[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: May 2005

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Protest at Santana Concert in Miami

Tomorrow, June 1st, Carlos Santana will play a concert at Miami's American Airlines Arena. At the same time, NetForCuba.org and Paxety Pages report that a group of protesters will stand outside the arena and hold candles and crosses commemorating those who were killed by Che Guevara's firing squads in Cuba shortly after fidel took power.

What do Che and Santana have in common, besides long hair? This and this will explain the connection, courtesy of Babalu Blog.

Of course, many around the country, even here in Miami, will shake their heads and mutter "there they go again" at the news of the protests. Never mind the fact that in all likelihood it will be a peaceful gathering. Never mind the fact that it is well within their rights as American residents and citizens to protest. It doesn't matter...the Miami Mafia is hard at work once again, and the mainstream will be annoyed.

Could you imagine the mainstream's reaction if Santana would have worn a Hitler or Nazi shirt instead? Just ask Prince Harry.

Man vs Nature

Never plant trees next to a pool. Especially flowering or fruit-bearing trees.

I was reminded of this wise statement this morning when I went out to prune branches from the two clusters of Senegal Date palms around my pool. The previous owner had planted them, so I can't blame myself for the less-than-ideal location. They are very attractive trees and they definitely enhance the landscape around the pool, but the biggest problem with the Senegal Dates are the blooms that pop up every May. A couple dozen pods per tree (I have 4 trees) containing sprays of cream colored flowers that will fall right into the pool in the hundreds if you don't cut off the pods in time.

In an attempt to mitigate the damage and work caused by these flowers falling into the pool, I got up on my ladder and started to chop away with my small pruning saw. This may not seem like a hard task except for one thing, the ends of the branches have thorns that are about 3-4" long. They are EXTREMELY sharp. I wear gloves, but sometimes the thorns go right through them. My arms and hands took the brunt of the attack as I managed to chop off most of the flower pods without getting severely impaled. Another threat were the fire ants which inhabit the tree, and I also got a few ant bites as a result.

As if all of this wasn't enough, I also have a mature Queen palm next to the pool, and it also produces similar flowers to the Senegal Date, except in much larger quantities. In addition to flowers, the Queen palm produces numerous small seeds slightly larger than an olive, which of course manage to fall into the pool as well. Another nice landscape specimen, but planted in the wrong location.

If you have a pool and thinking about what to plant around it, remember this post. Trust me, it will save you time, money, and injury.

Did I mention the Coconut palms in the corner about 20 feet from the pool?

Monday, May 30, 2005

Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

For the second part of my Memorial Day tribute, I'd like to mention the soldiers who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetary. If you've never had the chance to visit the Tomb, it is an awesome sight to see the soldiers guard the Tomb night and day. Particularly impressive is the changing of the guard which takes place every 30 minutes.

But the most impressive parts of their duty are the rituals and rules which they must live by. It is an honor that we have men who are not only willing to dedicate a par of their lives to guard the Tomb, but also to commit to a life which honors and dignifies the Tomb. Here are some facts about those admirable men.

1. How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the tomb of the Unknowns and why?
- 21 steps. It alludes to the twenty-one gun salute, which is the highest honor given any military or foreign dignitary.

2. How long does he hesitate after his about face to begin his return walk and why?
- 21 seconds for the same reason as answer number 1.

3. Why are his gloves wet?
- His gloves are moistened to prevent his losing his grip on the rifle.

4. Does he carry his rifle on the same shoulder all the time, and if not, why not?
- He carries the rifle on the shoulder away from the tomb. After his march across the path, he executes an about face, and moves the rifle to the outside shoulder.

5. How often are the guards changed?
- Guards are changed every thirty minutes, twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year.

6. What are the physical traits of the guard limited to?
- For a person to apply for guard duty at the tomb, he must be between 5' 10" and 6' 2" tall and his waist size cannot exceed 30."

Other requirements of the Guard:
They must commit 2 years of life to guard the tomb, live in a barracks under the tomb, and cannot drink any alcohol on or off duty for the rest of their lives.

They cannot swear in public for the rest of their lives and cannot disgrace the uniform {fighting} or the tomb in any way.

After two years, the guard is given a wreath pin that is worn on their lapel signifying they served as guard of the tomb. There are only 400 presently worn. The guard must obey these rules for the rest of their lives or give up the wreath pin.

The shoes are specially made with very thick soles to keep the heat and cold from their feet. There are metal heel plates that extend to the top of the shoe in order to make the loud click as they come to a halt.

There are no wrinkles, folds or lint on the uniform. Guards dress for duty in front of a full-length mirror.

The first six months of duty a guard cannot talk to anyone, nor watch TV All off duty time is spent studying the 175 notable people laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. A guard must memorize who they are and where they are interred. Among the notables are: President Taft, Joe E. Lewis {the boxer} and Medal of Honor winner Audie Murphy, {the most decorated soldier of W.W.II} of Hollywood fame.

Every guard spends five hours a day getting his uniforms ready for guard duty.

When Hurricane Isabel approached Washington D.C. back in 2003, the US Senate/House took 2 days off as they couldn't work because of the expected storm. On the ABC evening news, it was reported that, because of the dangers from the hurricane approaching Washington, the military members assigned the duty of guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier were given permission to suspend the assignment. They respectfully declined the offer, "No way, Sir!" Soaked to the skin, marching in the pelting rain of a tropical storm, they said that guarding the Tomb was not just an assignment, it was the highest honor that can be afforded to a serviceperson. The tomb has been patrolled continuously, 24/7, since 1930.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Freedom Isn't Free

My dad, a Vietnam Veteran, sent this poem to me last year during Memorial Day weekend. It's a simple yet poignant reminder of what Memorial Day is all about.

On this Memorial Day weekend, please remember those who gave their lives for our freedom. Indeed, freedom isn't free.

"I watched the flag pass one day,
it fluttered in the breeze.

A Young Marine saluted it,
and then he stood at ease...

I looked at him in uniform
So young, so tall, so proud,
With hair cut square and eyes alert
He'd stand out in any crowd.

I thought how many men like him
Had fallen through the years.
How many died on foreign soil
How many mothers' tears?

How many pilots' planes shot down?
How many died at sea
How many foxholes were soldiers' graves?
No, freedom isn't free.

I heard the sound of Taps one night,
When everything was still,
I listened to the bugler play
And felt a sudden chill.
I wondered just how many times
That Taps had meant "Amen,"
When a flag had draped a coffin.
Of a brother or a friend.

I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.

I thought about a graveyard
At the bottom of the sea.
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.

No, freedom isn't free."

Useful Idiot Quote of the Day

"If you told me that Fidel loves Art Deco and wants to save it, I'd say, `Welcome, pal,' '' said Mitzi Mogul, president of the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles who said she spoke only for herself. ``I don't have to like you, but when it comes to this organization, if you're saving Art Deco, that's all I need to know.''

The organization Mogul is referring to is the International Coalition of Art Deco Societies, or ICADS, a loose association of groups dedicated to preserving Art Deco throughout the world. Apparently there's a big spat within the organization concerning the possibility of holding the 2007 World Congress on Art Deco in Havana. Anti-Cuba members are accusing pro-Cuba members of accepting handouts from the Cuban government in exchange for the meeting to take place in Havana.

Read the entire article here from the Miami Herald.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Don't Adjust Your Monitors

In case anyone noticed, I tweaked the background color a bit to make it a little lighter and easier on the eyes, while keeping the sky blue/aquamarine-ish color intact.

Now back to our regularly scheduled blogging.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Cuba News Briefs

A summary of several news items relating to Cuba, most with links in Spanish from El Nuevo Herald.

- Spain insists that dialogue must continue with Cuba despite the expulsions of European delegates and journalists from the island last weekend during the Assembly to Promote Civil Society Meeting. Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos maintains that Spain must remain "critical but constructive" in its dialogue with Cuba. Moratinos stated that recent advancements such as the Assembly meeting are proof that the European Union's relaxing of diplomatic sanctions against Cuba are working.

Spain main opposition party, the Popular Party (PP), disagrees. They point to the expulsion of delegates as a clear reason for resuming the diplomatic sanctions which were in place from June 2003 until January 2005.

Further proof that Spain's ruling party is unwilling to admit the truth and continue to dialogue and reason with a regime that believes in neither.

- The Wall Street Journal published an editorial stating that the Organization of American States (OAS) should provide more support to dissidents in Cuba. In an editorial titled "Freedom!", it praised the Assembly meeting as well as a rally supporting the dissidents held in Holguin province of Eastern Cuba.

The editorial has some strong words for U.S. bashers:
"During the last few decades, most of the 34-member countries of the OAS have been more preoccupied with spitting in Uncle Sam's eye rather than find an end to the repression in Cuba.

"Ever since Hugo Chavez started buying OAS votes with Venezuelan oil and threatening member states with supporting subversive elements within those countries, the OAS has rarely raised its voice in issues related to fidel".

Couldn't have said it better myself. Kudos to the Wall Street Journal.

And, finally, from the Miami Herald, a survey indicates that the amount of money sent by exiles to Cuba has not changed a year after new restrictions were implemented.

No surprise there.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Cuban Americans and Media Perception

Babalu and 26th Parallel reader Kathleen, who just returned home from a visit to South Florida which included a stop at Cuba Nostalgia, posted a comment on one of Babalu's posts yesterday. It dealt with the media's perception of Miami Cubans.

Here is what Kathleen wrote:

Since I've returned home from South Florida I've been catching up on the news. I've noticed something, and it makes me sick. We always see the Miami Cubans referred to as the Cuban Mafia, those crazy anti-castro Cubans, etc. I assumed that this came from the liberal politics of the media. I've changed my mind. It comes from hate. The same kind of ignorant, irrational evil hate that drives the kkk, neo-nazis and others of their ilk. I'm hoping someone can convince me I'm wrong about this but I don't think so.

Kathleen, I think you're right. Many, especially other minorities, are jealous of Cuban Americans and their accomplishments. I don't like to brag, but I think we're a great American success story that deserves more credit than we've received.

To all the haters out there...notice I said "American" success story. We are proud Americans, we don't want to secede and become our own nation, as some here in Miami and elsewhere have suggested in the past.

Our politics do diverge from the average minority. So what? Does that make us deserving of the scorn we get from the media? Labels such as Miami Mafia, crazy Cubans, and hard-line fanatics used to hurt me. Now they actually embolden me. Why? Because I know deep inside the truth about Cuban Americans. I know we are fighting the good fight. I know we are average people who have families to take care of.

George Moneo publised another great post on Babalu which includes Kathleen's comments. Please check it out here.

Kathleen, thanks for understanding and supporting us. George, thanks for your wonderful words. And, by the way, let me know if you ever get to print those t-shirts you designed. I'd love to buy one for myself.

Ricky Coming Back to Miami?

Yesterday's Miami Herald ran a story on Ricky Williams' desire to return to the Miami Dolphins.

It will interesting if and when that does happen. Obviously, Ricky pissed off a lot of people by his sudden "retirement" last year. He pissed off his fans, but most importantly he let down his coach and teammates who were counting on him to be a big part of the team. His retirement was an act of pure selfishness and of trying to avoid his other "problem" - suspension for marijuana use.

All that said, I think Coach Saban is making the right decision by leaving the door open for Ricky to return. Ricky needs to apologize and come to terms with his teammates, the organization, and his fans. Once that happens, then Dolphins fans can once again root for him. The team has invested too much on Ricky to not give him another shot. Besides, another 4-12 season would be pretty painful to endure.

Payá and Cuban Consensus (Take 2)

(This is my second try to publish this post. I've been having problems with Blogger).

While this past weekend's Assembly to Promote Civil Society in Cuba can be ruled as a success, it didn't come without some disappointments. I'm not talking about those Cubans who couldn't attend the Assembly because of incarcerations. I'm not talking about the foreign delegates who were detained and sent back home by Cuban authorities.

I'm talking about one person in particular who did not attend: Oswaldo Payá.

Oswaldo Payá, founder of the Varela Project. Cuba's best-known dissident leader. Recipient of the European Parliament's 2002 Sakharov Award for Human Rights. Warmly greeted in Miami during a visit in 2003.

Why wasn't he at the Assembly? He wasn't invited due to his long-standing ideological differences with the Assembly's organizer, Martha Beatriz Roque. Payá denounced the meeting as being funded by right-wing exiles in the U.S., and even insinuated that the castro regime had a hand in the organizing of the Assembly.

It's not wrong or even bad to disagree with someone who seeks the same solution to a problem, but what Payá is doing and saying threatens to undermine the fledgling dissident movement in Cuba. Other dissident leaders in Cuba that weren't invited to the Assembly at least had the presence of mind to compliment its success.

From an AP story published in today's Miami Herald:

"To not impede the celebration of this assembly is a step toward rationality, which should be encouraged among all those committed to Cuba,'' said Manuel Cuesta Morúa, spokesman for the dissident group Arco Progresista."

Cuesta did not attend the meeting due to his ideological differences with organizers.

I ask myself: Why would Payá at least not support a meeting of fellow dissidents? Why does it bother him that the event was partially supported and funded by exiles? And where does he get the connection between organizers and the regime? All good questions, and ones that can be answered in many different ways. Is Payá himself working with the regime? I don't think so. I certainly hope not.

All this came to mind today when I read an article in El Nuevo Herald from Nicolas Perez titled "Cuban Consensus: Agreeing to Disagree". It's fairly long and I don't have the time to translate the entire piece. The main theme is the Cubans' historical inability to come together for a common cause, mainly due to the disagreements which could not be set aside for the common good. Perez goes on to say that when Cubans finally believed in something, they went towards the worst possible solution - fidel castro.

If Payá, and all Cubans in the country and in exile, can take something from all this, it's that it's OK to disagree on details as long as the overall mission serves the common good. It's called democracy.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Cuba Nostalgia a Success

I am still winding down from the Cuba Nostalgia Convention this past weekend. It was an unquestionable success. The new venue, at the Miami-Dade County Fairgrounds, was a vast improvement over the old location. Large crowds got to see plenty of exhibits, listen to great music (and perhaps run into a famous musician or two), dancing, memorabilia, and, of course, the one and only Babalu Blog booth.

My heartfelt thanks and appreciation go out to Val and Maggie Prieto for allowing me to participate and be a part of their Cuba Nostalgia experience. They put a lot of time and effort into the booth, and their hard work and dedication paid off. Gracias Mr. and Mrs. Prieto! You two deserve a long break after this weekend!

It was great to work with the others who helped out including Julio, George, Amanda, and Steve (although his schedule and mine didn't coincide). I felt a wonderful camaraderie with them. I also had the pleasure of meeting long-time Babalu reader Kathleen, who I found out also reads 26th Parallel!

One of the things I'll remember most about this past weekend was the interaction with the people who walked up to the booth. People of all ages, dark-skinned, light-skinned, English-speaking, Spanish-speaking, bilingual. The diversity of the Cuban culture is something that is often overlooked and ignored, but it was in full display at the convention. The conversations I had with several people were enlightening.

The e-mails to fidel were a highlight as well. It was astonishing to see people young and old sit down in front of the computer and type out the e-mails. Hundreds of e-mails, many with profanity, went out to the bearded dictator.

As I scanned the convention floor and watched all the people stream by, I often thought about a saying my mother-in-law likes to use once in a while - "cada persona es un mundo" - Everyone is his/her own world. I thought about all the stories of heartbreak and dreams unfulfilled that each of those people have inside their hearts as they left their homeland in search of freedom.

That is why we were there this weekend, to let people know we are with them in the fight to free Cuba of its long and brutal dictatorship. And after all the events of this past weekend, from the Assembly to the convention to working with all those fine folks, I think we're on the right track.

Venezuela Up to No Good

After reading Juan Paxety's post on Venezuela's interest in acquiring nukes, I found an interesting e-mail in my inbox from NetforCuba.org. It is a story from Douglas MacKinnon, former White House and Pentagon official, published in the Houston Chronicle.

Here are some excerpts:
"To the minute number of people who understand the threat (Hugo) Chavez poses to the United States, his recent hosting in Caracas of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami was disturbing enough. But a high-ranking official for a Latin American government has disclosed to me details about that visit that should send shock waves throughout our government. During a private meeting between Chavez and Khatami, I was told, Chavez made it known to the Iranian leader that he would like to "introduce nuclear elements into Venezuela." My contact said "nuclear elements" meant "nuclear weapons."

MacKinnon goes on to write:
"Standing side by side with Khatami in Caracas, Chavez said, "Iran has every right to develop atomic energy and to continue research in that area. ... Faced with the threat of the U.S. government against our brother people in Iran, count on us for all our support."

You can read the entire article here.

South Florida Media Reaction to Assembly

The Miami Herald's account of the Assembly to Promote Civil Society in Cuba is here, including the entire resolution.

And an older article still worth reading from the Sun-Sentinel.

I will post more reaction to the Assembly in the coming days.

Blogroll Additions

Here are some long overdue additions to my illustrious and ever-growing blogroll.

Please welcome:

- A Cool Change

- Songuacassal (Cuban American Pundit)

- Universal Spectator

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Resolution by Assembly to Promote Civil Society

Yesterday was the last day of the Assembly to Promote Civil Society in Cuba, and after the election to select officials, the elected Executive Committee approved and released a general resolution to detail its purpose and goals.

Following are highlights of the resolution, translated from Spanish:

On Political Prisoners:
"We demand the unconditional release of all political prisoners without delay or exceptions, and without having to leave the country.

The issue of political prisoners should continue to be first on the agenda of any activity of the Assembly, and the monitoring of the prisoners should not cease until the last one is free."

On the Democratization of Cuba:
"We proclaim that the regime which reigns today in Cuba and declares itself Marxist-Leninist, should be categorized under the Stalinistic modalities of that type of system. Recognize that, as such, it is a totalitarian and totally antidemocratic regime.

Demand the immediate return of our country to its democratic traditions: those of multiple political parties, ideologies, and candidates.

Proclaim the total Cuban identity of our exiled compatriots and their inalienable status as members of the Cuban nation, and demand that they have free access to all active and passive suffrages, as well as other citizens' rights in the place of residency in Cuba or other requirements."

On Human Rights:
"We proclaim our total support of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and demand that the Cuban government respect in full the document in its thirty articles.

Support all activities that help to raise awareness to the Cuban people on those rights that they possess.

On Opening the Economy:
"To recognize that the Cuban economy is currently in a situation of frank crisis, a direct consequence of the inoperative economic system implanted and maintained by the present regime, which is irrevocable while the necessary changes are not made, and to state that for the current regime, politics is more important than the economy.

To emphasize that the country needs to foment foreign investment immediately in order to sustain the development of the country, with the purpose of as rapidly as possible increasing its purchasing power, and the power of its exports.

On Current Government Policy:
"To declare that the so-called 'battle of ideas' is no more than an intense propaganda offensive."

On Terrorism:
"To urge the expulsion of members of the Basque organization ETA, as well as other foreign terrorists who have seeked safe harbor in Cuba."

"Take down monuments erected to honor people such as Sergio González “El Curita” and Ofelia Díaz Báez, and others, who among other activites against the Batista regime, have dedicated their time to detonate bombs in hotels, theatres, streets, parks, and other public places."

"To demand a public apology to the families of the victims of the sinking of the tugboat '13 de marzo' (long applause), and to the families of the victims of the planes which were blown up in the Straits of Florida on February 24th, 1996."

"The delegates of the General Meeting of the Assembly To Promote Civil Society, before the patriotic symbols that have presided over this event that our forefathers hoisted in the fight for the independence of our country, which have served as a guide and breath to all the Cuban people, we solemny proclaim our firm disposition to continue without giving up our pacific fight for the democratization of our country, maintaining our indissoluble link of love and brotherhood to that part of the Cuban nation that is in exile. We recall with total validity and relevancy a quote from Jose Martí: 'For Cuba it is now the time.' (Ovación and shouts of "For Cuba it is now the time".)"

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Take THAT, fidel! (Updated with Link)

Martha Beatriz Roque votes in Executive Committee elections during Assembly to Promote Civil Society Meeting Posted by Hello

More MSM reaction to the Assembly meeting, with this story from ABC/Reuters.

Live from Cuba Nostalgia...

Here I am at Cuba Nostalgia blogging from the Babalu Blog booth. It is a great atmosphere here, with music and DVD's playing, people walking up to the booth to e-mail fidel, and others coming up to say that they read Val's blog on a daily basis.

Others here include fellow blogger George of Universal Spectator , Babalu ace reporter Julio Zangroniz, and loyal Babalu (and 26th Parallel) reader Kathleen who's here all the way from California. It's an honor to be here with all these great people who until recently I only knew through words and e-mails.

I must admit being a bit star-struck being here, especially since Val and Babalu Blog have been such a big inspiration and influence in my blogging life. However, Val and his wife Maggie have been great hosts and have made me feel part of the "team" even though they've been running around like crazy.

Look for more updates throughout the weekend.

President Bush's Message to Assembly

Here is the President's message to the Assembly participants in Cuba. It is translated from Spanish, so please excuse any awkward-sounding phrases or words.

"It pleases me to send a greeting to all the Cubans who are celebrating the 103rd anniversary of Cuba's independence. We honor the extensive family bonds, faith, religion and heritage that unites us all."

"Cuba has a proud history of fighting for freedom, and that fight continues. Here in the United States, we are inspired by accounts of Cubans who escaped the tyranny and risked their lives to come to our country. There are more than a million people of Cuban ancestry in the United States who work to make our nation better and stronger. Today we honor all Cubans for their great contributions to our country. They enrich every field; from the sciences, to industry, to the arts. However, today we particularly reflect on the greatness of Cuba's past, and the promise of its future."

"We yearn for the day in which Cubans must no longer endure years of separation from their families in order to enjoy the benefits the freedom. We will not rest. We will continue pressing until the Cuban people enjoy the same freedoms in Havana as they are enjoyed in the United States. Freedom is not a gift from the United States to the world; freedom is a gift from the all-powerful God to each man and woman of the world."

"Cuba's independence which we celebrate today was a product of the great courage of the Cuban people, and the qualities of leaders such as Jose Martí. Today, many future leaders of a free Cuba show that same courage in their fight for freedom. This week, more than 360 groups from the opposition and from all of society plan to meet in the historic Assembly to Promote Civil Society in Cuba. Those that participate in this event, as well as their families, run great risks. I have the following message for those who are gathered today to protest the oppression in Cuba: The people of the United States are on your side as you fight for freedom."

"In Cuba, many of you make the decision to leave the shadows of repression. We congratulate those such as the Ladies in White who work to create a conscience towards their loved ones who have been jailed unjustly. We celebrated Cubans such as Oscar Elías Biscet and Marta Beatriz Roque who seek the freedom of their country."

"We are helping organizations to protect the dissidents and to promote human rights. We are working to guarantee that the people of Cuba hear the clear voice of truth through Radio and TV Martí. And we are working to prevent the repressive regime from unjustly benefiting from money generated from tourism and from shipments to Cubans. We will not merely wait for Cuba's freedom; we will work every day for its

"The wave of freedom extends throughout the world, and someday soon it will reach Cuba's shores. No tyrant can remain strong in the face of the power of freedom, because the hope to be free shines in every heart. Therefore, today we are sure that Cuba will be free soon."

"Thank you and may God bless you."

Pictures from Assembly

People screaming "Freedom" at the entrance to the site of the Assembly to Promote Civil Society in Havana. Posted by Hello

"We will open the door" Posted by Hello

Friday, May 20, 2005

European Reaction to Expulsion of Delegates

Harsh criticism of the castro regime from Germany, Italy, and Poland in the wake of the expulsions of several delegates and journalists from those countries who were planning to attend the Assembly meeting in Cuba.

The latest press release from the Assembly Support Center in Miami highlights reactions from each of those countries. The following is translated from Spanish.

From Germany:
Foreign Affairs Minister Joschka Fischer criticized the expulsions of German deputy Arnold Vaatz and Czech senator Karel Schwarzenberg, referring to it as "unacceptable behavior by Cuban authorities".

Vaatz, who is vice president of the parliament of the opposition party Christiandemocratic Union (CDU), called it a "flagrant violation of international rights". The CDU has called for a change in policy towards Cuba as a result of the recent events, calling on German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to "reimplement sanctions against Cuba". The CDU criticized Schroeder for not paying enough attention to human rights violations in Cuba.

From Italy:
Minister of Foreign Affairs has requested a meeting with the Cuban Ambassador in Rome for an explanation regarding the detaining of Italian journalist Francesco Battistini by Cuban authorities.

From Poland:
Minister of Foreign Affairs called the expulsions "an inadmissable violation of international rights". The minister went on to state that "the Polish government will not tolerate such treatment of its citizens". "We demand that the Polish journalists be given all assurances of safety given by international law so that they can continue their work without obstacles in Cuba".

Assembly Has Begun!

Posted by Hello

Today at 10 AM, the Assembly to Promote Civil Society in Cuba kicked off, with more than 300 Cuban delegates, along with some international delegates, in Havana set to attend. Press releases from the support center in Miami have indicated a noticeable police presence around the site of the Assembly in the outskirts of Havana.

Demonstrations have also taken place in several European capitals, including in Milan and Rome where Cuban exiles demonstrating peacefully in support of the Assembly have been physically confronted by counter-demonstrators.

Also, the BBC has reported the expulsion of two more European participants, Czech senator Karel Schwarzenberg and German MP Arnold Vaatz, by Cuban police yesterday.

What is a Cuban-American?

Today, May 20th, the anniversary of Cuba's true independence, is the first day of the Cuba Nostalgia Convention. To mark the weekend-long event, I will post - or at least attempt to - a few stories relating to the "good ol' days" of Cuba and Cuban culture.

This first post is, admittedly, a bit self-centered. It's about my experiences as a Cuban-American growing up in the United States. Both cultures play a huge role in my life, so much so that I thought of naming this blog something along the lines of "Inside the Hyphen" to reflect the two sides of my culture (there's a book with a similar title, therefore I decided that it would not be an original name for a blog).

In a few sentences I hope to describe what life is like for me as a Cuban-American. I'm sure people of other ethnicities who are children of immigrants can relate to some of what I'm about to write. It will be broken down into two stages: growing up and as an adult.

Growing Up Cuban-American is:
  • Hearing countless stories of Cuba from older relatives, stories which never mentioned anything negative about Cuba.
  • Hearing those same relatives argue endlessly at family gatherings about where Havana streets started and ended.
  • As a kid, playing dominoes with your grandfather and having him chew you out for making a bad move that cost the game.
  • Having that same grandfather beam with pride after his grandson made a good play in his little league baseball game.
  • Spending long weekends at the beach with countless relatives and friends.
  • Having cafe con leche y tostada for breakfast and hamburgers and fries for lunch.
  • Not speaking English until you start kindergarten, and a few years later listen to your older relatives complain that you don't speak Spanish anymore.
  • Watching every episode of "Que Pasa USA" a million times each and being able to recite lines from the episodes.
  • Being able to personally relate to at least one "Que Pasa USA" episode.
  • Listening to Alvarez Guedes records with your parents and occasionally having to ask them to explain one of his jokes.
  • Going to the Three Kings Day parade down Calle Ocho.
  • Being embarrassed by your parents' and grandparents' "Cuban music".
  • Admonishing your parents for saying something negative about Americans, and admonishing your American friends for saying something negative about Cubans.
  • Going through a stage where you become somewhat embarrassed or turn your back on your Cuban heritage.

As an Adult, Being a Cuban-American is:

  • Spending long weekends at the beach with countless relatives and friends.
  • Having hamburgers and fries for lunch and arroz y frijoles negros for dinner.
  • Having your older relatives give you a hard time because your kids don't speak enough Spanish.
  • Laughing out loud at "Que Pasa USA" episodes even though you've seen them a million times.
  • Finally being able to understand Alvarez Guedes' jokes.
  • Playing "Cuban music" at parties.
  • Getting your regularly scheduled guilt trip from your mother because you don't visit or call as often as she'd like you to.
  • Feeling comfortable mingling in two cultures but sometimes not feeling like you're a part of either.
  • Coming to terms and embracing your Cuban heritage, and denouncing those that are still embarrassed or ashamed of theirs as "cubanos arrepentidos".
  • Asking your parents to recite those countless old stories from Cuba that you dreaded to hear as a kid.

And, in closing, being a Cuban-American is being proud of the fact that you are a citizen of the greatest country on earth, and being equally as proud of being a part of a rich and wonderful Cuban culture and heritage.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Big Weekend Coming Up

With the Cuba Nostalgia Convention rapidly approaching, I've wanted to post a bit more this week. However, life usually takes over and little time has been available for me to post.

Part of the reason for my busy schedule is getting things done around the house so I can help out Val at the Babalu Blog booth at the convention. Val is starting to get things set up at the site and it promises to be a big success. I am looking forward to being there Saturday and Sunday.

Another big event this weekend is the Assembly to Promote Civil Society in Havana, Cuba. I've been receiving several e-mails daily with updates and press releases concerning the event. This has the potential to be a turning point in the fight to eradicate Cuba of its brutal regime. Already there have been participants in Cuba who have been detained and have disappeared because of their involvement. Here's the official press release:

Through a telephone call at 6 PM today, we were informed by Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, that member of the opposition movement and activist of the Assembly, Antuan Clemente Hernández, has disappeared, after receiving a citation from the political police (state security) on May 12th. The Center’s representative also spoke with Emilio Leyva, President of “Frente Línea Dura” and member of the Assembly, who was released by the political police today at 2:18 PM, after having been instructed that he would have to appear in the police station as soon as he was summoned. Emilio Leyva added that state security forces are intent on harassing his wife and six-year old son, who they visited today at 6 AM. When Martha Beatriz proceeded to complete her report on repression, the telephone line was abruptly disconnected.

There have also been reports of children of the participants being held for questioning, as well as the expulsion of two Polish participants.

It's obvious that fidel and his cronies want nothing more than for the meeting to be disrupted or cancelled. Despite these threats, arrests, and acts of aggression....at least 55 delegates from all over Cuba have arrived in Havana for the meeting. In addition, delegates from Europe have arrived in Cuba.

Gatherings are also scheduled in several European capitals to coincide with the Assembly's meeting.

For more information on this...please stop by Babalu Blog and Paxety Pages for excellent posts.

Let's hope this is the beginning of the long-awaited change in Cuba.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Posada Interview and Cuban Protest

Two stories from the Miami Herald today pertaining to Luis Posada Carriles' request for asylum, including an exclusive interview of Posada by Oscar Corral and Alfonso Chardy.

In a previous post, I wrote about Posada and how the U.S. should do everything within its power to detain him and pursue a trial. I still feel that way, much to the chagrin of some of the so-called "hard-line" exiles. However, extraditing him to Cuba or Venezuela bothers me too. Here are two countries that have supported terrorism of their own, anxiously awaiting the possible arrival of Posada. Two countries that do not support democracy and justice in any form, asking the U.S. to hand-deliver Posada to them.

The best solution would be for the U.S. to deal with Posada without having to send him anywhere. It would be better than doing nothing, and definitely better than sending him to either of the two authoritarian thugs known as castro and chavez.

Speaking of castro, he rounded up the troops again today and marched in front of the Malecon to demand the "arrest of Posada". What he really wants is for Posada to end up in his lap.

Here's a quote from castro during the march:

"Down with terrorism!" the 78-year-old (c)astro shouted in brief comments before leading the march outside the U.S. Interests Section. "Down with Nazi doctrines and methods! Down with the lies!"

No need to mention how hypocritical that is coming from el coma andante.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

No Title Needed (Part 2)

1 Posted by Hello

No Title Needed

2 Posted by Hello

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Home Sweet Home and Cuba Nostalgia

Finally back home and blogging after a week in the nation's capital. It was purely a business trip, despite rumors that I was there to massage Shaquille O'Neal's bruised thigh. I successfully brought some South Florida weather up north, as high temperatures hit the 80's a couple of days.

Driving around the Capital Beltway on the way to Dulles Airport yesterday afternoon, I got a chance to talk to Val Prieto to find out the latest on the booth at the Cuba Nostalgia convention next weekend. He's pretty swamped with last-minute preparations, as can be expected for a project as ambitious as the one he's undertaking. I'll be there next weekend to help out at the booth, and fortunately Val has assembled a small army of people to assist in the great cause which is spreading the truth about Cuba today, as well as looking back at the good old days before fidel. I'm confident everything will go smoothly next weekend.

As I posted here last month, the Assembly to Promote Civil Society in Cuba is planning to meet next weekend in Havana on the anniversary of Cuba's independence for the purpose of promoting democratic change in Cuba. This of course despite threats by the Cuban government to disallow visas and other guests from attending. We all know who has the most to lose from this meeting.

Val has asked for everyone to spread the word about the Assembly's meeting next week, and I have dutifully answered his call. If you haven't done so already, please follow the links above to the Assembly's web site and support their cause. Also, if you're in town next weekend, make sure to stop by the Cuba Nostalgia convention and, in particular, the Babalu booth where Val and others including myself will be there blogging like mad to spread the word. I'll also be blogging quite a bit about Cuba in the days leading up to the convention.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Heading North

26th Parallel will be heading to more northern latitudes this week (Washington D.C. to be exact). I'll have virtually no computer access on my free time - I'm not going to blog at work outside my office, of course I probably shouldn't be blogging at work regardless of the location!

As a result, there will be no new posts until late Friday or Saturday at the earliest. I will have access to my e-mail when I can get away from work for a few minutes, so feel free to e-mail me by clicking on my personal profile at the top right of the page.

Until then, you can enjoy this account of the Miami Heat's Game 1 win today over the Washington Wizards. I'm taking my Heat t-shirt along, so I'll make sure to rub it in to all the Wizards fans up there!

Have a great week!

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Audioslave Plays in Cuba

Recent blog entries on Babalu and Paxety Pages touched on the news of American rock band Audioslave's outdoor concert in Cuba which was held yesterday.

Audioslave's decision to play in Cuba shouldn't come as a huge shock to grunge and hard rock fans, since the band is partially made up of ex-members of Rage Against the Machine, a band who did not hide it's strong leftist leanings.

One quote from the Sun-Sentinel article which I found interesting:
"Even before the concert, hundreds of fans were so eager that they sent metal security barricades clanging to the pavement and rushed forward to fill a 50-yard long area that had been reserved for special guests -- mostly workers and teachers with exemplary official records."

Wonder if the boys from Audioslave were aware of the original plans?

Another quote:
"We would like to have stronger music -- bands like Metallica," said a gaunt man sitting alongside friends on the Malecon seawall who gave his name as Walter Delgado, 32. Even so, he said, "We are happy for the first time in our rock and roll history."

Sorry, Walter, I don't think you'll be seeing Metallica anytime soon. They're too busy fighting Napster and making lots of American dolares to play for peanuts in Cuba.

Besides, they haven't put out a decent album in 15 years.

Wilbanks, Your Fifteen Minutes Are Up

The Miami Herald's Ana Veciana-Suarez, as usual, keeps it real with her comments on the now infamous "Runaway Bride".

This is the first, and last time, this story will appear in this blog. I promise.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Next Time Open the Window First

An odd story from the Miami Herald:

Showering Lauderdale Lakes man tries to punch a ''peeping tom'' through glass window By Dalia Naamani-Goldman

A Lauderdale Lakes man was injured early Wednesday when he punched through a glass window after seeing someone peer through it. The incident happened at about 3:40 a.m. at an apartment at 3940 NW 30th Terrace. The victim injured his right arm. He told police he was taking a shower when he noticed a man in the window. The victim tried to hit the man, according to police. The victim was taken to Broward General Medical Center, where he was treated for minor injuries.

Detectives still are looking for the suspect. They are trying to determine why the incident occurred, said Broward Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright.

Car Chases

On another rainy evening I sit down to watch the local news and they are covering the big story of the day. The war in Iraq? Elections in Britain? The Florida Marlins' last-ditch efforts to get tax subsidy for a new stadium? The bad weather? No, no, no, and no. This was the big story.

What is it about car chases that make TV stations have to break into scheduled programming to broadcast? OK, I know there's a public safety factor involved, but aside from that I can't think of any compelling reason why we should sit through who knows how many minutes of police cars chasing after some idiot who decides to put the life of innocent drivers at risk.

The only car chase I remember finding interesting enough to watch was the infamous O.J. Simpson "White Ford Bronco Chase" back in 1994. Ironically enough, that was probably the slowest car chase on record.

Thankfully we don't have as many car chases here as in Southern California, but one a year is more than enough.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Nasty Weather

Thunderstorms and heavy rain hit South Florida this afternoon, a sign of the approaching wet summer season. I didn't mind too much since the rain gave my lawn sprinklers a well-deserved break, even though I had to go out to the street corner down from my house and unclog the storm drain which had been filled with leaves and preventing the rain water from draning.

Here's another potentially good thing about today's rain.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Fair and Just

Here's an example of the difference between good and bad, between fairness and corruption.

Any U.S. haters out there listening? fidel? hugo? Bueller?

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Sunday Fun: Part 2

Here's some interesting stories I pulled off the wires:

For those of you who like your frogs shaken, not stirred.

And...if you're sensitive to men, especially out of shape ones, wearing skimpy swimsuits, stay away from this beach.