Cuban art professor and curator Anamely Ramos Gonzalez, standing with all her belongings in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood after being turned away by American Airlines from a flight to her homeland, Feb 18, 2022. (Photo: Chaya Kurson)

MIAMI—Unconscionable actions taken by American Airlines on Wednesday, Feb. 16, have sent shockwaves first through the Cuban art world, and then through the entire Cuban ex-pat community in this Cuban-led city. And now, as one brave woman who was denied re-entrance to her own home country leads the charge, those reverberations are starting to be felt by all freedom loving people.

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Respected art curator Anamely Ramos Gonzalez, 37, is a prominent member of the San Isidro Movement, a collective of artists, journalists and other intelligentsia that gathered in 2018 to oppose Cuba’s crackdown on freedom of expression. On Wednesday, Ramos was denied access to an American Airlines flight in Miami, apparently at the request of the Cuban government. The Miami Herald reported that the island nation’s bureaucrats had blocked her entry into the country. According to the Herald, “The Cuban government has frequently denied entry to opponents and activists, but usually after they’ve already arrived on the island.”

But as Ramos herself said at a press conference hastily arranged at Miami International Airport after she was denied access, “Cuba’s border cannot be at the Miami airport. It cannot be at American Airlines’ gate. If the Cuban government doesn’t want to let me in for some reason, they have to solve it with me in Cuba.”

Now, Ramos is leading protests in Miami’s Little Havana community. On Friday, she sat on a corner of Calle Ocho, directly across from Versailles restaurant in the beating heart of Miami’s Cuban community. As cars drove by, many honked their horns in solidarity, including a few with ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ bumper stickers.

In a face-to-face interview with the Fine Art Globe, Ramos explained why she is willing to challenge an autocratic government so publicly.

“Normal people have been more in touch with us, in solidarity. They are indignant about American Airlines’ decision not to take me to Cuba. This has happened many times in the past to a lot of people who live here, but this is a special case because I have a valid residence in Cuba.”

Ramos has been a professor at Universidad de las Artes de Cuba for 12 years, where she’s established a reputation as an edgy and innovative curator. She also spent two years teaching art in Angola.

According to Ramos, the plan on Friday was to spend the day protesting outside Versailles, which attracts Miami Cubanos as well as tons of tourists all day long and was packed at lunch hour on Friday. For the afternoon rush hour, the protestors planned to march to Ponce De Leon Boulevard in Coral Gables to protest directly in front of the American Airlines Building.

Passersby on Calle Ocho in Miami stopped to offer support under a message of freedom placed by Versailles restaurant. (Photo: Ken Kurson)

Asked whether she was concerned that attracting attention to Cuba’s reprehensible policy would jeopardize her, Ramos told the Globe the reverse is true.

“No, on the contrary. It’s the opposite. What I want is that this situation gets coverage because this publicity is the only protection I have. The Cuban authorities will be less likely to target me if people are watching. I will take the opportunity of this visibility to speak for the political prisoners and all the people who are suffering in Cuba right now.”

Ramos sat in front of a mural emblazoned with “Derecho a Regresar” or “Right to Return.” The original was painted by the Cuban artist and activist Camila Lobón and the version seen here is a tribute created by a friend of Anamely’s named Eduardo.

According to the Herald story, Ramos has an American “visitor’s visa” that permits only one entry. So if she did make it to Cuba—her legal residence—and was turned away, she would not be legally allowed to return to the United States.

This moment that we’re witnessing right now, with large-scale demonstrations on the streets of Havana for the first time since the communists took control in 1959 and systematically squashed dissenting voices, feels different.

“It’s already happening,” Ramos told the Fine Art Globe. “On July 11, 2021, tens of thousands of people were demonstrating in the streets in Cuba and asking for the end of the dictatorship. This has been the biggest and most relevant event in Cuba in 40 or 60 years. Actually, in all of Cuban history.”