[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Some Perspective on the Cuba Book Controversy

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Some Perspective on the Cuba Book Controversy

In the couple of posts I have published on the Vamos a Cuba book controversy in the Miami-Dade Public Schools, I have attempted to present the side of those who have been victims of castro's regime and feel strongly against the book. By bringing their perspective out in the open, my hope is that those who cannot understand why some Cuban-Americans so vehemently want the book to be eliminated will comprehend and perhaps even relate a little to the feelings that many reasonable people are experiencing.

Via an e-mail from Net For Cuba, I read an impressive write-up by producer/director Agustin Blasquez on the matter. It perfectly expresses the side of those who have been victims of the Cuban regime, and exposes some blatant double standards by the Miami-Dade School Board. This is not an attack only at our local public school district, but unfortunately also a reflection of the indifference Cuban-Americans often encounter when trying to advocating their cause.

It's a long read, but well worth it if you want to understand why many Cubans are up in arms over the book. Click on the title of the piece to link to the article on Net For Cuba.
© ABIP 2006
by Agustin Blazquez with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton

In 1997, Maria Tuma, an art teacher at the Miami-Dade County Public Schools who was nominated as the teacher of the year in 1994, was fired after 22 years of service. Her mortal sin was giving Bibles to six children.

She sighted her “freedom of expression” given by the 1st Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. The County School Board alleged “insubordination.”

She says, “the 1st Amendment supposedly allows freedom of expression, but they cancelled my freedom.”

In 1997 she suffered hearings resembling those in Communist Russia and Nazi Germany in which her sentence like in a totalitarian country “was already predetermined and didn’t even allow my lawyer to defend me,” she says.

The Miami-Dade County Public School Board banned the Bible because someone found it offensive. And nothing offensive to blacks, Jews, and they are very sensitive not to offend other minorities – even illegal immigrants - but when something offensive to Cuban Americans is involved, they stubbornly refuse to bulge.

Meanwhile, this year, a parent found two books in the Miami-Dade School Libraries that have caused uproar in the Cuban American community in Miami. They are A Visit to Cuba and Cuban Kids.

Both books portray Castro’s Cuba as if it is a free country in which everything is fine and dandy, food, clothing, education and health care is no problem, and everybody is very happy. This is of course inaccurate; therefore these books are giving the children misinformation and propaganda.

These books are not contributing to education but to “dis-education,” contrary to the goals of a normal school system. Notice that I say “normal.”

Americans, sadly misinformed by the liberal U.S. media and the Marxist professors very much in control of our learning centers, may swallow these books. But Cuban Americans - with firsthand experience of 47 years living under Castro’s boots - cannot sit idly by while these patently erroneous books are presented as valid by a U.S. school system.

It is not an issue of Cuban American imposing censorship; it is a matter of facts vs. lies and deceptions with the purpose to misinform.

And, by the way, these books are extremely offensive for Castro’s victims – which Dr. Armando Lago has been painstakingly documenting for ten years and which totals over 100,000 deaths including about 32 U.S. citizens whose bodies are exhibited in Castro’s museums in Cuba.

Not yet documented are the deaths that Castro caused all over Central and South America, and all the deaths of blacks his army caused in Angola – Castro used bacteriological arms to exterminate them – as well as in Ethiopia, other places in Africa and the Middle East. Also not yet documented are the deaths he caused in the U.S. due to the drug trafficking which Castro fostered and aided since the early 1960s.

How ironic that in an area heavy with Cuban Americans, the School Board insists on maintaining books that are so utterly known by a major component of the community to be inaccurate, not to mention offensive.

After living in the U.S. for 39 years, I am painfully aware that the liberal Media, the academic professors, elitist intellectuals and Hollywood circles have created a double standard in relation to Cuba and Cuban Americans. It is all right to refer to us with derogatory terms and to malign us in public forums.

It is all right to laugh at us and to censor the tragedy Cuba has been experiencing since Castro hijacked the democratic political change that all Cubans wanted in order to get rid of Batista’s six-year dictatorship.

So with all these powerful enemies around have been very difficult and will continue being difficult to get our message across to the American people. But we will continue and will not rest until democracy, freedom and justice return to Cuba.

On June 14, 2006, at 1 p.m. the final appeal of a Miami-Dade father to the School Board to remove these offensive books from his child school library will take place. So we have to wait and see what will be the response of the School Board this time.

Meanwhile, on June 9 at 2:30 p.m., a Cuban American pro-democracy group, Vigilia Mambisa, held a press conference and introduced Manny Añon, a new candidate to run for the Miami-Dade School Board, for District 6. So that officially is the beginning of the campaign against Agustin J. Barrera, the incumbent president of the Miami-Dade School Board who has been opposed to the removal of these two books. That’s the way Cuban Americans work in a democratic system.

David Rosenthal of Vigilia Mambisa says that Barrera “has not understood how to represent those who elected him.”

Although I have never lived in Miami, I join my fellow Cuban Americans in Miami in their objective for a satisfactory resolution of the issue of these two inaccurate books at the Miami-Dade School Libraries.

2006 ABIP


Anonymous Rick said...

This is not an attack only at our local public school district, but unfortunately also a reflection of the indifference Cuban-Americans often encounter when trying to advocating their cause.

You have got to be kidding me, right, Robert? You have a whole political party pandering to Cuban-Americans and their cause. You have gringo politicians who can't even pronounce the word "guayabera" wearing them as they dine at the Versailles. You have national foreign policy in South America and the Caribbean being formulated by the White House while considering "the cause." And you have Cubans receiving special immigration treatment because of it.

So excuse me if I can't agree that Cuban-Americans are getting a raw deal or are suffering "indifference" because a book showing smiling and well-fed Cuban children is remaining on the shelves of Miami-Dade schools.

Wow. Talk about a persecution complex.


8:04 AM, June 12, 2006  
Blogger Robert said...


No, I'm not kidding.

Could you please point out exactly where in this post I bring up US foreign policy, "pandering" by politicians and immigration? Perhaps my sight is failing me a little. I thought I was talking about public, not political, opinion.

We disagree on many things, and that's fine. But Rick, I think you not only missed the boat, but got totally lost on the way to the port on this one. I am referring to how general public perception often seems to misunderstand or just plain ignore Cuban-American sensibilities when it comes to issues such as the book banning. I am NOT, repeat, NOT talking about national politics or foreign policy. The quoted article from Blasquez mentions "liberal U.S. media and the Marxist professors". Those are the sources of many of Americans' misperceptions concerning Cuba. If you don't see that at least as a possibility, then - my friend - you're living in a dream world.

You don't have to agree one bit with the people who want the book banned. I'm not sure I agree 100% with them either. But neither should we dismiss the arguments of those who feel strongly against the book as typical Cuban-American knee-jerking. Those people have perfectly good reasons for feeling the way they do. Unfortunately, many Americans choose not to know the reasons why some of us feel the way we do.

10:46 AM, June 12, 2006  
Anonymous Rick said...

Robert: You brought up the "indifference Cuban-Americans often encounter when trying to advocating their cause." My examples were put forth to illustrate that there is far from indifference shown to Cuban-Americans. As you know, the politicians that we elect make public policy. To say that the public, as a whole, is indifferent to the Cuban cause is inaccurate, I believe.

We may not hate Fidel the way Cuban-Americans do. We may not loathe the air he breathes but I think most of us are sensitive to how Cuban-Americans feel.

It goes without saying that Cuban-Americans are entitled to their feelings and reasons for their beliefs. This is America, remember?

But because we're Americans, we're also entitled to certain freedoms. And those freedoms will always override whatever emotional ties any one segment of the population attaches to an issue.

1:27 PM, June 12, 2006  
Blogger Robert said...

Good response Rick, although I would replace public policy with public opinion. I also wished you had responded this way in your initial comment, as your first one I found to be rather condescending.

Let's face it, emotions drive many of the decisions we make. It's a perfectly normal human trait, and I don't think Cuban-Americans are unique in that sense.

Whatever the outcome, I'll live with it. That's part of the democratic process.

5:04 PM, June 12, 2006  

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