The first time I stepped into a Walmart, I was a wide-eyed twelve year old Cuban immigrant who had never seen so well-stocked shelves. I remember the greatness of the building, the intensity of the colors, and the variety of products that felt incredibly overwhelming. I began to feel light-headed, nauseous, and most of all, anxious. Never in my life had I seen so many options within one space, and I quickly came to realize that was what my new life in the United States would provide me with; choices.
I quickly learned that all these choices were a direct byproduct of my newly-found freedom. Choices and freedom are the reason why we have made such incredible progress in so many areas of our society. In the last century alone we have landed on the moon, flown powered aircrafts, and developed the internet. However, in spite of these outstanding achievements, many of us often forget the power and privilege we hold, especially when living in a prosperous nation.
Over the past few years it has become more and more apparent that the U.S. is far from the great nation it claims to be. Although me saying this often inspires people to ask me “if you don’t like America then why did you come here?”, I refuse to keep my head down. The issues I choose to advocate for are not about where I come from or where I am at. They are about freedom, and having the power to make positive changes due to it.
This January marked ten years since I arrived in the United States. Spending a little less than half of my life in this country helped me understand that, as Americans, we have the ability to fight back and express our opinion in order to create a better world. Additionally, I have noticed something a lot of Americans don’t realize. In many countries such as Cuba, stating your opinion is not always an option. I have heard several anecdotes from my family about how simple jokes or passing comments about the government would land some of their coworkers in jail. This is why I find it quite comedic when someone says that the enforcement of masks in public settings is a violation of their freedom.
How can we expect to be at peace when a nation with so many resources and privileges remains so divided about such frivolous things such as wearing a mask? Those of us who are free and able to make change are the ones that must make the first steps towards global unity. We hold in our hands the resources and power to take action and work towards true unity and ending injustices.
I decided to write this as my first article on Medium because I hope to change this world for the better. I would like my words to set the tone for the kind of change I want to bring about through my work as a Hispanic artist and storyteller. Most of all, I want this article to be a reminder for everyone who reads it, as well as for myself, that we have great power in freedom. We just need to remember the right ways of using it.