[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: August 2007

Friday, August 31, 2007

Exiles and Immigrants

(Cross-posted from Babalu)

I was listening to the podcast of yesterday's Babalu Radio Hour show last night and today, and a part of the conversation between Val, George and Professor Carlos Eire really caught my attention (by the way, don't be like me and wait until just a few weeks ago to discover how easy it is to subscribe to the podcasts of the show if you can't catch it live. Go download it now!).

The topic was exiles instead of immigrants. Prof. Eire mentioned that Cubans who have left Cuba are a community of "desterrados" (literally meaning to remove the earth from). Basically, it means to be exiled. George later added that for some Cubans to consider themselves immigrants instead of exiles is a "slap to the face" to those who went through the pain of losing and leaving everything behind, and (to paraphrase), that those who consider themselves immigrants instead of exiles are resentful of their heritage. In other words, the arrepentidos that we all know and love (to argue with).

At first, I didn't agree with George's comment. However the more I thought about it, and after listening to that portion of the podcast a couple more times, I understand what George and the professor meant. Exile, using a basic definition, is to be forced out of your land. Immigration, by definition, is to willingly leave one's country to settle permanently in another. Therefore, to be an immigrant is to renounce your native land in favor of a new and better place. Some associate renouncing your native land to renouncing everything associated with it, including past experiences of yourself and others. In that context, George made sense.

However, for Cuban-Americans, it's a bit more complicated than the definitions above. Several polls, including recent ones, indicate that the vast majority of Cuban-Americans would not return to live in a free Cuba of the future. To me, that represents an evolution of the Cuban-American community from an exile state to one of acceptance and assimilation more commonly associated with the immigrant experience. After all, it's been almost 50 years. This is not to say that Cuban-Americans who don't want to go back to live in Cuba resent their heritage. Of course as anyone familiar with Babalu Blog knows, this can't be farther from the truth. This is where I diverge slightly from George and what caused me to pause while hearing the podcast. Yes, there are many self-described Cuban-American "immigrants" who disdain the hard-line and much of their Cuban heritage, as George correctly noted. But there are many more who want to keep their newer roots in the United States and wouldn't even dream of returning to live in a country that is vastly different than it was 50 years ago, whom nevertheless feel very strongly about a free Cuba, are vehemently anti-castro and are proud of their heritage.

In short and in summary, it's OK and perfectly normal to be a Cuban immigrant, still be proud of your Cuban heritage and identify with the values of your parents and grandparents. One does not have to consider him/herself an exile in order to feel this way.

See George's response here.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Flush It

A quick thought to ponder:

In the midst of the Larry Craig gay sex at the Minneapolis airport scandal, do you think Ft. Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle had anything to do with the sting operation at said airport which snagged the Idaho senator? I'm pretty sure that's not the case, but the Craig case did make me reconsider the controversial mayor's idea of installing public restrooms with automatic doors.

Come to think of it, those robotic restrooms are looking better by the second. Naugle certainly has a knack for being utterly tactless, but is he really that far off base in suggesting that maybe, just maybe, sex at public restrooms, gay or otherwise, is more of a problem than we want to admit?

Labels: ,

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Miami, Post-fidel

Interesting days we've been living recently, with all the rumors flying around about fidel's health (or lack thereof). It seems like each rumor is stronger than the last, until one of these days we'll get it right.

One thing has struck me as rather odd these past few days: the theory that the rumors are being spread by the Cuban government in order to "test the waters" on how we'll react here in Miami once the big day finally arrives and the old bastard kicks the bucket.

I'm no mind reader, but I can say with plenty of certainty that the honchos in Havana know EXACTLY what's going to happen. So then, why bother with the dry runs? Perhaps they just like to bother the crap out of us, which I think is as valid of a reason for them as any.

Anyway. Just in case some in Havana really don't know what type of reaction to expect, I, being the nice guy that I am, have decided to fill them in on some details of likely events that will transpire the day fidel dies.

First, there won't be any rumors this time. Just an official announcement from the State Department and another one from Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez and City of Miami Mayor Manuel (Manny) Diaz.

The Cuban-American community in Miami and the rest of South Florida pause for a split second, then erupts in joy. Drivers will be honking their horns all over streets and highways. People will stick their heads out of car windows shouting "Libertad Coño!". The masses will congregate in three locations: Calle Ocho in front of Versailles Restaurant, Bird Road in front of La Carreta Restaurant in Westchester and West 49th Street in Hialeah in front of whatever Cuban restaurant they have there. Other potential but unconfirmed sites include Kendall Drive and SW 127th Avenue across from Flanigan's (OK that's an Irish joint but it's close enough) and some brave ex-pats from Hialeah and Miami Lakes may even camp out at the corner of Pines and Flamingo north of the border in Pembroke Pines (not sure what restaurant is in that intersection, but there's a Latin American Restaurant nearby).

A celebration is attempted in Coral Gables along Miracle Mile, but city leaders quickly shoo away people, citing city ordinances against using pick-up trucks in impromptu civic celebrations.

A side note: you're probably wondering why most of these meeting places are conveniently located near Cuban restaurants. Simple...easy access to the ever-important cafecito.

At these key locations thousands of happy Cuban-Americans, young, old and everything in between, will be standing on the sidewalk and pouring into the streets screaming "libertad para Cuba", "el barbudo se murió", and other pleasantries related to fidel's afterlife address. Many will be carrying American and Cuban flags, some will have signs. Drivers passing by will have similar flags draped from the backs of trucks along with 10-15 people per vehicle coming out of windows and truck beds banging pots and screaming wildly. The honking of car horns will be audible for miles, perhaps heard even as far as Havana if the wind's blowing the right way. In a rare sign of teamwork and camaraderie, Mayor Alvarez and the County Commissioners will join in a group hug at the County Emergency Operations Center in Doral.

Don't be surprised if you see lots of older people crying. This will be an emotional day for all of us, especially the older folks who had their lives turned upside down by the deceased.

There will be a run on makeshift coffins that people will use to mock the late comandante en jefe, as well as fidel punching bags that are currently being made in some bleak factory in Allapattah.

A central location will be chosen for a big celebration, complete with huge vats of lechón and arroz y frijoles negros: The soon-to-be defunct Orange Bowl. The City of Miami will give key exile figures the keys to the old stadium but deny any involvement in the process.

Basically, Miami will be turned upside down for about 48 hours, unless it's announced on a Friday in which case it will be closer to 96 hours.

Police will be everywhere. Coast Guard personnel will be situated just off our coasts, but few will know what to expect.

Not everything will be party city, however. There will be those outside the Cuban community who will condemn the celebrations as insensitive, obnoxious and uncivilized. Letters to the editor will pour into local newspapers and TV stations from self-righteous individuals clamoring for perspective and decency. Editorial cartoons will once again lampoon Cuban-Americans. A few jerks will likely take advantage of the celebrations to commit crimes and act like typical hoodlums.

I hope this description of likely events helps our friends in Havana. At the very least, they'll stop bugging us with rumors now that they know what will transpire in Miami.


Friday, August 24, 2007

Update on fidel Death Rumors

(Cross-posted from Babalu)

Just finished watching Polos Opuestos on Channel 22 here in Miami, and the word is that the rumors of fidel's death are just that. Host Maria Elvira Salazar interviewed Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, and the mayor emphasized that there have been no movement of law enforcement to handle the rumored situation. Most importantly, Diaz said that the city is maintaining contact with the federal government and that the feds would notify the city once they receive the official word. There have been no unusual movement of Coast Guard personnel or vessels either, according to Diaz.

Jesus Marzo Fernandez, ex-high ranking Cuban official, was on the set of the show and stated that he has been in contact with several Cuban officials and they confirmed that there is no unusual movement of Cuban military forces. They showed a clip from tonight's Mesa Redonda program which was showing regular programming (with none other than Miami resident and castro agent Max Lesnik in the audience!).

Marzo did say something interesting, that today's rumors did not come from Havana, but from someone much closer to the exile community, likely in Miami, and that Havana is just fine with the rumors since they make the exile community look foolish. Another very interesting tidbit he mentioned was his firm belief that heads of state - including the President of the United States, would be among the first to know of fidel's death, and that the Cuban people would be among the last to know. This supports what Mayor Diaz said about their contacts with the federal government, since Miami would obviously be a flash point in the event of the big news.

Take this for what it's worth, and I guess it's still possible that the guy is indeed dead, but it's looking more and more like today's news was yet another false rumor.

As I mentioned in a comment earlier today, wake me up when fifo is officially dead.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Andrew - 15 Years Ago

Those of us who were in South Florida on August 24, 1992 will remember that day for the rest of our lives. That's the day Hurricane Andrew - a Category 5 monster - struck the Homestead/Cutler Ridge area.

Everyone has their "Andrew story". Mine is similar to many others: running around from house to house of co-workers who lost everything, trying to help out in any way I could. Seeing homes once inhabited by families with sofas lying upside down on the front lawn while blue sky was clearly seen from master bedroom.

Hank Tester of NBC6 wrote a particularly touching recollection of Andrew here. It sure brought back some memories.


The Veil Has Been Lifted

Looks like we finally have some names of people involved in the custody case involving the 4-year-old Cuban girl.

Birth father: Rafael Izquierdo.

This next one caught my attention:

Foster father: Joe Cubas.

Yes, THAT Joe Cubas. The sports agent who represented Livan and "El Duque" Hernandez the moment they arrived in the U.S.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Bye-Bye OB

AP photo

The sad but not surprising news just arrived a little while ago - the University of Miami football team will play its last season in the Orange Bowl in 2007 before moving to Dolphins Stadium in 2008.

As I mentioned in a post back in July, this is not good news for me. Not to belabor the point any further than I did back in July, the City of Miami screwed up big time. This is mostly on their hands, no doubt about it.

Orlando at El Machete shares his thoughts pre-decision, which pretty much echo mine.

So what's next? Ironically, this may very well end up being the break the Florida Marlins and the aforementioned City of Miami need to build that baseball stadium. City Manager Pete Hernandez has all but said that. Perhaps that's the best outcome that can come out of this, at least for me and for baseball fans in South Florida. We'll see.


Obama on U.S./Cuba Policy

Plenty of chatter in the blogosphere today regarding Barack Obama's comments on U.S./Cuba policy and his upcoming speech in Little Havana. This includes an editorial column printed in today's Herald describing his views in not-so-gory details.

At home after getting off the graveyard shift this morning (man do I hate those), I got a chance to read Obama's op-ed piece, and it basically offered nothing much more than the "current approach hasn't worked, it's time to try something new" philosophy.

Marc wrote a very good analysis of the op-ed at Uncommon Sense and I don't really have much more to add to it. I picked up a couple of things that Marc mentions:


2.) Obama's linkage of better Cuban behavior, i.e. "If a post-Fidel government begins opening Cuba to democratic change ...," to a softening of what's left of the so-called embargo, is substantively not that different from current American policy, as outlined in the Helms-Burton law, the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba report and elsewhere. He is not calling for a unilateral, unconditional lifting of the embargo. (Obama does not say whether he would lift the embargo if a democratic Cuba elected, say Raul Castro, as president.)

3) There was nothing in the op-ed about the biggest disaster of current U.S. policy on Cuba: Wet-foot, dry-foot. Would he scrap it or keep it in place?

#2 is a point that many people fail to mention or forget about our current policy: all it takes for the restrictions to be lifted is for the regime in Cuba to take positive and definite steps towards democracy. Helms/Burton is pretty clear on that. Therefore, Obama is pretty much in lock step with the current policy in this regard.

As far as the lifting of travel restrictions, I mostly agree with Marc. I don't think I would go as far as opening up all travel to Cuban-Americans, but the current "once visit every three
years" restriction don't make any sense to me whatsoever. Still, as Marc astutely indicates, lifting restrictions is not the panacea or magic bullet that anti-embargo and anti-restrictions people argue it is.

I've followed Obama closer than the other Democratic candidates not because I would vote for him, but because I believe he's truly sincere and well-intentioned. This doesn't mean he's right, of course, but at least his words on this issue offer an opportunity for sincere debate of the issues, not some incoherent back-and-forth with a pro-castro loon such as what is occasionally presented on shows such as Polos Opuestos.

Labels: ,

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Losing Act?

My coverage of the child custody case involving the 4-year-old Cuban girl and her Cuban dad has been minimal at best. This is partially intentional - I don't think this has much in common with Elian except for some superficial circumstances, therefore I refuse to stand up and scream every time a new twist in the story unfolds.

Basically, let the courts handle this, the way Elian should have been handled.

I couldn't resist, though, commenting on the latest developments reported by the Herald that the lawyer for the Cuban dad is urging the removal of Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jeri Cohen:

During a brief court hearing Wednesday, attorney Ira Kurzban told Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jeri B. Cohen he will argue that she does not have authority to hear the case because it involves parents and a sibling who are foreign nationals. As foreign citizens, he said, they should be allowed to resolve the dispute in Cuban courts.

''We believe this court no longer has jurisdiction,'' Kurzban said. ``The child is a foreign national. Both parents are foreign nationals, and the parents wish to dispense of this matter in foreign courts.''

I'm not a lawyer and I won't even begin to start questioning the legality of Kurzban's recommendation. However as a layman, I can make the following observations:

- Kurzban is strggling to make a strong case, and realizes that the best way to get his client reunited with his daughter is to move the case to a more favorable venue.

- If the above is even partially true (it might be total BS for all I know), why not just admit that you're on the wrong side, allow the case to proceed, and wait for Cohen's ruling. If the girl stays, then good for her. End of story.

Why would Kurzban make an apparently last ditch effort to move the case to a place like Cuba, where jurisprudence isn't exactly a hallmark of society?

That's the $64,000 question I'd like to know the answer to.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Cuban In My Book

(Sorry for the lack of posts recently. My training here in KC is extensive but rewarding).

Nothing warms my heart more on a 102-degree day here in the Great Plains of the United States than reading the thoughts of someone who is not a member of the Cuban-American community, yet knows us and appreciates us for what we are - nothing more and nothing less - no BS.

Claudia is one such person.

Read her excellent post here. I am proud to have her in our ranks as an "honorary Cuban. Goodness knows she 1,00o times more "Cuban" than many blood Cubans I know.

Labels: ,

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Some Going, Some Coming

The Miami Herald published the results of a Census report which shows that, among other things, that lots of young minorities are leaving Miami-Dade County. Cost of living, traffic, crime, heat, and other factors were cited as the main reasons.

Crime is high in Miami-Dade, but it's actually higher in other big cities, even Orlando. And yes, it's hot in Miami 5 months out of the year. But it's been hotter here in Kansas City every single day this week (don't believe me? Look it up). The cost of living is valid and enough of a reason for most to leave, and the Herald doesn't have to overstate the other reasons. Also, many of them are moving all the way across the county line to Broward County, a place that is becoming more and more demographically and economically indistiguishable from Miami-Dade County. A move to Broward County is hardly considered as leaving the Miami area since many Broward residents work in Miami-Dade, just as many Washington D.C. workers live in the surrounding suburbs of Maryland and Virginia. In other words, many of them ain't goin' nowhere.

But that's really not the point of this post. The point here is that if you look at the Census numbers BEFORE reading the article, you would have noticed a bigger change: the number of 40-59 year old Hispanics moving TO Miami-Dade.

33, 27 and 29 percent increase in those between 40-44 years, 45-49 and 50 to 54 years of age, respectively. That a big jump folks. I'm surprised (well, OK, I'm not) that the Herald barely mentioned those numbers next to the 17 percent of 20-24 and 25-29 year olds that moved out. A brief sentence suggesting that "Hispanics and blacks who bought homes long ago or are nearing retirement age may be choosing to stay put for financial reasons" lacks depth. It's lame.

I want to know why so many early middle-aged Hispanics are moving IN. People still very much in the productive stage of their lives. Is it because more established professionals desire the cultural and entertainment options that Miami has to offer? Is it a shorter commute to their downtown Miami offices? Is it a mass influx of wealthy professionals from Latin America? Probably...but for the most part and with few exceptions, the Herald is not interested in that bit of potentially good news.

Let's face it, the Herald has been trying to promote the so-called Miami exodus-in-the-making since last year when they started writing stories about people getting the heck outta Miami. That's fine, they should. But they should also talk to the 40 and 50 year olds who are moving IN to provide the rest of the story. Isn't that what journalists should do?


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

This Could Be It

Anyone who has followed this blog for any length of time will recognize that I am not one to fall into the "fidel is Dead" trap that has gotten us so many times in the past. You know...those rumors that surface about every 9-12 months? I also firmly believe that he is still alive. Does anyone out there think that a Cuban - even a communist Cuban - can hold a secret such as "fidel is dead" for this long?

However, recent stories (not published in any of our local newspapers) being mentioned on South Florida TV and web sites indicate that fidel may very well be on his death bed. I first heard this last week via a quote from fidel's daughter niece Mariela (thanks for catching that Lori...it was a typo on my part) who suggested in a roundabout manner that the end was near for her father.

This could very well be yet another false rumor. Nevertheless, one of these days, it will come true.

As luck would have it...if these are indeed fidel's last days on this earth, I'll be watching the reaction and festivities from over 1,000 miles away in our nation's heartland where I'm currently typing this while away on business. All the years of anticipation, and I have to be by myself in Missouri when IT happens?


Monday, August 06, 2007

Romney and Our Friends in Latin America

I never really followed Herald Latin America columnist Andres Oppenhemier all that much, aside from a few articles here and there. Lately, however, I've taken an interest to his columns, particularly those dealing with immigration and 2008 Presidential candidates' take on US/Latin America affairs.

I disagreed sharply with Oppenhemier on his immigration views a couple of weeks ago. I again find myself disagreeing with him on his latest column: an assessment of Mitt Romney's views on Latin America.

Here's what I thought after an interview on immigration and hemispheric affairs with Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney: He knows Latin America better than most of his rivals, yet at the same time he would be the least-liked U.S. candidate in the region.

Romney, the millionaire former Massachusetts governor who has strong support within the conservative wing of the Republican Party, prides himself on being the only Republican candidate with a Spanish-language website, a formal team of advisors on Latin American affairs (which includes former State Department head of hemispheric affairs Roger Noriega) and a staff that regularly puts out statements on Venezuela, Cuba and other regional issues.

Romney told me that his father was born in Mexico -- his family had founded a Mormom Church community there -- and that the youngest of his five sons, Craig, spent two years in Chile as a church missionary. Romney himself traveled at least a dozen times to Latin America during his years as head of the Bain Capital venture capital firm, he said.

''The investments for the company that I started, Bain Capital, came largely from Latin America,'' Romney said. ``My largest single investors came from El Salvador, Ecuador, Colombia and Guatemala. And so I feel a deep kinship to people in Latin America.''

Yet, among the front-running candidates of both parties, Romney is adopting the most hard-line positions on immigration, Venezuela and Cuba -- a stance that is diametrically opposed to that of most Latin American countries.


Asked whether he is calling for the deportation of the 12 million undocumented workers already in this country, Romney said that ``I am not looking for a massive deportation. . . . Some would receive temporary visas. . . . There would be a period of transition, where people would be able to remain here and complete the sale of homes, or finishing schools.''

When I asked about Venezuela, Romney criticized Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama for saying that he would meet with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in his first year in office.

''Barack Obama made a huge error,'' Romney said. ``In my first year, I'd look to sit down with leaders of countries who are our friends, [Colombia's Alvaro] Uribe, [Mexico's Felipe] Calderón, [Chile's Michelle] Bachelet.''

Asked how he would deal with Chávez, Romney said that ''Chávez personally is a buffoon.'' But he said that ``the right approach is not one of combating him. It is instead supporting his neighbors who are our friends, and making sure we finally pass the free-trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and Peru, and build a relationship with Brazil.''

Makes sense to me. Not to Oppenheimer, however.

On Cuba, Romney said he supports ''continuing the isolation of the Castro brothers'' and would strictly adhere to the U.S. Helms-Burton law that bars U.S. presidents from relaxing U.S. sanctions on Cuba until after the island holds free elections.

My opinion: Romney's proposal that the 12 million undocumented workers -- most of them Hispanics -- leave the country is music to the ears of anti-immigration zealots, but is totally unrealistic. And his hard-line stances on Cuba and Venezuela are more of the same rhetoric we have been hearing from the White House in recent years.

I'm not sure whether Romney strongly believes in these positions, or is only trying to win the conservative votes he needs to secure the Republican nomination. (His record as Massachusetts governor suggests he is less of a hard-liner than he sounds now.) Either way, if he were elected, he would be very popular in U.S. conservative circles, and a pretty lonely man in the rest of the hemisphere.

I don't get how Romney would be a "pretty lonely man in the rest of the hemisphere" by working with friends in Latin America and realizing that negotiating with our bitter emenies is futile. Ask our friends in Latin America how having open relations with Cuba has helped eliminate human rights abuses in the island prison. Ask our friends how it has helped check the unfettered Hugo Chavez and his quest for a total chokehold on Venezuela.

I'd like Oppenheimer to explain how an open policy and negotiation has helped. I would also like to ask how working with our friends to help strenghten democracies and pressure rogue states like Cuba and Venezuela is a detriment to the hemisphere.

If it's true that I'm totally out to lunch and Oppenheimer is right, then it speaks more for the sad state of Latin America rather than the informed, logical and well intentioned efforts of a conservative American.


Saturday, August 04, 2007

More on the Gomez Kids

Ana Veciana-Suarez opines on the Gomez immigration tangle both in the Herald and on her blog.

I agree with her about the DREAM Act. It should be passed. Why not? Children of illegals aren't to blame for their parents' lack of responsibility. If they earn citizenship either through going to college or serving in the military, it's good enough for me. Maybe I'm too much of a softie, but I agree with Ziva's comment in the post below that if we're going to err, let's err on the side of the kids here.

I don't understand, however, why Veciana-Suarez had to say that there's an anti-immigrant sentiment. I don't how many times I need to say this, but I'll say it over and over again...

It's anti-ILLEGAL immigration, Ana!

Labels: ,