MIAMI – Yoani Sanchez spoke in Miami on Monday. I am glad she had the opportunity. I sincerely hope she felt welcomed.

Yoani at Freedom Tower

What she failed to mention at this city’s so-called Freedom Tower was how pleased she was to see Cuban Miami embrace someone who in the past has expressed herself against the embargo and the hegemonic U.S. possession of Guantanamo. She has also spoken of the right of all Americans to travel to Cuba. And at times, even, Yoani has advocated for the release of the Cuban Five – although this seems to have changed.

In fact, this sojourn by Yoani Sanchez demonstrates that Miami continues to evolve. It has become more tolerant of people who in the not so distant past would have been booed out of Miami – and that’s at best. And Yoani falls in that category.

Don’t take it from me, just check out the archives of The Miami Herald, search the name Mandela, and read how Cuban Miami and its political leaders reacted when Nelson Mandela graced our shores in 1990. We disgraced ourselves back then.

And although the messenger has become the new messiah for many outside of Cuba, I don’t really believe Yoani’s message was as important as the fact that she spoke and without incident. I mention the message because from the outset of her tour in Brazil to this past week in Miami, it seems to have made pirouettes that don’t necessarily run a straight line. But I opt to give her the benefit of the doubt. A trip around three continents in 80 days cannot be easy. Especially when many of those coming to hear her speak have placed their hopes and expectations on Yoani’s thin shoulders.

But I reiterate that Yoani failed to capture the moment and mention that not too long ago she would have been at the very least symbolically booted out of the city because of her beliefs – as anti-Cuban regime as she may feel they are. Miami, you see, is a hard place to express your own thoughts. If you don’t walk down a very narrow, thin and straight path, if you take one step left of it… you’ll get slammed.

Maybe, just maybe it’s why she tempered her comments on the embargo, Guantanamo, the right to travel (something she now seems to enjoy) and even the Cuban Five.

Alvaro F. Fernandez

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