Best Grassroots Organization (2010)

Raices de Esperanza (Roots of Hope)

If you live in Miami and you're not the type to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Elián saga by screaming and burning photos of Castro and Janet Reno outside Versailles, there's a good chance you're pretty cynical about Cuban rights activism. And who could blame you? Enough hot air comes out of Calle Ocho's daily coffee-counter arguments every afternoon to power a transatlantic flight. That's why Raices de Esperanza (or "Roots of Hope" for the gringos among us) is so refreshing. President Felice Gorordo, a 27-year-old Miami native, cofounded the group while he was a student at Georgetown with the simple goal of opening a dialogue among young Cubans about how to better their lives. Now the group has 3,000 members at 55 universities and sponsors an annual conference to foster communication and support emerging bloggers such as Yoani Sánchez. Gorordo's brand of activism won its biggest victory yet last September, when Colombian pop singer Juanes announced a concert "for peace" in Havana's Independence Square. Miami's hardliners raged, stalking Juanes at his Key Biscayne home and smashing his CDs in Little Havana, but Gorordo took a different tack. "Let him go, and we'll judge when he comes back," he said. "It's worth a shot." Sure enough, the Juanes show drew hundreds of thousands of Cubans, and he used the stage to preach freedom. Most agreed the concert bettered the cause for human rights. Raices de Esperanza's embrace of dignity, innovation, and communication prevailed over screaming and empty posturing. That's a revolution we can all get behind.


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