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Locals gather at vigil to honor 659 detained Cubans ahead of ongoing protests

Sun setting over la Ermita de la Caridad as a car drives by the church
Elisa Baena
/
WLRN News
Sun setting over la Ermita de la Caridad on Sunday, November 14.

Cubans and Cuban-Americans packed inside la Ermita de la Caridad on the eve of November 15 — the date of organized protests in Cuba against the communist regime, that were mostly quashed by the government. Members of the exile community forebodingly prayed to la Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre for protestors’ safety and Cuba’s liberation, chanting “Virgencita de la Caridad, salva Cuba” (Our Lady of Charity, save Cuba).

The Cuban pride in the room formally announced itself when an elderly woman recited verses by José Martí. Worshippers swayed in spirited song and prayer holding single white roses. They also swirled handkerchiefs above their heads that read “Dios, Patria y Vida” (God, Homeland and Life).

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Community members read the names of 659 Cubans who were arrested after the July 11 uprising. The vigil was organized by Miami Freedom Project and Roots of Hope — two locally-based nonprofits — and Movimiento San Isidro. Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava was among those who read the names of the detained.

Mayor DLC reading at la Ermita
Elisa Baena
/
WLRN News
Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and Carmen Pelaez reading the names of detained Cubans.

There were cheers when Maykel “Osorbo” Castillo’s name was read. He’s one of the rappers from the viral protest anthem “Patria y Vida” that was nominated for Song of the Year at the 2021 Latin Grammys. Castillo has been detained in a maximum security prison in Pinar del Rio since May 2021 — three months after “Patria y Vida’s” release.

Carmen Pardo Lambert has been fasting on bread and water for almost 40 days to show solidarity for dissidents on the island. She had custom t-shirts made for herself and friends that said “Pray for Cuba.” Pardo Lambert said hearing the names of hundreds of young political prisoners hit her hard.

“A mi me impactó la lectura de tantos jóvenes que están presos en este momento y eso me tiene partido el corazón,” said Pardo Lambert.

After the vigil, there was a dedication at la Ermita’s malecón. Iris Ruiz, a Cuban actress and activist of Movimiento San Isidro, said, “Patria y Vida es lo que queremos y es el impulso desde el corazón de la cultura cubana. No somos ese pueblo dividido que han querido hacer de nosotros.” (Patria y Vida is what we want and is the impulse from the heart of Cuban culture. We’re not the divided people that [the regime] has wanted to make us).

Worshippers dropped their white roses into Biscayne Bay as a symbolic offering for their Cuban brothers and sisters on the other side of the water who are still crying out for their freedom.

La Ermita Sunset 11/14
Elisa Baena
/
WLRN News
Exiles and Cuban-Americans gathering at la Ermita's malecón.

Elisa Baena is a fall 2021 intern at WLRN News.