Ten years of solidarity against a bearded dictator

In honor of our tenth anniversary, we’ve been asked to share what Babalú means to us. In the simplest of words, Babalú is home. It’s my island on the net without a bearded dictator. Really, that byline says it all. We’re an island, without a dictator, a unique entity on the Internet. Consider the medical definition of island: An isolated tissue or group of cells that is separated from the surrounding tissues by a groove or is marked by a difference in structure or function. A group of cells marked by a difference in function . . . a difference in function. That’s it, my definition of Babalú, a group marked and bound by a different function. We are family, a group of individuals bound by a shared love, desire, and commitment to a free Cuba, no matter how long it takes, and an intransigent, some would say obsessive focus on working as a united front to aid and promote that goal. The key word being working—doing something, anything, to end the silence surrounding the horrors of Castro’s Cuba.

We’ve had our ups and downs, successes, and failures. Here is an email I sent to my fellow Babalusians a few months back during a particularly frustrating week. The fact that their response was to post it illustrates the support we give each other here; I hope it will always be so.

Some days, I wonder why I care, what is wrong with me. This Friday night, at the Egyptian theatre in Hollywood, in conjunction with The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, New Filmmakers Los Angeles, MMN El Barrio Firehouse Community Media Center, The Women in Film International Committee, The Cuban Women Filmmakers Mediatheque, KPFK with honorary hosts: Annette Bening. Laura Bickford, Jackson Browne, Lisa Cholodenko, Isabel Cueva, Benicio Del Toro, Hector Elizondo, Naomi Foner, Brad Horowitz, Penny Marshall, Miek and Irene Medavoy, Rick Nicita and Paula Wagner, Sean Penn, Shervin , Anahita Pishevar, Bonnie Raitt, Susan Sarandon and Andy Spahn. The list goes on. This is the Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematograficos (ICAIC) propaganda tour, showcasing good little “new women” Gloria Rolando, Marina Ochoa, Milena Almira, and Claudia Rojas. All promoting Cuba’s advanced support for “women’s rights.” (sic) So wouldn’t you think there’d be a few local exiles motivated to show up with a sign showing Las Damas de Blanco, or something? One person wanted to know how many people were coming; I felt like saying, I don’t know, are you coming? Do you give a shit, or is all that talk about a free Cuba dependent on popularity? Another person, (aligned with a group) emailed back they’ll bring it up at the next meeting, which BTW was scheduled for a date after the event. I know none of this is new, but continues to frustrate me to the point of breakdown. The truth is even a lot of Cubans don’t give a shit, at least not if it’s inconvenient, or without celebrity.

End of rant. You know about the ten-year anniversary, what Babalú means to me? Babalú reminds me daily that I am not alone in my perverse obsessive love for and desire for a free Cuba. Thank you.

p.s. Oh, next on their tour, New York, and Miami.

A lot has transpired over the course of our decade on the net, but sadly, there has been no movement towards freedom in Cuba.

We’ve had each other’s backs through many ups and downs over the course of this decade, always with an eye focused on the goal –  para Cuba, siempre.

Alberto was recently asked in an interview, “What will Cuba be like when Babalú celebrates its 20th anniversary?  I think his answer speaks for all of us, as it does for me.  This is why we’re here.

“All we can do is keep working, keep praying, and keep helping those who are looking for freedom. Eventually everything must fall, so you know, we will continue to be a voice in the United States in English for the freedom fighters in Cuba, for the democracy activists, because as long as there’s one of them standing outside, getting beat up, getting arrested, we have to help them. We have to promote their voice. We have to make sure the rest of the world hears them.”

It is a privilege to be here, and I give my heartfelt thanks to all of you for sharing this, our island on the net without a bearded dictator. With love, Ziva.




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