community. She says that republican Cubans contradict themselves because while many say that they left Cuba to be free, they have made it difficult for people who do not agree with their political ideas to express themselves.

Yuliet Martínez >>>

“We continue to do what we left behind by disrespecting others, by forcing others to do what we want and when they do not share our ideas we think they are our enemies,” said Martinez. “It’s difficult as a business owner but I feel like I’m against my own principles if I don’t speak my mind. It’s not that I speak ill of Cubans but how can I be in favor of a person who is like that.”

Jenny Bencomo, 22, a community organizer and recent University of Louisville graduate, says she finds it important to realize that a few loud voices are not representative of an entire community.

<<< Jenny Bencomo.

“While many Cubans are republicans and pro -Trump, that does not signify that we all share the same views. Just because people like Luis Fuentes (publisher of a Cuban magazine) harbors those problematic views and claims to represent the entirety of our community it doesn’t mean that these people do. The most arrogant, repugnant, racist, hateful voices may be the loudest in the room but that does not mean that they’re symbolic of an entire community at large. I know of numerous Cubans from different age groups that enthusiastically supported progressive candidates such as Charles Booker and even Bernie Sanders. The Cuban community is by no means monolithic. There is a wide spectrum of different experiences among us.

“The perception that all Cubans are republicans and pro-Trump erases Cubans like me who have been on the front lines of change in this nation for much of my young life,” she said. “It erases other Cuban women my age who have also gotten into political organizing and have confronted the misogyny, patriarchy, homophobia, and anti-Blackness that persists in our community, at the expense of constantly receiving hate messages from mostly Cuban men. That has been a problem I have faced for the past year especially.”

Bencomo explained that growing up, it was normal for her family to discuss politics. She says that having open discussions have helped shape her way of thinking and perception on certain issues.

“We learned how to think, and I am genuinely concerned that learning how to think for oneself is not always stressed in the Cuban community,” she said. “Oftentimes, I’ve seen other Cubans succumb to pressure within their households to conform to outdated ideologies from older generations that do not reflect the progress of today’s time. There is a lot of nuance and complexity to Cubanidad in the United States.”

Castillo explained that while there is a divide in political views, politics do not define her Cuban community.

“As a community I don’t think Cubans are divided, even though there is a lot of drama, at the end of the day, if you need to call a friend for help, they will be there,” she said. “We are unified by an identity of Cuban-American first, and we have a secondary identity as ‘Latinos in America’ and then I think then comes our political identity.”

Castillo says that she believes it will take for the election to be over for several Cubans to realize what the Trump administration has done that has affected her community but until then, she will continue to try to educate her community.

“Now I think it is important for me to protect the integrity of the Cuban culture because for the 34 years that I have identified as Cuban, I have always seen Cuban-Americans as people of progress, people that overcome obstacles, people that have been pushed into a diaspora that has made them stronger,” said Castillo. “It’s important for me to express my political views because I don’t want that image to be shattered because of Trump, of all people.”

Kentuckiana Hispanic Newspaper since 2004.

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