In 2010, I was one of Marco Rubio’s biggest supporters. When he visited Hialeah while campaigning for the U.S. Senate, I was so happy just to shake his hand. Being from Cuba, I felt like he spoke to my experience and the thousands of others like me in the diverse South Florida community.
I came to the United States the summer before 9/11. In Cuba, I knew what it was like not being free and the costs of fighting for freedom. I was jailed six times, once for 43 days, with no due process and no idea whether I would ever be released. I fought for freedom, knowing the consequences and have experienced true political persecution. I’ve gone on hunger strikes on four separate occasions, twice for more than two weeks, fighting for my political beliefs.
After seeing no change in sight, I finally decided to take the journey to true freedom – the United States. It was not easy, but nothing worth fighting for ever is. So I acquired visas on the black market and made my way from Cuba through Mexico, until I finally made my home in Miami.
Since being here, I feel like I have tasted freedom. However, it wasn’t what I had envisioned. I have experienced a lot of economic hardship since coming to America. Despite being trained to fix and install air conditioners, I have found very little work. My wife’s salary is the only reason we are not starving, and my mother-in-law’s home is the only reason we are not on the street. I love to work, but there are no opportunities.
Of all the politicians in the world, I thought that Marco Rubio would understand my struggle. Two weeks ago, I went to Washington D.C. with 150 Miami residents, 40 from Hialeah, to try and talk to Sen. Rubio. I was hoping that he would sit down with us and listen to our stories of struggle and what he was doing to bring good jobs to our community. I was also very excited to finally meet the man that shook my hand almost two years ago.
My neighbors and I waited and waited in Senator’s office for three days, after taking a 20 hour bus ride to Washington, DC. He never even came out to acknowledge us. The only thing his aides offered us was a tour of the Capitol building. I didn’t take a 20 hour bus ride for a tour of the Capitol; I came to talk to my senator.
While sitting in Rubio’s office for countless hours, I saw numerous people with expensive suits walking in and out. I asked myself, ”What do I need to do to meet with my senator?”. I don’t have enough money to put food on the table, let alone hire a lobbyist or donate to his campaign. The only thing I have is my ability to fight for what is right; a more equal and fair city, where opportunity is available to all.
When I went to DC, all I wanted was to meet with my senator, the one whose story spoke to people like me, and the one who is supposed to be there to help people like me. Even though he left me out in the cold, I will not give up. If I fought for freedom in Cuba, I can fight for my friends and neighbors in Miami. But do I have to go on hunger strike just to talk to my senator?