SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) – Pierre Perales opened a cigar shop, Casillas Cigars, in Citrus Heights back in 2005 and says he wouldn’t have had the opportunity if his father never left Cuba decades ago.
“If there’s one thing every Cuban shares in a passion for freedom,” Perales said. “This country gave us a home and gave us freedom.”
That’s why Perales, like other Cuban Americans, is encouraged by the wave of people taking to the streets in Cuba in anti-government protests.
“It’s important that we show the world how imperative it is that communism doesn’t work,” Perales explained. “They’re tired of it. There’s no food, there’s no medicine, there’s no hospital beds.”
Perales said the Cuban people have faced shortages in opportunity and basic supplies for years, which is why his cousin Adril Perales recently fled his homeland in search of a better life.
“The situation over there every day is worse and worse,” Adril Perales told FOX40 via a translator.
But Adril Perales left his entire family behind and said he worries about their safety amid all the unrest.
Alfonso Thomas, whose father also fled Cuba for America decades ago, shares Adril Perales’ concerns.
“I haven’t been able to reach my cousins because they haven’t had internet access for the past few days and it’s all over Cuba,” Thomas said. “I’m hoping they’re OK, hopefully, they’re staying low and I hope to hear from them soon.”
But despite those fears, Thomas said there’s also a feeling of hope.
“It’s sad to see but a necessary thing. To see it, you have this pride knowing that they’re trying to stand up for themselves. It’s long overdue and hurts to see how they’re being treated,” he explained. “They’ve been treated this way for years.”
The Cuban government says the U.S. trade embargo is to blame for its country’s economic challenges.
But the Perales family thinks otherwise.
“The rest of the world trades with that country. It’s not the American embargo that has the country on its knee,” Pierre Perales said. “We don’t need to lift the American embargo. We need to let those people take back their country, our country.”
Cuba’s government blames the widespread protests on social media, which is why they say they had to shut down the internet.
There is no word yet on when communication will be restored.