OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — When the cafecito flows, there is usually a crowd, dominoes tumbling, laughing and of course music playing.
“You can’t have a gathering without music,” Gresia Cabrera said.
A cofounder of “Cubanos Por Kansas City,” Cabrera came to the city in Missouri 22 years ago as a refugee from her home country of Cuba.
Her father had just been released from prison where he spent years serving a sentence for preaching. Cabrera said communist leaders who’ve ruled the island country since the 1950s suppress religion, education, culture and most freedoms.
“The government likes to control things,” Cabrera said.
It wasn’t until she arrived in the United States that Cabrera realized what she’d been missing in Cuba.
“We have an American culture shock and then we have a Cuban culture shock,” she said. “Our real culture, our real cuisine, music, literature, that had been banned for decades in Cuba. We begin to learn our identity after we have the freedom to do so.”
Her group Cubanos Por Kansas City organizes events like the one at Berkley Riverfront Park over Labor Day Weekend for Cubans in Kansas City to get together and support one another. Eventually, she plans to turn the group into a nonprofit which can help refugees from her homeland settle in America.
But Cabrera is hopeful there will be a time soon when Cubans do not have to be refugees. This summer, Cubans revolted against the government, filling streets in Cuba with protests and demonstrations. Cabrera helped organize a rally in Kansas City to support her people.
“I feel like this is the time for us to be able to support them in any way we can from [in the United States],” Cabrera said. “This is the time for us to step in because until the moment when the people know they can can lose the fear, have courage, go out on the street and demand their freedom, there was not much we could do no matter how hard we tried [because the government still controlled everything], and we have been trying.”
Cabrera’s friend and fellow refugee, Loreanne Campos-Carmona, also attended the rally and Labor Day event. She believes there is brighter day in Cuba.
“It took them 62 years to destroy a country. It’s not going to take two days and a month to flip it back, but I see it’s coming,” Campos-Carmona said. “The freedom is coming.”
In the meantime, this group will help other Cubans experience freedom in the United States while warning natives not to fall into the same traps their country did.