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While you’re sipping that mojito in Cuba, fierce Cuban women are oppressed, denied | Opinion

Martha Beatriz Roque, a pillar of strength and peaceful dissidence in Cuba for decades, was honored at the White House — in absentia — during a Women’s History Month event held Monday.

She was one of a dozen women from around the world recognized by First Lady Jill Biden with an International Women of Courage Award. This was no political far-right ceremony against Cuba, but a liberal-minded one in tone, touting a gender-equality and empowerment philosophy.

The point was to raise awareness about human rights abuses, from Afghanistan to Uganda and everywhere in between, and to champion the fierce women for whom “courage is a deliberate and daily choice,” as Secretary of State Anthony Blinken described the lives of the honored.

READ MORE: Dissident Martha Beatriz Roque is honored at the White House. Cuba didn’t let her attend

Travel denied

But the Cuban regime, in its infinite capacity to be petty and repressive, denied Roque permission to travel to the United States. An economist and former university professor, she’s too important a figure to be allowed to leave the country and speak her truth.

The denial, however, is an outrage that will surely stay under the radar with the happy-go-lucky American and Canadian travel-to-Cuba crowd, which includes a growing number of women solo-traveling there who should care about these matters.

Regretfully, the news of Roque’s denial also will likely go ignored by influential American women like writer Alice Walker, author of the achingly good book “The Color Purple” — and a long-time admirer of the repressive Castro brothers and the current inherited dictatorship of Miguel Díaz-Canel.

“Teachers and spiritual guides,” Walker called Fidel Castro and Celia Sánchez, the first woman to join his guerrilla forces, in a book of essays dedicated to them.

Last month, Walker received from Díaz-Canel a medal of honor for her decades of support of a regime who keeps prominent AfroCuban artists imprisoned for daring to speak their minds and women like Roque in a perennial cycle of harassment, detention and denial of basic rights such as leaving her house freely without persecution.

How can Walker and other Americans like her reconcile their support of oppression?

READ MORE: It’s no coincidence that the alleged Cuba spy peddled Trump and right-wing politics | Opinion

American women’s Cuba travel

Roque’s denial reminds me of a post I recently saw in a women’s international solo travel group.

An American sitting poolside in Varadero sipping her mojito described her state of mind as “sad.”

She wanted to go home, felt trapped in the inclusive resort, unable to explore freely, and the weariness of hospitality workers was palpable, she said. In an effort to uplift her, women encouraged her to stay, sharing their politically blindfolded tour explorations of Commie Disneyland.

Dozens gave her advice — tips on everything from salsa dancing to scoring a fling — but only one addressed the elephant in the room. Here was that rare sensitive soul, among privileged free people who travel to oppressive Cuba to get their groove on, accurately reading the national mood and feeling it herself.

I acknowledged her feelings and posted about Lisdany Rodríguez Isaac, imprisoned with her twin sister for their peaceful participation in the historic protests of July 11, 2021, and according to her family, lawyer and political prisoner advocacy groups, being pressured by the Cuban government to have an abortion.

While few appreciated my post originally — which must have felt like a cold shower ruining a hot party — I’ve noticed that posts on travel to Cuba are increasingly nuanced now.

Please don’t misinterpret me.

I don’t stand for denying American women the right to travel, a right that Cuba denies its people. Prohibition solves nothing and mirrors the oppressor, who benefits from Cuba’s isolation.

But it’s high time to stop romanticizing deceptive Cuba.

After 65 years of dictatorship, the ruthless, backward repression should surprise no one.

But, somehow, another act of infamy always does.