ORLANDO, Fla. — Since demonstrations across the entire country of Cuba began July 11, Carolina Esquivel, 22, started to rally in Orlando to show support for them.

What You Need To Know

  • UCF student looks to call attention to demonstrations in Cuba

  • Rallies are emotional for Carolina Esquivel, whose parents are from Cuba

  • Esquivel says she plans to continue rallying "until Cuba is free"

  • Her parents and grandmother would urge her to continue, she says

“Both my parents are born in Cuba,” Esquivel said. “My mom is from Havana, which is the capital, and my dad is from Camaguey.”

Like many Cuban-Americans, what is happening in Cuba weighs heavy on the mind of Esquivel, the co-founder of the Cuban-American Association at the University of Central Florida.

“It’s been emotional, it’s been very emotional,” Esquivel said. “I keep telling myself I should be there, not here. It’s been very hard seeing on social media the images of the violence and the brutality. Seeing my people fight back with sticks, rocks against weapons that they don’t have. It’s very sad. It’s just very hard.”

While many Central Florida students begin the next school year in August, as a graduate student, Esquivel is already in class.

“In these times, I would like to remind myself what my grandmother would do,” she said. “My grandmother would tell me to stay in school and focus on school. That’s why she moved here, and that’s what she did for me and my sister.”

She said her grandmother and parents also inspire her to continue to demonstrate in Florida as often as possible to keep the Cuban people on everyone else’s minds, too.

“That’s why I’m going to stay here [demonstrating] until Cuba is free,” Esquivel said.

A UCF spokesperson said the university has counseling services to help all students dealing with distress related to any impactful event.