WEST NEW YORK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Thousands of Cubans took to the streets Sunday in rare protests expressing frustration over food shortages and worsening conditions caused by the pandemic.

Cuban communities from Barcelona to New Jersey joined the calls for freedom, CBS2’s Christina Fan reported Monday.

The largest anti-government protests in decades erupted on the streets of the island nation over the weekend. The cries of frustration over the economic situation were felt deeply in the Cuban community in West New York, New Jersey.

“It’s personal. What’s going on is personal,” resident Yoleisy Yanez said.

“This has a culmination of many, many people, many, many sufferings,” Weehawken resident Adam San Miguel added.

Carmen Gendebien moved from Cuba to Washington Heights with her parents when she was 2 years old. Now living in northern New York, she still has aunts, uncles and cousins in Cuba and said the movement is surreal.

“It feels like what Cuban-Americans have been wanting to happen for so long but couldn’t imagine it ever would,” Gendebien told CBS2’s Jessica Layton.

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The area of Hudson County, known as “Havana on the Hudson,” is home to thousands of Cuban-Americans who fled the communist dictatorship.

Hundreds showed up for an impromptu protest Sunday, and on Monday a group of local political leaders called for change back home.

“There is no food, there is no freedom, there’s no internet, there’s no phone. All there is, is abuse,” Congressman Albio Sires said.

Cuba is going through its worst economic crisis in decades as COVID cases resurge. San Miguel’s aunt lives in the capitol of Havana, where living conditions are rapidly deteriorating.

“Their biggest concern through all this chaos is, where is next meal coming from? Where is the medication going to come from?” San Miguel said.

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Cuba’s president blames the crisis on U.S. trade restrictions and sanctions. He has called on supporters to take back the streets.

But Cuban-Americans say what’s special about the protests is that the nation’s youth are fighting back.

Sixty two years, for the first time, the Cuban people decided to go outside and they want to be heard,” Yanez said.

It has been an unpresented display of anger and frustration that Cuban Americans hope will mark the beginning of the end of the current regime.

President Joe Biden voiced support for protestors Monday, writing the U.S. stands firmly with the people Cuba and their calls for freedom.

CBS2’s Jessica Layton and Christina Fan contributed to this report.

CBSNewYork Team