Fernando Martinez is a Louisville resident, business owner, and former refugee from Communist Cuba who escaped on a raft when he was just 18 years old. His newly opened restaurant, La Bodoguita De Mima, employs more than 30 people, most of whom are immigrants as well.
Last week, he became a target of violent threats by Black Lives Matter activists trying to use locals’ antiracist sympathies to blackmail local businesses.
During a protest in his town that descended into violence, Martinez’s restaurant was approached by a group of the demonstrators. According to him, he and his staff were issued a long list of demands from the group, and were told they had better comply “so your business isn’t f***ed with.”
Included in the list were demands that the immigrant-owned restaurant pay up 1.5 percent of its revenue to affiliates of the protesters, make a minimum of 23 percent of their employees and vendors black, and mandate diversity training for all his staff. He was also ordered to issue a public apology for building on land that used to be a public housing project.
Martinez’s was just one of many businesses in the area targeted. Unlike the others, he had no plans to quietly roll over.
“There comes a time in life that you have to make a stand and you have to really prove your convictions and what you believe in. I didn’t (e)scape tyranny to be intimidated by these people,” he wrote in a statement on Facebook calling out the mob’s mafia tactics. “All good people need to denounce this. How can you justified (sic) injustice with more injustice?”
Needless to say, the want-to-be woke Capones were greatly displeased. Demonstrators swiftly returned to the businesses after the statement, accosting staff and vandalizing the exterior. His business was forced to shut for days in fear for their safety. But as the activists were soon to find out, Martinez had his community behind him.
On Sunday, more than 100 members of the city’s Cuban community gathered in the sun to support him against the attempted intimidation. Carrying signs such as “We Left Cuba Because of Socialism: Be Careful What You Wish For,” and “No 2 Socialism in America,” the peaceful rally-goers listened as Martinez gave an emotional speech. With his mother at his side, the immigrant stated that it was socialist ideas, not black Americans, that he opposes.
“We’re here to work. We’re dreamers. We’re people who love freedom and love this country,” Martinez said about Cuban-Americans. “This is not a race fight. This is an idea fight.”
“How can I be called a bigot and a racist when my family is black? When my son is gay? I’m the proud father of a gay son, and I’m gonna fight for him against anybody.”
Other speakers rose next to stand by Martinez, and the ideas he stood by.
“We came here not because we wanted to come. We fell in love with your city and your country after being here because you welcomed us,” said Berta Weyenberg, the president of the Cuban American Association of Kentucky. “We are here to defend the freedom that you all gave us that we didn’t have.”
Since the community has come together over to defend the owner from those trying to intimidate him, there have been no reports of further violence or threats. Martinez proclaims his business has always welcomed everyone.
“La Bodeguita is open to everybody,” he said to the crowd on Sunday. “If you’re gay, this is your home. If you’re black, this is your home. If you’re white, this is your home. If you’re human, this is your home.”