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Estefans break new ground with march

Posted on Saturday, 03.27.10
THE LADIES IN WHITE

Estefans break new ground with march
BY AIDA LEVITAN
levitanbiz@gmail.com

Gloria and Emilio Estefan have always been pioneers. When no one thought a Miami Cuban-American musical group could cross over into the general market, the Estefans did the impossible, becoming internationally famous, selling millions of records and producing some of the most innovative music in U.S. history.

Emilio’s recently published autobiography, The Rhythm of Success, is a testimony of what vision, tenacity, talent, hard work, organizational skills and, above all, a commitment to family, can achieve in a free society.

On March 25, the Estefans broke new ground by organizing a historic event in support of freedom and human rights in Cuba, attended by thousands, in the heart of Little Havana. They succeeded in producing a massive, peaceful, dignified and harmonious demonstration that united Miamians in support of a just cause.

When I thanked Gloria Estefan for her bravery in taking this stand (which might not be very popular with certain influential leaders in the entertainment industry), she responded, with tears in her eyes, that the truly courageous were the Ladies in White, the Damas de Blanco, who peacefully demand freedom for Cuban political prisoners and who were recently attacked by violent mobs in Havana. The Miami demonstration conveyed a powerful message of love and support for them as well as for the mother of Orlando Zapata (who recently died in a hunger strike in Cuba), for Guillermo Fariñas, currently on a hunger strike, and many other dissidents.

National and local celebrities, media and community leaders walked with the Estefans, accompanied by thousands of freedom lovers of different nationalities, displaying the flags of the United States, Cuba, Mexico, Spain, Argentina, Venezuela and other countries. It was the first such demonstration organized by individuals instead of political organizations, and one of the most moving, successful and unifying events I have ever witnessed in Miami.

The significance of the Estefans’ leadership in defending human rights and freedom for Cubans cannot be exaggerated. They have been capable of directly reaching and motivating President Obama to make a statement reaffirming the right of Cubans to be free. Other celebrities such as Willy Chirino, Lisette, Olga Guillot, Albita, and Pitbull demonstrated solidarity with the Estefans’ cause of freedom in the Miami march.

Their actions inspired music icons such as Shakira and Ricky Martin to ask for freedom for Cuban political prisoners. Soon Andy Garcia will organize a similar march in Hollywood with the participation of international stars.

Even more significant is the fact that this event reached out beyond our Miami Cuban-American community. Because of the Estefans’ celebrity status, as well as the massive nature of the demonstration, U.S. national newscasts and international media covered it. Thus, this peaceful initiative should increase awareness among millions in the United States and the world of the plight of Cubans fighting for freedom.

No one really knows which single event led to the fall of the Berlin Wall. While Gloria Estefan spoke from the stage, Cubans who fight for human rights were being beaten and harassed in Cuba, as she reported, thanks to a phone call made by one of the dissidents.

We can only hope that the Miami demonstration can strengthen the courageous Ladies in White and other Cuban dissidents so that they can become the chinks in the armor of a cruel 51-year-old dictatorship and start the domino effect that will lead to freedom in Cuba.

Aida Levitan is president of ARTESMIAMI, Inc.

http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/03/27/1550089/estefans-break-new-ground-with.html

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