Cubans love the Union Jack, but when will they enjoy freedom?
Last week the BBC published an interesting video on Cuba’s new love for the Union Jack flag as a fashion trend:
The Union flag is now all the rage, sported by young Cubans on their clothes, nails - and even spotted as tattoos, and shaved into the back of people’s heads.
While for some it is just another fashion symbol, others say the trend began with the London Olympics, which were followed avidly in Cuba and hugely popular.
I’m always intrigued when seemingly unrelated interests of mine converge in a story like this - British culture and Cuba. I too fell in love with the Union Jack flag this past year in a personal British Invasion of sorts. The excitement of the London 2012 Summer Olympics took over my life for two weeks with the rest of the world; my obsession with rock and pop musicians from the UK, both new and old, grew enormously; and, to be honest, the flag just looks cool.
While my unrequited love for the Stars and Stripes of the American flag can never be dethroned, I’ve proudly displayed the British flag on my clothing, on the homescreen on my iPhone and elsewhere in the past several months. Watching Sarah Rainsford’s report from the streets of Havana, I felt for a moment that I shared something unique with young Cubans so disconnected from the rest of the world.
But this isn’t the only story Rainsford and the BBC have covered on Cuba recently. While Cuban officials remain mum on a cholera outbreak now spanning the length of the island, Capitol Hill Cubans wrote on January 13:
Kudos to the BBC for being the only foreign news bureau in Cuba courageous enough to report on the cholera outbreak in Havana.
The others are apparently afraid to offend the Castro regime or lose their perks.
Also, please don’t forget Cuban independent journalist, Calixto Martinez Arias, who has been in prison since September 16th for daring to first report on the cholera outbreak.
For his independent journalism, he has been charged with “disrespect” to the figures of Fidel and Raul Castro.
The international media continues to largely ignore the plight of the Cuban people, the record detentions and harassment of peaceful human rights and prodemocracy activists (6,600 political arrests in 2012 alone), while jumping to cover less abrasive stories like this one on the Union flag, and particularly stories on Raul Castro’s “reforms,” largely cosmetic changes to economic and migratory laws that do not affect the average Cuban and certainly not the activists trying to bring about change.
The story of Cuba’s fascination with the Union flag was an especially fun read for me, but the BBC should continue to do with greater frequency what it has done in the past year: cover the stories others will not. The more attention that is drawn to the government of Cuba’s flagrant disregard for its people, the less impunity the Castros will enjoy for their human rights abuses.
Why is the government still mum about an outbreak of a disease largely unheard of since colonial times, and shouldn’t a government so proud of its health care system have more to say? Could a recently activated underwater fiber optic cable finally empower a citizenry with one of the lowest internet penetration rates with access to a modern open web, or will it be reserved for the elite and tourists? Why has an American been in jail for more than 3 years for daring to bypass a censored intranet and give a small community of Jewish Cubans a glimpse at the outside world through unfettered internet?
Cubans may be able to wear the Union Jack, but they cannot enjoy the full rights and freedom enjoyed by the citizens of the UK and elsewhere.
This fitting photo of Cuban Gold medalist Mijain Lopez Nunez, taken in London last summer, echoes the longing for freedom in Cuba, and a symbol widely used among prominent rights activists. L, is for libertad.
Free Alan Gross
Today marks three years of an American citizen, Alan Gross, being unjustly and inhumanely imprisoned in Cuba for helping the island’s Jewish community connect to the internet. The U.S. should pressure the Castro regime for his unconditional release on humanitarian grounds. We shouldn’t be blackmailed into releasing Cuban spies who were given a fair trial and convicted. Nor should we change to a policy that would get American travel and business in bed with a state-run economy whose repressive government denies its people basic human rights, and abuses dissent on the streets. After every diplomatic failure from the State Department, Bill Richardson, to Jimmy Carter, Obama should cut off travel and remittances which disproportionately benefit the Cuban government through the outrageous taxes they impose, until Alan Gross is released.
Thumbs Up For Rock & Roll: Everything you need to know about life from this kid who just learned how to ride a bike.
“There will always be the struggle to free ourselves from our own human weaknesses—and that is the longest road to freedom that each one of us has to take for ourselves,” - Aun San Suu Kyi
Screenshots I got from Ustream broadcast. TOUCHDOWN CONFIRMED. Receiving information from the surface of Mars!! Congrats JPL!! Images coming down!
It’s really mind-blowing when you stop to think about the fact that we’re able to land crafts on other planets from hundreds of millions of miles away.