Este espacio está dedicado a temas literarios -artículos, entrevistas, reseñas- también reflexiones, fotografías y por supuesto, mucho o todo lo relacionado al tema de Cuba y la diáspora cubana. Sobre esta plataforma pretendo construir un espacio donde se pueda compartir, sin mucho protocolo, impresiones con otros cibernautas. Todas las entradas podrán aparecer tanto en inglés como en español, mas se proscribe, dentro de lo posible, todo uso de Spanglish.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cuban-Americans and the 2012 US Election: Choices Made

Cartogram of US Electoral Map by Mark Newman

 Yani Angulo-Cano

It is well established that a significant number of Cuban-Americans left their homeland in search of a socio-political climate friendlier to their ideology. They did not want to live in one leader, one political party, one non-church, one labor union, one media network, one employer state. Keeping in mind the many tragedies that have occurred in the Straits of Florida, one would think that they place a higher value on the right to choose—the essence of freedom—than on following a pre-ordained life, lacking in alternatives. Since their arrival in the United States, they have moved far to the political right as a clear rejection of what they left behind; that is, they have chosen to identify themselves with the Republican Party, the Catholic Church (and other Christian churches), and the Fox Network. Clearly these are free choices made by free people selecting from freely available alternatives. Let us now contrast this feel-good narrative with the recent election discourse originating in this community.

Perhaps as a result of the new health care law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and because of President Obama’s push to roll back previous tax cuts for the top one percent of taxpayers, many in the Cuban-American community warned each other about the impending “socialist takeover” that would result from a second Obama term. One wonders if this is a case of displaced Cuban memories which they are carrying into their everyday life experiences in the US, or if they truly see themselves as part of the privileged upper class. During the elections, it nearly was impossible to avoid coming face to face with messages of approaching doom in social media and email communications.  Friends and family felt free to post messages in one’s own FB page, without considering possible differences of opinion, as if all Cuban-Americans should be Republicans, Catholics, and Fox News consumers. Some of these communications included criticism of “illegal” immigrants, gay marriages, Muslims, “ghetto moochers,” and labor unions. One particular case involved branding those who were shown on television celebrating Obama’s victory as “jumping monkeys.” This caustic, perhaps racist message came from someone who religiously includes biblical citations in her FB postings. Worse of all was the onslaught of racist commentary about President Obama, and the “Commie” Democrats. One has to wonder how much do they know about the political history of their adopted country.

Now that President Obama has been reelected with an estimated Cuban-American level of support in Miami-Dade County ranging between 47-51 percent; (most likely an indicator of growing divergence among younger Cuban-Americans), is there a looming socialist takeover? Before proposing an answer, one first would have to know what is meant by “socialist.” After all, Social Security and Medicare / Medicaid are socialist entities that have been around since the 1930’s and 1960’s respectively. Second, one also has to consider the process by which legislation becomes law; rather difficult during normal times, and nearly impossible during times of conflict, as it is the case now. During his first term in office, President Obama did sign into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare (which Republicans should not consider so radioactive if one simply name it according to its true pedigree: MittCare2), only because the 58 Democratic members of the Senate were able to obtain the support of two Independent senators for the total of 60 votes required to break the expected Republican filibuster. However, in the 2013 Senate, Democrats will have only 55 members, which mean that even if they are able to obtain the support of the two Independents, they will not have the filibuster proof 60 votes. Therefore, if there is no compromise across the political divide, nothing will be accomplished, let alone a radically socialist agenda.

Nevertheless, one detects a visceral level of suspicion toward Democrats that goes beyond the inner workings of the federal government. The real question then becomes: why do so many older Cuban-Americans feel threatened by the Democratic Party? Is the oldest political party in the nation—the party of Thomas Jefferson (founding father), Woodrow Wilson (achieved victory during WWI), and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (saved the nation from social upheaval in the 30’s and achieved victory in WWII)—a threat to the security of the US? If you believe that, then you have failed to appreciate the meaning of American democracy. “It takes two to tango,” says that old capsule of popular wisdom. Without the Democratic Party, the nation becomes a one party state. Likewise, without the Republican Party (and the current turmoil in Abraham Lincoln’s Grand Old Party should concern not just Republicans but Democrats as well), the nation also becomes a one party state. It is a no brainer that all of us need to support the two party concept for the general welfare of the nation. 

One final thought for my fellow Cuban-Americans, if we are to free ourselves from the inequities of a one party state, we must question that only one party is worthy of our vote. Real freedom is having the opportunity to choose from the two parties available to us. Normally you may find one of them closer to your wishes/interests, but be open to the possibility of a viable alternative in the other party. Avoid being the unquestioning follower of someone else’s agenda, particularly when it may impact negatively your own interests (as in the case of southern states that vote against “big government” but rank among the biggest recipients of federal aid. The voters in these states are like senior citizens who vote for the Tea Party; if their candidates win, they lose). In short, vote for the best alternative, the best candidate, not simply for a party. While you are at it, let other people make their own choices. After all, who appointed you Supreme Leader in charge of morals and ethics? Be free and let others be free. If you don’t, then you are still 90 miles south of Key West, living in the past from which you tried to get away: one party, one religion, one …. I hope you get my point, because if you are not careful, you end up demanding that others think and speak the way you do. From there to forming a “brigade” to enforce your views on others is just a series of short steps away. Instead, reflect on your experiences; make sure that you have derived the correct lessons from them; i.e., tolerance for the views of others. Cherish what you have, don’t repeat past mistakes. These too are choices… some of the most important choices that a freedom loving person can make.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Latin American Human Rights Film Festival at Eckerd College

On behalf of my students in Latin America: Literature of Human Rights, and Zeta Mu, Eckerd College’s chapter of Sigma Delta Pi (The National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society), I am delighted to invite you to EC’s first Latin American Human Rights Film Festival. The festival opens this week: Wednesday, April 11 – Friday, April 13, 2012. All screenings are free and open to the public.

April 11th, 7:00pm, Miller Auditorium: Voices from Mariel
On April 1, 1980, five individuals seeking political asylum crashed a bus through the gates of the Peruvian embassy in Havana, Cuba. Over the next several days up to 10,000 people also sought refuge in that embassy. Fearing that continued civil unrest might cause further violence and additional damage to his regime’s reputation, Fidel Castro proclaimed that any Cuban who wished to immigrate to the United States could board a boat at the nearby port of Mariel. Thus began the “Marielito” story in the United States.
Told through the previously unheard narratives of ten Cuban-American families, Voices from Mariel brings an updated look into the lives of some of the 125,000 Cuban refugees who came to the United States thirty-two years ago as part of the “Mariel Boatlift.” Voices from Mariel explores the legacy of the brave and committed people who risked their lives in the short but dangerous 90-mile sail across the Straits of Florida seeking freedom in the United States.

Q&A segment to follow, featuring the film’s script writer, Dr. José García, Florida Southern College and Eckerd College’s own resident “Marielita,” Prof. Yani Angulo-Cano.

April 12th, 7:00pm, Miller Auditorium: Granito: How to Nail a Dictator
Often a film not just documents, but makes history. So it is with Granito: How to Nail a Dictator, the astonishing new film by Pamela Yates. Part political thriller, part memoir, Yates transports us back in time through a riveting, haunting tale of genocide in Guatemala and returns to the present with a cast of characters joined by destiny and the quest to bring a malevolent dictator to justice.
As if a watchful Maya god were weaving back together threads of a story unraveled by the passage of time, forgotten by most, our characters become integral to the overarching narrative of wrongs done and justice sought that they have pieced together, each adding their granito, their tiny grain of sand, to the epic tale. This award winning production opened at the 2011 NYC Human Rights Watch International Film Festival.

April 13th, 7:00pm, Miller Auditorium: Chico and Rita
Note: This film is presented jointly with the International Cinema Series.

The setting: Cuba, 1948. Chico is a young piano player with big dreams. Rita is a beautiful singer with an extraordinary voice. Music and romantic desire unites them, but their journey –in the tradition of the Cuban ballad, the bolero– brings heartache and torment. From Havana to New York, Paris, Hollywood and Las Vegas, two passionate individuals battle impossible odds to unite in music and love. 2012 Oscar Nominated for Best Animated Feature Film.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Will History or Their People Ever Absolve Them?

In 1635, the Spanish dramatist, Pedro Calderón de la Barca, staged his masterpiece, Life is a Dream. In this drama, Calderón proposes that, in an age of European absolute monarchical power, the struggle between King Basilio and his son Segismundo was to be framed within the dynamic relationship of just monarchical rule vs. people’s revolt against unjust rule. Closer in time, the Nobel-Prize-winning Guatemalan writer, Miguel Ángel Asturias, published in 1946 his landmark novel, Mr. President, where he exposes the negative social consequences of political repression. Asturias’ novel is unique in that it suggests that the dictator also is a victim of the climate of terror that engulfed Guatemala during the long lasting dictatorship of Manuel Estrada Cabrera. Since then, Latin America has had to endure more tyrannical rule as shown in the following partial list of dictatorships: the Anastasio Somoza (father and son) in Nicaragua, Rafael Leónidas Trujillo in Dominican Republic, Alfredo Stroessner in Paraguay, François Duvalier in Haiti, Augusto Pinochet in Chile, Manuel Noriega in Panama, Jorge Rafael Videla in Argentina, and Fulgencio Batista and the Castro brothers in Cuba. Although the power and number of Latin American dictatorships had diminished by the end of the 20th Century, and despite the fact that most tyrants escaped the hand of justice, there were a few who either had to face judicial proceedings against them (Pinochet, Noriega and Videla) or paid for their crimes with their own lives (the Somozas, and Trujillo).

It is with this Spanish and Latin American historical legacy of tyrants who wield absolutely corrupted and self-serving government power, in spite of their peoples’ suffering, that current events in the so called Arab Spring offer a sobering example to the remaining Latin American repressive regimes; foremost among them, the government of Fidel and Raúl Castro. Coincidentally, an October 21, 2011 article titled “The Ends,” the Cuban dissident blogger, Yoani Sánchez comments in her blog, Generation Y, on the death of Muammar Qaddafi, and in doing so she echoes the fear at the top with which Asturias had haunted the tyrant of his El Señor Presidente. She says, “They always have a hidden door, a secret passage through which they can scurry away when they sense danger,” and she adds, “[…] they fear that the same people who applaud them in the plazas can come for them when they lose their fear.” Ms. Sánchez goes on to argue for the need to hold trials for tyrants such as Qaddafi, instead of allowing them to escape as martyrs with their claims of legitimacy unchallenged. In case someone misses the real point of her article, she insists that, “Better that they survive, that they stay and realize that neither history nor their people will ever absolve them.” This, of course, is a clear linkage of the Libyan dictator’s fate to Fidel Castro’s defense following his trial for attempting the overthrow of the Batista dictatorship. The title of Castro’s speech is History will absolve me.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cuba: arte y literatura en exilio

The Florida International University’s Cuban Research Institute [CRI] and Spain’s Legua Editorial co-sponsored the official presentation of a new Cuban research anthology at the FIU Modesto Maidique campus on April 25, 2011. The anthology gathers selected texts that were originally presented at the IV Congreso Internacional sobre creación y exilio “Con Cuba en la Distancia,” held in Valencia, Spain, November 17-21, 2008. The anthology is divided into six chapters detailing the poetic career of Manuel Díaz Martínez, ideological and cultural issues, Afro-Cuban and Chinese-Cuban cultural expressions, theater and cinema, creativeness in exile, and the contemporary scene in art and communications.

Speaking from the podium of the MARC International Pavillion, Prof. Uva de Aragón officially welcomed the anthology on behalf of Florida International University and the Cuban Research Institute. She was followed by Director of Legua Editorial, Grace Piney, who reviewed past Asociación Cultural Con Cuba en la Distancia congresses and seminars, held in Cádiz and Valencia since the year 2000; and who offered the publishing services of Legua Editorial in supporting academic research on Cuban and Latin American issues. Prof. James Pancrazio, co-editor of the anthology, reviewed the selection and editing processes; while Prof. Madeline Cámara commented on its unique features; such as, Chinese elements in Cuban art and literature, AIDS, and the blogosphere. Finally, the well-known journalist, Carlos Alberto Montaner, reminded the audience that Cuban literature has had a marked historical tendency toward its being written abroad, as evidenced by the very anthology. Given the half century schism that separates Cubans in and out of the island, Montaner went on to ponder if Cuban culture is splitting into two distinct manifestations. Questions such as these were discussed in a lively Q & A segment that followed the presentation.

Prof. Madeline Camara, Grace Piney Roche, Prof. James Pancrazio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

Carlos Alberto MontanerProf. Uva de Aragon

Prof. Yanira Angulo-Cano, Prof. Sonia Bravo Utrera, Prof. Uva de Aragon, Grace Piney Roche, Prof. Madeline Camara, Prof. Gabriel Cartaya Front row: Prof. Carlos J. Cano, Prof James J. Pancrazio

*Piney, Grace y Pancrazio, James. Cuba: arte y literatura en exilio. Legua Editorial: Valencia, España, 2011. ISBN: 978-84-938358-6-6

Monday, December 20, 2010

Fiesta Manguitense

El pasado sábado 18 diciembre, los manguitenses se reunieron en el Tropical Park de Miami, Florida, para reanudar amistades, recordar experiencias compartidas y conocer las nuevas generaciones de cubanos-americanos con raíces en el matancero pueblo de Manguito.

A pesar que la celebración se vio en peligro ante las inclemencias del tiempo —lluvia y viento frío— la nutrida concurrencia demostró el ansia de los hijos de Manguito en reunirse en la fecha acordada. La caseta donde se celebró la fiesta estaba saturada de concurrentes que, debido a la lluvia, estaban obligados a mantenerse bajo el escaso techo. Podría decirse que el acoso climático sirvió para unirnos más.

La exquisita comida fue un éxito rotundo. Degustamos de un surtido de platos tradicionales: lechón asado, congrí y maduros, arroz con pollo, croquetas, ensaladas, diversos postres y un maravilloso cake con los colores nacionales.

Como resultaría muy difícil nombrar a todos los presentes en una breve reseña como ésta, me limito a mencionar tres casos excepcionales: Esther Alayón, quien se trasladó desde Madrid para estar presente en nuestra fiesta “pueblerina”; Argelia “Gela" Gómez de Vázquez, galardonada de reconocimiento público, no sólo por ser la manguitense de más avanzada edad, sino también por su apoyo a tantos de sus antiguos vecinos llegados a Florida; y muy en especial para mí, la presencia de mi hijo, Carlos, quien hacía su primer contacto con la comunidad manguitense en el exterior y a quien espero poder inculcarle el amor por Manguito.

Por último, a nombre de todos los manguitenses, nuestro más sincero agradecimiento a la dinámica Milán López y familia por la organización y realización del evento; especialmente, por la preparación de la comida, la decoración y la música que amenizaban el evento. Todos los que tuvimos la suerte de llegarnos hasta Miami estaremos eternamente agradecidos a Milán López por el exitoso reencuentro de los hijos de Manguito.

A continuación comparto algunas imágenes del evento para recuerdo de los asistentes e información para todos aquellos que aunque no pudieron llegar (desde Alemania, España, California, Albuquerque, Nueva York), estarán ansiosos de ver caras conocidas. Más fotografías se encuentran en la página de Manguito en Facebook.

Monday, September 27, 2010

En memoria de Orestes Sánchez Alfonso, 1914-2010

Hilda Gómez Abreu y Orestes Sánchez Alfonso, 31 de agosto, 1946

Uno de los dos familiares más queridos que me quedan en Manguito, mi abuelo, ha fallecido hoy. Junto con el dolor evoco tantos recuerdos de mi niñez. En ellos mi abuelo es una constante. Como he pasado mi vida adulta fuera de Manguito, las palabras que aparecen aquí surgen de la memoria de esa niña que en algún momento fui. Mis recuerdos de mi abuelo también giran alrededor de ese hogar mágico, hermosa casa estilo Art-Déco que construyera sin ayuda de un plano. Pienso en los lugares donde nos reuníamos a jugar, a estudiar o a conversar. Para cada actividad había un espacio reservado. Estudiar se realizaba únicamente en la mesa de cristal del comedor, mientras que los sillones del portal servían de escenario para sus cuentos.

Mi abuelo era muy hábil contándome cuentos, su repertorio era inagotable. Los inventaba al momento y siempre que los repetía, a petición mía, eran un tanto diferentes. Mi favorito era el de Algodoncito Seco. Mi afición a la literatura hoy sin duda se debe a sus muchos esfuerzos en desarrollar en mí el gusto por la literatura infantil. Al mismo tiempo, debido a su formación en la imprenta, me inculcó la importancia de la buena letra y cuidar la ortografía en interminables tardes de dictado. Bien recuerdo los cuadernos que me preparaba, encuadernados por él en la imprenta que había sido el negocio de la familia. Mis cuadernos eran siempre diseñados en rojo o en negro con mi nombre en letras doradas. También guardo el recuerdo de una noche de apagón en Manguito mientras mi abuelo me repasaba las tablas de multiplicar.

Espero en algún momento poder reunirme con mi abuela en Manguito. Pero sé de antemano que la casa familiar me resultará extraña simplemente porque en ella faltará la presencia de Orestes Sánchez Alfonso, mi querido y entrañable abuelo.