[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/08/03/art.raices.jpg
caption=”Felice Gorordo, 26, co-founded Roots of Hope to help foster dialogue between Cubans and Americans.”]
When Felice Gorordo imagines a “perfect Cuba,” he sees young people able to gather in front of their school and discuss issues openly and freely at workshops, parties, discussions, or performances. Felice would love to see a society where young people can reflect on their hopes and fears and ultimately help each other, looking toward the future.
Felice, 26, is one of the founders of Raices de Esperanza or Roots of Hope. It’s a non-partisan organization that encourages dialogue between young Americans and Cubans. If it were up to Felice, students wouldn’t get kicked out of school because they didn’t sign referendums they don’t agree with, a story he’s heard happen in Cuba time and again.
Felice’s group is working different projects that he hopes will help do just that. A notable one is “Cell Phones 4 Cuba.” Raices de Esperanza basically collect cell phones for people on the island because they normally cost $50-$150 and the average monthly salary is $12-$15. Getting access to that financially out-of-reach gadget, Felice believes, will be a big step toward more invaluable communication.
Update: Watch the CNN.com Live interview
Fifo, what can a young person that is watching this interview do to get involved in your efforts?
This sounds cool but I thought we couldn’t send things to Cuba. How do they get the phones there?
The energy behind Raices reflects a lasting identity and sense of responsibility within the Cuban diaspora.
Two questions in relation to this phenomenon:
1) What has kept this spirit alive?
2) What organized efforts were made by prior generations of exile Cuban youth, before the emergence of the internet?
Many people think that young people in Cuba are apathetic about politics since they’ve grown up under a totalitarian system and “don’t know anything else”, what would Roots of Hope say about this?
Nice! Looks like you’re doing well man! Let me know if you’re ever up in NYC!
I don’t understand why he wants to give poor Cubans cell phones they can’t afford to use. Isn’t that rather like giving a car to someone who has no access to gas?
I’m a 29 years old Cuban who just came to US 4 month ago, I’m not related directly to “Raices de Esperanzas”, but I will love to.
These are my answers to some of the questions in others comments.
@Raquel: I think because Obama signed a bill that specifically target telecommunication as an area where the embargo doesn’t apply they can send these phone there. I think this Obama policy is great, even when the Cuban government hasn’t used this to improve anything at all, at least now when they said a call to Cuba is $1+ a min or the reason most Cuban doesn’t have the right to access Internet is because of the US embargo, everybody can tell they are a big lier.
@Diane: I may not be the best example, cause I used to work in IT, so I almost always had unrestricted access to Internet and information, but at least from what I could tell from my closest friends from University and work place in Havana City, most of them are very interested on politics and how the politics choices made by our government has hurt us. The books “1984” and “Animal Farm” are quite popular, every time you go to a concert of a “cantautor” of the new “trova” movement or to a humor show you will see that what people wanna hear from them is critics of the government, and they will highly rewards that. Is just that the totalitarianisms mays very hard to express yourself, but believe me we do have a lot to say.
@tony: I have to say that I was making over they average, around 100cuc a month between my official salary and an illegal Internet account I provided to someone else, but I did have a cell phone, I just only used it as a pager to call back people or for texting, but it was very helpful for me, I only had to put 10cuc every month on my cell phone bill, there are a lot of Cuban who can’t afford that, but there are some that do, so if the embargo allow to send cell phone, do it!, is gonna help!
Congratulations on Raices’ efforts. Through what organization does Raices go through in order to ensure that the cell phones get directly to the Cuban people without Cuban government intervention?
Raquel: The US government allows certain humanitarian items to be sent to Cuba. This includes food, clothes, toiletries and the like. Recently, President Obama added cell phones and pre-paid phone cards to the list of allowable items we can send to Cuba.
Tony: Along with sending them phones, Raices is also sending them pre-paid phone cards that they can use with their phones.
your Idea of sending cell phone to young people in Cuba is great. But what they will do with them? They do not have the money to pay for using them. Cell phones are too costly for a normal person to use. It costs 40 cents per minutes, making or receiving calls.
Iam cuban myself and would love to communicate with cubans on the island. I left there in 1962. How do we do this and how do we send phones
Which phone cards are best to send?
Everyone, thank you for all your support and great questions! As a co-founder of Roots of Hope, I am truly humbled and honored to be featured on CNN’s “Young People Who Rock” and appreciate your interest in supporting our mission to empower Cuban youth.
@Junior: There’s many ways young people here can get involved. Through organizations like ours – Roots of Hope, you can connect with young people in Cuba who hunger to get linked up with students and young professionals in the U.S. Just opening up a dialogue is extremely important. If you’re a student, you can get involved with one of our affiliate groups or representatives at more than 55 universities. If you’re a young professional, we have YP groups in Miami, DC, New York and now in Boston. You can also join our “Cells Phones 4 Cuba” campaign which aims to boost connectivity amongst youth in Cuba. You can help us collect cell phones on your campus or community. Our campaign kicks off this fall at city near you! For more information, please email us at C4C@raicesdeesperanza.org.
@Raquel: In 2007, the Cuban government liberalized access to cell phones. Up until then, only a small segment of the Cuban people could own and operate a cell phone. In response, the U.S. government enabled us to send phones down to Cuba through family care packages and licensed shipments. Roots of Hope will use both means to send phones to young people in Cuba.
@Elizabeth: (1)This is very true – there is something unique about the “Cuban” identity that keeps a group like ours deeply rooted in our heritage and with a great sense of responsibility to give back to our community. What keeps this spirit alive? For those who are the children of exiles, I think it’s the incredible love our parents instilled in us for their homeland. For those who were born in Cuba and came to the U.S. at an early age, I think many recognize the amazing opportunities this country has offered them but their roots remain in Cuba. (2) In terms of previous Cuban youth groups, Cuba has had a long history – dating back to the early twentieth century – of student activism and youth movements. (I actually wrote a paper on this topic while I was in college and can give you a much longer answer:). About twenty years ago, there was similar group that also started out of Harvard which also focused on dialogue and offered young people a forum to discuss their ideas. I believe we are an extension of this long history and have found a voice that uniquely resonates with our generation.
@Diane: I think most young people in Cuba are apathetic – when it comes to politics – because they are surrounded by politics. Many have become desensitized to “all things political.” Many more feel disenfranchised and marginalized – the Cuban government has even recognized this fact in state-controlled newspapers and media like “Juventud Rebelde” (Rebel Youth). This is why an organization like Roots of Hope has tried to de-politicize the dialogue between youth across the Florida straits. We believe this is the best way to connect and humanize our conversations and issues. Drawing from what Carlos Javier said, I also agree that there are a lot of young people in Cuba who want to discuss and talk about politics. We can also engage them in these types of conversations.
@David: Thanks David! I am truly humbled and honored to be a part of this incredible movement that now spans almost three thousand young people across the country. I will definitely let you know next time I’m in NYC.
@Tony and @Onelis: I agree and recognize that with an average monthly salary of 12-15 CUC (Cuban convertible currency roughly valued at USD $1.20) a cellular phone worth anywhere from 50-150 CUC is very much outside the budget of an ordinary Cuban person. Howver, like Carlos Javier said, most Cubans don’t use cell phones to have long conversations. Many use it simply in case of an emergency or to send SMS text messages. That’s exactly why we are donating these phones – so we can lower the cost for young people in Cuba to get connected.
@Carlos Javier: Thank you so much for your personal support and for your answers to Raquel, Diane and Tony. We would love to connect with you and continue the conversation – as well as see if there is a way we can work together. If you’re interested, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
@Oscar: Thanks Oscar! Roots of Hope will use a multipronged approach to send phones – as outlined in the new U.S. regulations – through care packages and licensed shipments in order to distribute phones to all sectors of Cuban society. Our aim is to distribute phones to Cuban youth – regardless of their social, political, or economic background.
@Wali: Thanks Wali! Appreciate your responses to Raquel and Tony.
@Esther: Thanks Esther! Using the U.S. Postal Service, you can send us your used cell phones to our Po.Box:
Raices de Esperanza, Inc.
PO Box 260486
Miami, FL 33126
Phone: (512) 684-2360
@Friendly Gringa: We accept any and every phone. Those that cannot be used on the island will be sent to a refurbisher and trade-in for one that does work in Cuba. For more information on Cells Phones 4 Cuba, please email us at C4C@RaicesdeEsperanza.org
felicitaciones al Sr Gororno lo escuche en CNN de esa manera si va a cambiar la vida en Cuba…ante todo la tolerancia y el amor
ese muchacho si sera presidente cuando cuba sea libre
se lo vaticino.