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Cuba cracks down on dissent, protest music still thrives, and a talk with a tree at COP26

Opposition activist Yunior García Aguilera, playwright and one of the organizers of a protest march, stands at a window of his home with a white flower, in Havana, Cuba
Opposition activist Yunior García Aguilera, playwright and one of the organizers of a protest march, stands at a window of his home with a white flower, in Havana, Cuba, on Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021.

On this Tuesday, Nov. 16, edition of Sundial:

Cuba cracks down on dissent

Cubans on the island stood up and called for political change back in July, sending a powerful message to the government. This week people once again had plans to take to the streets to demand a better quality of life.

However, the government responded by effectively squashing the planned dissent.

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"The march was first planned for November 20, but then in response of that, the government announced military exercises. So they changed it to November 15, which was the same day that the government said that it was lifting COVID-related restrictions," said Nora Gámez Torres, who covers Cuba and U.S.-Latin American policy for el Nuevo Herald and the Miami Herald.

"I think they made a point. You know, they proved the government [does] not respect their own constitution. It would not tolerate dissent. And it would not tolerate young Cubans peacefully protesting. So they really pushed the government to show its ugly face," she continued.

There was not a widespread shutdown of the internet, which people living on the island had seen after the July protests. Gámez Torres said people had originally intended the Nov. 15 march to be island-wide, not just in Havana, and noted that people are frustrated.

"They're trying, really, to find peaceful ways to protest," she said. "And that's been one of their main messages, that this is not a violent movement. I've talked to many of them. They all said that they're not interested in a military intervention ... they don't want violence."

Cuba cracks down on dissent
Cuban exiles gathered at the Museum Park after a car caravan organized by the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance through the streets of Miami from the Cuban Memorial in Tamiami Park to the Freedom Tower in Downtown Miami, to show support of the upcoming demonstrations that will take place throughout Cuba including the 15N pacific march called by the Archipelago group, on Sunday November14 2021.

Protest music thrives

The power of music has helped galvanize protests since the beginning of time.

That phenomenon is currently playing out across Latin America and the Caribbean.

“A lot of the music that we look to historically in Cuba, it kind of skirted the issue. A lot of double entendre,” said Cuban-American singer/songwriter Lilly Blanco. “[The song] ‘Patria y Vida’ doesn't skirt any issues. It calls things by their name. And I think for me, that's something that, if people are willing to stand behind it, it's just going to get more and more powerful.”

Blanco and WLRN’s Americas editor Tim Padgett joined Sundial to discuss the influence of music in the protests happening in Cuba. Read more on that story here.

Protest music thrives
Cuban protesters hold up a Patria y Vida sign during historic July 11 anti-government protests on the communist island.

A conversation with a tree at COP26

Do you remember the story "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein?

Every day a boy comes to visit the tree. And the tree gives him its apples and shade to play in. That boy grows up and the tree continues to give. The boy takes the branches to build a home. The tree gives and gives until it’s just a stump.

It’s a story that fits well around the conversation of climate change happening around the world. We’ve all experienced a giving tree in some way. If you could say something to your giving tree, what would you say?

“I really think that greed is going to win the day here. Self-interest. And I think a lot of you are going to be chopped down for more development,” that’s what artist and University of Miami professor Xavier Cortada told a tree at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.

Cortada spent a few weeks at the conference and kept a digital diary about his time there. He also launched the HELLO art project, where people can express their fears and hopes for the future in regards to climate change using a name tag.

“I wanted to create the sense of urgency among these delegates so they wouldn't see each other the way they ultimately did, which is as nation-states each competing for their own individual interest, but instead see themselves for the purpose that they came to the conference to solve,” said Cortada.

You can participate in his project here.

A conversation with a tree at COP26
Xavier Cortada, “Conversation with a Tree at COP26,” 2021. November 2, 2021, Glasgow, Scotland.

Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the former lead producer behind Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also worked on visual and digital storytelling.
Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, leads the WLRN Newsroom as Director of Daily News & Original Live Programming. Previously she reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News.