[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: April 2005

Friday, April 29, 2005

Should Floridians Support Illegals' Tuition? (updated)

Today's Miami Herald published a story about a bill sitting in the Florida Legislature allowing undocumented (illegal) immigrants residing in Florida to pay in-state tuition for attending a state university or college. The measure has failed twice before, and time is running out in this year's legislative session.

This is a tricky subject because I feel we should not encourage illegal migration into this country. On the other hand, most of the kids who fall under this category have lived in Florida for several years after coming to this country with their parents. Most of those kids cannot afford to pay out-of-state tuition fees to attend college, no matter how good their grades were in high school.

Coming to this country illegally was not the kids fault. But more importantly, there's a pretty good chance that a person who attends and graduates from a college or university will become a successful member of society as an adult. By denying these kids the opportunity to pay the same rates as "legal" kids will shut them out of an education, and probably a good job and success later on.

From the Herald article:
Some parents worried about their own children's academic futures could take a dim view of lawmakers voting what amounts to a subsidy -- in-state tuition doesn't cover the cost of a college education -- to undocumented immigrants. Some opponents fear it could serve as an incentive, drawing more illegal immigrants to the state.

The illegal immigrants are coming anyway, so what good would we be doing by denying their children an opportunity to better themselves?

Besides, according to the story, most of these "illegals" already pay taxes to fund education.

Update 5/3/05 12:55 PM: A.M. Mora y Leon has a good write-up on the illegal immigration issue in the American Thinker. Val from Babalu linked to it in a post on his blog, where there are a number of comments already posted.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Marlins Little Closer to New Stadium

Good news yesterday for Marlins fans. Although their game last night got snowed out at Colorado, they scored a victory in the Florida State Legislature when the House approved 90-26 the sales tax subsidy the Marlins and other organizations are seeking. The sales tax subsidy is the missing piece in the puzzle to secure a new stadium for the team.

For those who haven't been following this, the Marlins have said that they might leave South Florida if they don't have a new stadium built in the next few years. In partnership with the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County, they have worked out a deal for a new stadium which is $30 million short. That's where the sales tax subsidy comes into play. The subsidy is expected to cover the remaining $30 million.

I'm not crazy about subsidizing rich sports team owners, but in this case keeping the team in South Florida is more important. Our quality of life would suffer if we lose the Marlins. Every big city needs major league sports, entertainment for the whole family. Baseball, in particular, is very family-friendly and can be enjoyed by people of all ages.

The bill faces an uphill battle in the State Senate, where Senate leader Tom Lee has said he would not support the bill. I e-mailed him recently expressing my support for the tax subsidy. If you want major league baseball to stay in South Florida...you can e-mail your local state senator or Tom Lee himself.

Tom Lee's e-mail is: lee.tom.web@flsenate.gov

To find and e-mail your local senator: http://www.flsenate.gov/Welcome/index.cfm

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Embargo or Not?

The biggest conundrum of Cuban exiles and Cuban-Americans is the U.S. embargo and travel restrictions on Cuba. I was reminded of this today when making my blog rounds and reading what Val and Juan Paxety had to say.

Val supports strengthening the embargo and limiting any form of travel because a ruthless dictator does not deserve any type of financial support. Juan suggests that perhaps it is time to lift the embargo because it has been ineffective. Both arguments have merit and are worthy of consideration. That may sound wishy-washy on my part, and I'll admit as much. However, smarter people than me have been playing this game for a long time and haven't been able to solve the puzzle which is Cuba.

I feel that U.S. policy towards Cuba is and has always been extremely ineffective. If the purpose of the "embargo" as it stands is to get rid of fidel and his regime, then it has obviously failed. Miserably. fidel is as rich as ever, and the Cuban people as poor and oppressed as ever. I understand and generally support the reasons for the travel restrictions, but unfortunately it punishes those who want to visit Cuba for legitimate reasons (family, humanitarian efforts, etc.)

The pragmatist in me says: "Lift the embargo and stop giving fidel an excuse for Cuba's misery."

The moralist in me says: "We need to strengthen the embargo to punish fidel for the suffering he's caused", followed by "We need to help the Cuban people who are suffering".

The reason I put "embargo" in quotes and italics earlier is because it's anything but. Juan quotes the U.S.-Cuba Trade Association as stating that $1.2 billion in sales by American firms have been made to Cuba. That's a lot of money folks. It's obvious where that money is going, or not going, in Cuba.

Therefore I, like Juan, see only two possible solutions, with one being better than the other:
- Either make the embargo tight as hell and choke fidel completely, or
- Lift the embargo so the Cuban people can have access to more goods.

So then, what the best solution here?

- If you're an optimist, lift the embargo and hope the money and goods gets to the people.
- If you're a realist, tighten the embargo further because fidel already gets plenty of goods and can't be trusted with putting it in the right hands.

I'll add one more for the idealist - implement a universal embargo on Cuba so nothing, nothing, gets to fidel's hands.

I'm typically an optimistic person, but in this case I have to side with the realists. But it doesn't make me feel any more confident that it's the only solution.

A Taste of ManCamp

Anyone who reads Babalu Blog is familiar with the occasional ManCamp stories. Well, I got the opportunity to experience ManCamp first hand this past Sunday when I had the pleasure of visiting Val Prieto's shrine to manhood. Val,of course, is the man behind Babalu Blog and you'll find me referring to him and his posts quite often here at 26th Parallel.

The occasion was to celebrate two birthdays: fellow South Florida blogger Steve of Hog on Ice, and Val's friend Tommy. Val was a gracious host as he led me on a tour of the facilities. ManCamp is, for lack of a better term, manly. Situated in a corner of his backyard, it features a full entertainment system, fridge, and several grills/smokers (I lost track of the exact number), all sitting under a tent. The floor is mulch, which adds to the manliness. ManCamp also offers spectacular waterfront views of the Snapper Creek Canal.

It was a Miami blogger reunion of sorts with George from Universal Spectator in attendance in addition to the other bloggers.

ManCamp is known for massive amount of grilling which takes place, usually involving pork and pork products.

Sunday's menu included:

- a pork shoulder wrapped in bacon
- "Cajun Angels" which are shrimp wrapped in, you guessed it, bacon
- Steve's awesome barbecue beans which were cooked with, you guessed it, bacon.

To top it off, a birthday cake in the shape of a grill with three hot dog weiners was brought out. I didn't have any of it, so I can't say if it actually had any pork in it.

Unfortunately I couldn't stay long, but I had a great time nonetheless and it was nice to finally experience ManCamp for myself.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Elian Wrap Up

This past weekend I posted a two-part piece on Elian to mark the fifth anniversary of his removal from his relatives' home in Miami. I'll wrap up the Elian posts with this entry from Juan Paxety of Paxety Pages about a speech now 11-year-old Elian gave in Cuba to mark the anniversary.

The Caribbean Net News quotes Elian as saying:

"That (the day of the raid) was the happiest day of my life," said Elian, reading from a prepared text. He urged the United States to allow the return to Cuba of another girl whose case he described as similar to his own."

If you believe that, I got some free oceanfront property to give you.

What would castro and Elian have to say about this?

OK...Maybe It's Global Cooling

Here we are in late April, and record low temperatures in the 50s were set in South Florida this morning. Meanwhile, snow was falling as far south as the North Carolina mountains.

Take a look at this from fellow South Florida blog Burton Terrace.

Nobody in South Florida is complaining about the recent cool temperatures. Summer is right around the corner, and that means mosquitos and non-stop humidity from May until October. Today was the kind of day you want to bottle up and save for July and August when the air is so thick you can cut it with a butter knife.

Oh, and we also have to deal with hurricanes.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Elian (Continued)

Continuation of yesterday's Elian post...

As the months went by, time began to heal some of the wounds, but a general feeling of discontent remained. The Cuban-American community turned to itself and began to think of ways to combat the image problem it faced. It also became united like never before, motivated by the hurt and resentment we still felt. This played a major role in what became the next big news story of the year...the November 2000 presidential elections.

George Bush won by taking Florida by a mere 500 or so votes. The Cuban-American community, which in the 1996 election voted in surprisingly high numbers for Democrat Bill Clinton, exacted its revenge on Al Gore by voting overwhelmingly for George Bush. There's little doubt that if the Elian saga had not taken place or if it would have been resolved differently, Al Gore would have received enough of the Cuban-American votes to win Florida and the presidency. We felt vindicated, we felt as if we mattered again.

This attitude would serve us well for the earth-shaking events that were to follow.

9/11/2001. All of a sudden, the Elian saga became insignificant compared to what had taken place that horrific day. The indignation and horror I felt was much greater, much more significant. After all, our country was attacked. The same country I had questioned just one year before. In the end, we were Americans, not just Cuban-Americans, but Americans just like any other across the country. That same Old Glory that I cringed at after Elian was now prominently displayed in many Cuban-American homes, including mine.

Fast-forward to 2005. What have we learned? I think the main lesson learned from the Elian ordeal was that we have to rely on ourselves to raise the awareness of those around us about what's going on in Cuba. We also learned that we are indeed an important part of the American fabric, and we should weave our experiences, values, and ideas into that fabric, not try to create our own.

Are ethnic relations in Miami better now than 5 years ago? Probably yes. If anything, the Elian struggle made us speak out about our differences instead of keeping them bottled up inside. But there will always be culture clash in an area such as South Florida which absorbs people of so many different backgrounds. Hopefully we'll be able to better deal and accept our differences if and when the next conflict arises.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Elian - Looking Back Five Years Ago

My wife and I got up later than usual, around 9:30, the morning of Saturday April 22, 2000. We calmly ate breakfast, then turned on the TV. What we saw on the TV screen the moment we turned it on made a huge impact that can still be felt today. We watched as President Clinton approached the podium at the White House and announced that Elian Gonzalez had been taken out of his relatives' home in Miami and "reunited" with his father in Washington. There were grumblings all week that something might happen, but the initial shock was devastating.

My wife began to cry. I initially felt incredible sadness, which quickly turned to anger and a huge sense of being betrayed. Betrayed by my country for taking little Elian by force and delivering him to the waiting arms of fidel castro. We continued to watch as attention turned to the developing situation in Little Havana where hundreds of people, outraged by what had transpired that pre-dawn morning, had taken to the streets. News reporters were interviewing angry citizens, and police were spraying pepper spray at some of the protesters. My worst fears appeared to be coming true. Miami was in a state of chaos and the Cubans were to blame. The previous days and weeks in Miami were like a slowly boiling pot of water which was ready to spill over at any time. Ethnic tensions which had always existed just below the surface were primed to burst out. It all happened that April 22nd. Non-Hispanic journalists on TV appeared to be gloating over their "victory" over the "crazy Cubans", and were warning of days of riots and violence in Miami by Cubans. Cuban-Americans journalists and TV reporters were shocked and outraged.

My wife and I called relatives who were equally as stunned. I walked over to my computer and e-mailed a letter to the editor of the Miami Herald denouncing Elian's capture (it was never published). The rest of the day was spent slumped in front of the TV. It felt like a death in the family.

The days to follow were just as difficult. Although the massive riots and violence which had been predicted by many failed to materialize, except for isolated incidents, Cuban-Americans were being grilled by non-Cubans in Miami and the rest of the nation. How could we dare to defy the government? How could we dare to keep a child from his father? All the while, a scary thing began to occur: I was starting to feel a deep resentment towards the United States. My country of birth, my country, the only one I've ever known and loved. I cringed every time I saw a house with an American flag proudly displayed in the front porch. This was pre-9/11, therefore people, myself included, only flew flags during holidays. Since Memorial Day was still a month away, the only reason most of those flags were out was to show the Cubans who ran the show in this country. It was like a slap in the face. Several days after the incident, we left for a 2-week vacation in Spain. Then I thought of something even scarier: I caught myself a couple of times daydreaming of moving to Spain to get away from the hostility back home. After all, most Spaniards we spoke to seemed to be sympathetic to our feelings of hurt. We heard about the counter-protests by non-Hispanics in Miami. Good thing I wasn't in town for that!

We got back to Miami and proceeded to move on with life as usual. Still, we could feel the resentment. At the time I lived in Cutler Ridge which is an ethnically mixed area where Cuban-Americans are a small minority. It was hard to go to the supermarket or the shopping center without hearing someone make a snide remark against Cubans. Meetings with Mayor Alex Penelas were held at the neighborhood elementary school which were attended by people waving US and Confederate flags, as well as plenty of Metro-Dade police officers. I felt like I was living in a different city, a different country.

To be continued...

Thursday, April 21, 2005

"Dell" Computers in Cuba

Posted by Hello
Photo Courtesy of Cuba Democracia y Vida

That is..."fiDEL's" computers.

Cuba's Prisons

Val from Babalu has posted a video showing one of the cells used in Cuba to incarcerate prisoners of conscience such as Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet.

The video speaks for itself, even if you don't understand Spanish.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Do you know a Vietnam Vet? If you see them walking around with a smile or with an extra spring in their step today, it's probably because of what happened earlier today in Kansas City.

Looks like a Vietnam Vet's payback for Fonda's traitorous acts during the war. Or maybe it was a little case of returning the favor.

No...It's Not Global Warming

An iceberg has collided with a glacier in Antarctica, snapping off a 3 square mile chunk of ice, according to AP.

I'm not implying that people will automatically think that this is more evidence of human-induced global warming, but just want to remind people just in case.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Habemus Papam

We have a Pope, its Benedict XVI...former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany.

Already there is controversy surrounding the election of Benedict XVI, mainly about his childhood in Germany where he joined the Nazi Youth (obligatory in Nazi Germany), and his strict conservative views.

Once again, the mainstream media is trying to distort the facts and question the choice of a conservative successor to John Paul II. I can't begin to understand what the problem could be with the selection of a Pope who will follow the Church's doctrine to the letter. After all, it's all about the integrity of what the Catholic Church has always stood for, not some people's opinion of what the Church "should" be. I will admit that, as a Catholic, I'm not always in agreement with all of the Church's doctrine, but that's my problem and not the Catholic Church's.

Fellow Florida blogger Attaboy hits the nail on the head with his opinion of the new Pope and the direction the Church should be taking.

Monday, April 18, 2005

And Saddam Got 100% of the Votes Too

Cuba's recent elections drew more than 8 million voters, according to this story from AP.

Here's the kicker:

Parliament Speaker Ricardo Alarcon said Cuba's electoral process (ed.: single party) was "superior to the multiparty system," arguing that it was real pluralism (editor's emphasis).

"In other words, everyone within society can nominate whoever they want, and then make up their own minds," he said.

Val from Babalu Blog has more on this latest piece of fiction out of Cuba. Follow his link for more info.

Deal of the Century

Looks like a lucky few got to fly for peanuts, and not just the ones they give you in the plane.

How come I never get to be so lucky?

Stormy Weather

Last Friday I posted on the big waves which were forecast to affect Southeast Florida over the weekend. The storm which spawned those waves seriously impacted a cruise ship off the Georgia coast on Saturday. The ship was heading north from the Bahamas to New York on Saturday.

Perhaps if the ship captain was one of the handful of people who read this blog daily, he/she would have avoided the storm? Hmmm.

Friday, April 15, 2005

UN Commission Votes Against Cuba

The United Nations Human Rights Commission yesterday approved a resolution against Cuba "to continue monitoring the island" for human rights abuses.

Based on the article, there doesn't appear to be a lot of meat behind the resolution, just a lot of "we're watching you" stuff. Maybe that's what the U.S. had to do - water down the resolution in order for other countries to approve it. Pretty sad if that's indeed the case.

From the Miami Herald, here's the list of countries and how they voted:

In favor:
Armenia, Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Republic of (South) Korea, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States.

China, Congo, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Qatar, Russia, South Africa, Sudan, Zimbabwe.

Argentina, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Gabon, Mauritania, Nepal, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Togo.

To me, the abstaining countries have as much shame on them as the ones who voted against. Good to see Europe, Central America and Mexico back the resolution, but not good to see South America and Dominican Republic abstain. Next time you hear them blame the U.S. for their problems, remember how they voted (or not voted).

As far as Africa, China, and Russia are concerned, their records speak for itself.

Big Waves Coming

Looks like Florida surfers better start getting their boards waxed and ready to go, because some big waves are expected to affect South Florida beaches this weekend. Here's the latest forecast from your National Weather Service:


Wednesday, April 13, 2005

D-Train's Rollin'

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Florida Marlins pitcher Dontrelle Willis pitched his second straight shutout of the season today, beating the Phillies 4-0. Congrats D-Train and to the Marlins!

20th of May/20 de mayo

That's the true Cuban Independence Day. It's also the date of a very important meeting which will take place in Havana this year. It is the Assembly to Promote Civil Society in Cuba, a coalition of independent civil society groups within Cuba to promote a democratic change in the island. Needless to say, it is a courageous act on the part of those groups to hold such a meeting in a country where free speech is punishable by law.

You can read more about this by going over to Babalu Blog, where Val has a great post and a link to the Assembly's website. Also, make sure to sign the petition on the web site.

You Know It's Not Your Day When...

Monday, April 11, 2005

Pope's Visit to Cuba

More than a few eyebrows were raised last week when fidel castro attended a funeral mass in Havana for the late Pope John Paul II. Here was an ex-communicated Jesuit school student who banned religion from Cuba, walking into a church to pay his respects for the Pope.

This hypocritical act made me think back to 1998 when the Pope visited Cuba. It was hoped that the Pope's visit to the communist island would help to open people's minds and spur change. "No tengan miedo". "Don't be afraid", the Pope told the people of Cuba during his stay.

Seven years later and, aside from the greater acceptance of Catholics and other Christian denominations in the island, not much has changed. The people's ability to practice their faith more freely has not lessened the regime's stranglehold. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel has a good story on this and is worth a read.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Another Mariel Story

Last week I posted on the 25th anniversary of the Mariel boatlift and how the refugees adapted to and changed Miami. Today's Miami Herald published a touching personal account from a "Marielito" by the name of Raúl Hernández. Following is the full account:

A collection of small miracles led me to leave Cuba. About 10 months before Mariel, I had requested a transfer back to Havana from my job as a doctor in Pinar del Rio. They didn't like me there because I was living in the parish church. When I opened the transfer document, which I wasn't supposed to see, I was horrified. It said that I was ''ideologically dangerous'' because I was active in religion and didn't deserve career advancement for lack of revolutionary commitment.
Despite that ''recommendation,'' I found a small hospital near my hometown that hired me. After people broke into the Peruvian embassy and there was talk of people leaving, I decided this might be my only chance. So I told the clinic director that I wanted to leave the country and needed a letter from him.
He said, ''Sure,'' but asked me to cover the ER for a 24-hour shift. I was in the ER with a few patients when suddenly I noticed that all the staff had disappeared. I thought, how odd and started hearing noises. It was a set-up. A group came and pushed me into the street.
They had mobilized an entire high school, 700 people or so, clinic staff and neighbors, and I was in the center of this lynch mob. Time suddenly moved really slowly. I took off my white overcoat, so I wouldn't be identified as the doctor, but there was no escape.
People were throwing punches, pushing and insulting me -- ''You don't belong here'' and ''traitor'' were the mild ones. A bus came by, the driver saw what was happening and kept going.
A police car came by. They ordered me into the back seat, took my stethoscope and coat and pulled me out of the mob. Two blocks away, they simply threw me out of the car. At home I told my mom about the mob. I kissed her, then went to a bus stop and was lucky the bus arrived. The bus driver told me: ''Listen buddy, I'm sorry I couldn't stop for you, but the mob would have killed me.'' It was the same bus driver who hadn't stopped.
After three days hiding in Havana, I returned home, and there was a request for me to appear at the local police station. I was thrown into a cell where there were eight common criminals and three concrete ledges that were ''beds.'' Mid-morning they took me to an interrogation cell. On the table was my overcoat and stethoscope. They accused me of abandoning my workplace and taking government property. I told them that the stethoscope was a gift from a nun. One said, ''A nun?'' I said, ''Yes, one of those nice ladies in black and white who prays all the time.'' They didn't like my sarcasm and sent me back to the cell. And more miracles: A few hours later they let me out, no apologies or explanation. Nothing.
During the next few days, Mariel began. Anyone who could prove they were a criminal, antisocial or undesirable would have a chance to get on a boat. One way to get proof was a letter from the head of your neighborhood Committee for the Defense of the Revolution.
So I went to the CDR head's husband, who really was a wonderful person. I asked him to write a letter saying horrible things about me. He told me he couldn't lie but that if I wrote the letter, he would sign it. And he did.
So I took that letter to the same police station where I had been in the cell, and there were so many people they didn't recognize me. They took my letter and didn't look at my identity papers, which said that I was a physician. That was another small miracle, because they weren't letting any professionals go.
The letter said I was a homosexual, a really horrible thing in Cuba, a vagrant and antisocial. They wrote another letter that was worse, which I had to take to another place where they were processing the ''scum.'' The woman looked at my ID card, but didn't see my work history -- another miracle. She said I was leaving tomorrow. I said goodbye to my mother, but not to my father, who wasn't home.
They put us in a bus to El Mosquito, a concentration camp by the shore improvised as a holding area. Every morning they called the names of those leaving that day and let loose German shepherds on those who wouldn't stand back.
One morning they called my name. They put 137 of us in a small boat. I had to sit at the tip of the prow. We had a bucket to pee. For the first time I saw a little American flag waving, and I cried . . .
I look back and wonder what if I still were a doctor. I might have had more money. But I consider myself rich. I live in a free country and can determine my future. In Cuba I couldn't have done this. I get scared when I see government control, when I see the federal government interfering in profoundly family matters. But I have faith in the system. The Founding Fathers did a good job.

Sunday Fun

Want to become familiar with the Rock N' Roll family tree?

Check out this site: BandtoBand. By clicking on the names of 2 bands, you can see how they are linked, and in what number of "steps". The steps are linked by band members.

Example: by clicking on the Beatles and Cannibal Corpse, you will see they are connected in only 9 steps.

Have fun!

Friday, April 08, 2005

Still A Terrorist (Updated)

In the past several days, news of anti-castro militant Luis Posada Carriles' arrival in Miami has surfaced. For those of you who aren't familiar with Posada, he was arrested in Venezuela in 1976 along with Orlando Bosch for blowing up a Cuban airliner with 73 passnegers, mostly Cuban athletes. He has also been possibly linked to hotel bombings in Havana in 1997, as well as taken part in planned attacks on Cuban interests in Central America. He was arrested in Panama in 2000 for allegedly plotting to kill fidel castro during a summit in that country, then subsequently pardoned by Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso last year.

Posada is regarded as a hero by some in the Cuban exile community. That bothers me. It bothers me a lot, actually. While virtually all exiles can agree that fidel is the enemy, by no means whatsoever should we support any kind of terrorist activity which harms or kills innocent people, even if the goal is to get rid of fidel.

I'm sure only a very small minority of exiles support Posada despite his shady past, but it's the perception of the Cuban-American community as a whole that I worry about. By allowing Posada to settle comfortably in Miami, it would send a message that we are allowing a confessed terrorist to live freely and perhaps plan more sinister activities. While that accusation would be totally unfair, it is one that we would have spend time trying to live down. We're already pretty much alone in our battle against the castro regime, and the mainstream media does nothing but hurt our cause. Posada settling here would only serve to justify our detractors' false perceptions.

I hope that U.S. authorities do the right thing and detain him rather than letting him go free right away. After all, a terrorist, even an anti-castro one, is still a terrorist.

UPDATE 4/12/05: Herald columnist Jim DeFede has a story on Posada's image.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Letters to the Editor

Not to this "editor", but to the editors of newspapers. Every day when I go through the morning paper, I make sure to go to the back page of the main section and read the letters to the editors submitted by readers. Most of these letters are well written and make valid points. However, some are downright laughable at best, and insulting at worst. For some reason, those are the ones that bother the heck out of me. Just when I swear to myself that I'll never read the letters to the editor again, I am drawn to them like flies to a rib roast. Perhaps it is my natural curiosity to want to know what other people are saying. Perhaps it is a more of a morbid curiosity.

I was reminded of this when I read this morning's paper and ran across a letter submitted to El Nuevo Herald. It refers to a letter Cuban musician Paquito D'Rivera sent to Carlos Santana after seeing Santana dressed in a Che Guevara t-shirt at the Oscars, which Val of Babalu Blog posted several days ago. The letter writer criticizes D'Rivera for his indignation at seeing Santana proudly display the image of a murderer, implying that it's undemocratic.

Here's the English translation of the letter originally written in Spanish:

"Paquito D'Rivera is an exceptional musician, but he doesn't appear to be very familiar with the U.S. Constitution. In his letter to Carlos Santana, he forgets the First Amendment. Or is it that he wants a "controlled democracy" (very loose translation)?

I abhor neonazis and KKK clansmen, but as long as they don't break any laws they are protected by the world's most democratic constitution. The same applies to Santana even while wearing a t-shirt with the image of Che displayed."

Hmmm...where in D'Rivera's letter does it say or even imply that Santana is breaking the law? D'Rivera has just as much right under the First Amendment to criticize Santana as Santana does in wearing his despicable t-shirt.

Perhaps it's our friendly letter writer who doesn't understand the First Amendment. Or is it that she was personally bothered by D'Rivera's response?

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Carlos Alvarez vs County Commission

Looks like Mayor Alvarez and the Miami-Dade County Commission is duking it out once again.

The mayor wants to change way the county government is run to a "strong mayor" form of government. The commissioners want to keep the system the way it is, which pretty much gives them most of the power, including the power to award county contracts and the right to override a mayor's veto. The mayor's role is basically one of a glorified cheerleader.

If the county commission was competent and responsible, I would have very little problem with the current system. But anyone who has followed Miami-Dade politics for any period of time is well aware of the commissions failings, such as the absolute mishandling of Miami International Airport contracts, and their failed attempt to redirect revenue from the voter-approved half cent sales tax increase to pay off debts instead of using it for new transit projects and improvements (one of the few times a county mayor was able to positively exert his limited power).

Some say a strong-mayor form of goverment gives the mayor too much power. Maybe, maybe not. But who would you rather give the power to, a group of people who have a terrible track record, or someone who has combated corruption and has shown that he is willing to represent the people who voted him into office?

To put it mildly, the Miami-Dade County Commission is incompetent. Miami-Dade County deserves a strong mayor, one who will make the right decisions for the people, not to line the pockets of lobbyists. Mayor Alvarez plans to collect 200,000 signatures to put the matter on the ballot in November. We elected a mayor who will stand by the people, let's give him the right to make decisions for us. I plan on signing the petition, even if I have to go out of my way to do so.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Opening Day

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Last week I posted on the change of seasons in South Florida. Today we have yet another sign of this, it is Opening Day for the Florida Marlins. At about 4:05 PM this afternoon, under blue skies, 55,000 fans are expected to pack Joe Robbie...I mean Pro Player...I mean Dolphins Stadium to see Josh Beckett toe the rubber and fire a 98 mph fastball to start off the season.

There's something special about baseball's Opening Day, more so than the first day of the season for other sports. Perhaps it is the long-anticipated start of the marathon which is baseball season. Perhaps it is the tradition of skipping school and work to go see baseball under the still soft glow of the April sun. Whatever it is, it is indeed a special day.

Here's to a great season for the Marlins, one that will hopefully lead to another World Series title! Play Ball!!

UPDATE: OK, so Beckett's first pitch was an 88 mph changeup, but the Marlins started the season in resounding fashion by beating the Braves 9-0. Dan Marino threw the ceremonial first pitch and followed up with a football strike to Andre Dawson behind home plate. Pretty much a perfect baseball day if you ask me!

Monday, April 04, 2005

Bloggin' Around

Here's a few posts that caught my attention today while checking out some of my favorite blogs:

- My blog tocayo Val at Babalu Blog tackles the insane Che Guevara craze with a chilling piece by Cuban-American author Humberto Fontoya posted on Newsmax.

- Dean's World has reaction on Pope John Paul's passing from different vantage points.

- Caltechgirl has March Madness disease even into April because her North Carolina Tar Heels play Illinois in the championship game tonight.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Gracias Marielitos

Miami - the city of changes - went through another big change back in 1980 when over 100,000 Cubans came to the U.S. via the Mariel boatlift. Most of them were decent hard-working people who seeked freedom, but unfortunately fidel castro emptied out his prisons and allowed criminals, the insane, and the sick to join the others to this country. The end result was a period of instability in Miami, and South Florida in general, as many non-Hispanics left the city for good in the wake of the massive influx of refugees.

Marielitos, as they became known, were called names such as escoria, or scum, and were blamed for an increase in crime. The reality was that the city was already undergoing a big crime wave, primarily due to the "cocaine cowboys" which reached their peak in the late 70s. However, the perception that the Marielitos were to blame became cemented, and national publications such as Time magazine proclaimed South Florida as "Paradise Lost". The negative perception reached its peak with the movie Scarface which starred Al Pacino as a Mariel refugee who becomes involved in the drug trafficking world. They were even looked down upon by the earlier wave of Cuban exiles. I often heard my family, who were part of that earlier wave, refer to them as being "different" and "less-educated".

I was 11 when the Marielitos arrived and, aside from a few relatives and schoolmates who arrived in the boatlift, had limited contact with them. I believed what everybody was saying, that they were different and indeed escorias.

Fast-forward to 2005 and we can see how wrong we were. The Marielitos were different, but mainly because they had endured two full decades under a communist regime. Like the earlier group of Cuban exiles, they eventually assimilated and became another in a long line of successful immigrants in the United States.

Today's Miami Herald published a special report commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Mariel boatlift. It also includes a magazine which has touching pictures and personal accounts of Marielitos who have become successful members of the community. If you can't pick up a copy of today's Herald, you can view the full report and order the magazine online (site registration is free).

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Pope John Paul II

Today the world lost one of its true greats.

May he rest in peace.

We Are All Rednecks

My dad sent me this a while back, and I think it's appropriate especially in times like these when loyalty, respect, and values seem to have taken a back seat to material things. I see more than a few similarities to the traditional Cuban-American values I was raised on, and I'm sure a lot of people of different backgrounds can relate to it as well.

We have enjoyed the redneck jokes for years. It's time to take a reflective look at the core beliefs of a culture that values home, family, country and God. If I had to stand before a dozen terrorists who threaten my life, I'd choose a half dozen or so rednecks to back me up. Tire irons, squirrel guns and grit -- that's what rednecks are made of. I hope I am one of those. If you feel the same, pass this on to your redneck friends. Ya'll know who ya' are...

You might be a redneck if:

1 It never occurred to you to be offended by the phrase, "One nation, under God."
2 You've never protested about seeing the 10 Commandments posted in public places.
3 You still say "Christmas" instead of "Winter Festival."
4 You bow your head when someone prays.
5 You stand and place your hand over your heart when they play the National Anthem.
6 You treat Viet Nam vets with great respect, and always have.
7 You've never burned an American flag.
8 You know what you believe and you aren't afraid to say so, no matter who is listening.
9 You respect your elders and expect your kids to do the same.
10 You'd give your last dollar to a friend.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Absolutely Sickening...

That Terri's brother and sister were not allowed to be at her bedside when she died.

Of course, Michael Schiavo's lawyers were allowed to stay.

I guess in this country money, pride, and greed are thicker than blood.

From today Miami Herald:

Michael Schiavo's attorney George Felos displaying his usual arrogance:
''She had a right to have her last and final moments here on this Earth be experienced by a spirit of love and not acrimony,''
The administrator also said personnel wanted to perform an ''assessment'' of Schiavo and asked the siblings to leave, according to Felos, but Bobby Schindler refused and had a confrontation with a police officer.
The Schindler family showing the class they have demonstrated throught the ordeal:
''Our family seeks forgiveness for anything that we have done in standing for Terri's life that has not demonstrated the love and compassion required of us by our faith,'' Bobby Schindler said.
Here's the kicker:
In the end, for all the Schindlers' deep mistrust about Michael Schiavo's intentions, he too remains suspicious of them. After his wife's autopsy and cremation, he plans to bury his wife's ashes in an undisclosed Philadelphia-area plot so her family does not turn the site into a media spectacle, according to the Associated Press.
Read the entire article here.