Hispanic Heritage Month

Cuban Youth Take Lead on Freedom Fight

The future of Cuba remains uncertain, but the silence has been broken. Some believe the clamor for change in July was just the beginning. 

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It has been more than two months since hundreds of Cubans took to the streets on the island demanding freedom.

Empowered by the internet and fueled by a strong desire to bring 62 years of dictatorship to an end, they put fear aside on July 11 and took to the streets. It was the largest anti-government demonstration in decades.

The images ignited hope across the Florida Straits, and within minutes, Cubans in Miami joined their cry for freedom. 

"We are used to seeing viejitos en La Carreta, old people chanting for freedom and stuff like that, and this time you saw everybody. Kids and young people," said Alejandro Gonzalez with Los Pichy Boys. 

Los Pichy Boys, based in Miami, are Cuban influencers who used their social media platforms to bring awareness to the repression that quickly followed the protests.

"It played a big part because all of these people in Cuba who were suddenly silenced by the government, they found a voice here in exile with our platforms," said Gonzalez. 

The youth who led the demonstrations on the island often sent videos to relatives and people like the Pichy Boys to spread the word, but internet access was instantly limited.

"The government shuts down the internet in Cuba because they are threatened by young people exercising their most basic human rights and demanding change. They've done it periodically, they actually do it for a short amount of time but they are doing it in a very targeted way," said Felice Gorordo, co-founder of Roots of Hope. 

Roots of Hope is a non-profit organization focused on empowering Cuban youth and providing them the tech tools they need to boost their connectivity.

"Young people are still figuring out ways to connect with each other. They are using VPNs and proxies to be able to get their message out," said Gorordo. 

The future of Cuba remains uncertain, but the silence has been broken. Some believe the clamor for change in July was just the beginning. 

"They're just waiting for the perfect moment to go back to the street and ask for freedom again. This is not a sprint, it is a marathon and we need to continue to amplify the voices of young people on the island, the ones who are the true agents of change," said Gorordo. 

In the wake of all the unrest, Cuba is restricting access to the internet. And now, there's a big push for the U.S. to help restore internet access on the island. NBC 6's Laura Rodriguez reports

According to cubamissing.com, more than 500 people are still arrested in Cuba following the July protests.

Since the mass demonstrations, the Cuban regime has implemented a new law aimed at content they deem to be offensive or that may incite acts that upset public order.  Anyone who breaks the law will be considered a cyberterrorist. 

In response to the protests, the Biden administration imposed sanctions on the Cuban police force and two of its leaders. The administration also says they are assessing new ways to extend internet access across the island.

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