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Cuba: Thoughts on the Raising of the US Flag

By Patty Vila, SouthFloridaReporter.com, Cuba Expert, Aug 18, 2015 – Secretary of State John Kerry went to Cuba this past Friday and raised the American flag above the U.S. Embassy for the first time in 54 years.

“Thank you for joining us at this truly historic moment as we prepare to raise the flag symbolizing the restoration of diplomatic relations after 54 years,” Kerry said at the ceremony, addressing the crowd in both English and Spanish. Kerry called for a “genuine democracy in Cuba,” and his comments were broadcasted across the country and translated into Spanish so everyone could understand.

One group that was missing from this ceremony was the dissident moment due to the fact that this was a government to government event with very limited space.

The turn of events started on December 17, 2014 when Cuban President Raul Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama announced an end to decades of hostility. Since then, Obama has eased restrictions on travel and trade, believing engagement with Cuba will do more to encourage personal freedoms on the island.

I was at Univision Channel 23 with anchors Guillermo Benites and Alina Mayo Azze on the set commenting on how I felt about the historic event that was unfolding in front of our eyes. If I was not going to be in Havana, the next best thing was being in a newsroom. I thank Roberto Vizcon, the Channel 23 News Director, for inviting me.

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The entire newsroom was glued to the TV as the American flag was being raised. A section of the newsroom broke out in cheer. My mother watched this historic moment from the west coast of Florida. She told me she loved Richard Blanco’s poem and started crying when they played the Cuban National Anthem. She had chills as they raised the American Flag at the U.S. Embassy in Havana.

In recent years, Cubans have felt freer to complain about the country’s stagnant economy and the difficulty of living day to day but far less common are the complaints of the leaders they have had for all of these decades.

As I think back to my trip to Cuba from three weeks ago, I remember many conversations with “El Cubano De Pie.” Some were more optimistic than others but all were happy and excited about this new era in our relations.