Young Cubans and Cuban Americans have come together in a video to commemorate the one-year anniversary of former President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Cuba in a call to continue cultivating ties between the two countries.
“I realized that the one-year anniversary was coming up and it’s such a historic occasion. His speech was very popular between Cubans in the island and in the U.S.,” said Giancarlo Sopo, one of the founders of CubaOne who spearheaded the concept behind the video.
Through CubaOne’s Tu Cuba program, the organization strives to introduce Cuba to a new generation of Cuban Americans. They do this by planning trips where young Cuban Americans can to travel to Cuba for the first time through their organization.
Lissette Calveiro was one of the young Cuban Americans who met her grandmother for the first time. "It just all hit me that there's this complete different part of my culture and my roots that I had never connected with and she was one of those missing pieces," said Lissette Calveiro, one of the young Cuban Americans who connected with her grandmother for the first time.
This work is personal to Sopo, son of a veteran of the Bay of Pigs invasion, who is all too familiar with the mystery surrounding Cuba.
“My grandfather was a political prisoner in Cuba and my mom and her family spent over a decade trying to flee the country. My dad was a veteran and he passed away without ever returning to Cuba. After that, I wanted to see Cuba,” said Sopo, who went to the island for the first time in 2015 to meet his Cuban side of the family.
“After I came back, many of us were in disbelief that there wasn’t a mechanism for an entire generation of Cuban Americans to connect with Cuba,” said Sopo.
A month later, CubaOne was born or how Sopo likes to describes it “a pipeline for Cuban Americans to come back inspired.”
Now, thousands of Cuban Americans between the ages of 20 and 35 from across the country apply every year to be able to join these ongoing trips to Cuba. The program is all set for an LGBTQ related trip this May and is planning a literature focused trip for the summer.
“Our focus is on reconciliation, youth and people coming together as one to heal the wounds of the past,” said Sopo.
After former President Barack Obama's two-and-a-half-year-old opening with Cuba helped restore full diplomatic relations and expand U.S. travel to the island, it remains unclear how the new administration under President Donald Trump will handle U.S.-Cuba relations.
Regardless, these Cuban Americans want to leave one thing clear after the one-year anniversary of Obama’s speech.
“It’s important for people to understand that two sides in unity transcend political views,” said Sopo.