Saturday, August 18, 2007

Sombras, Sombras Nada Mas: And Now For A Musical Interlude

Went out for Mexican tonight. On Friday nights, they have a mariachi band. Although I grew up listening to Mexican rancheros- one of my father's favorites- I can never remember a title on the spot. So tonight I was inspired. I just asked if they played any Javier Solis who although extremely popular in the Cuba of yesteryear was Mexican. "Of course," they say, and launch into "Sombras." They must have gotten inspired with some of the old standards, because that led to "Solamente Una Vez," followed by "Y Volver, Volver."
Anyway, to make a long story short, the present climate has reminded me of the words to another song he may have recorded, although it might have been Roberto Ledesma, which seems apropos the moment, though originally romantic in nature:

Donde estas corazon?
No oigo tu palpitar.
Es tan grande el dolor
Que no puedo llorar*
*Where are you my heart. I don't hear you beat. The pain is so great that I can't cry.

Friday, August 17, 2007

An Olive Branch of Sorts

In a BBC article, dated 8/16, Ricardo (Slimy) Alarcon takes a cautious approach to the maximum leader's health:

"I hope that he will continue recovering and I look forward to him continuing to play the leading role that he has always played in our country"

Please note, he now "hopes." The article ends with an interesting tidbit:

"Mr Alarcon also said that an end to the US trade embargo against Cuba, which has been in force for almost half a century, was not a precondition for talks. "


Interesting Tidbit: Dissent in Camaguey: Updated Again

Reading Payo Libre when I came across a campaign, Con Una Misma Moneda, which roughly translates to "With the Same Coin." It seems a group of twenty or so women is roaming the streets of Camaguey collecting signatures and, according to them, getting a good response. The campaign started earlier in other provinces. The gist is that Cubans get paid in Cuban pesos. However, many of life's staples are only available in "dollar stores," so unless you have access to dollars through relatives in the States or by working in tourism, you need to depend on your ration card and are essentially screwed. A fuller explanation in Spanish is available here.
The headline reads "Con Gran Interes," with great interest. According to activist Marta Guzman

No queremos seguir siendo cubanos relegados a ciudadanos de segunda clase, mantendremos nuestra lucha contra la discriminación económica

My translation-
We do not want to continue being Cubans relegated to second class citizens, we will continue our fight against the economic discrimination.

The article in Spanish here.

Whenever I read of these dissenters- there's usually a handful in the pictures- I am amazed at their courage. God keep watch over them, because we know the government already is...

The story was picked up in India and El Paso, in English and Spanish, respectively.
Click here and here for the articles.

Book Thoughts

Although still in the throes of the Disraeli biography, this week I read the latest from two bestselling authors, Janet Evanovich and Randy Wayne White. Although I read all sorts of stuff, my preference is mindless entertainment.

Lean Mean Thirteen is the latest entry in the Stephanie Plum series. I think the word here is rollicking, as we follow the antics of this most unlikely bounty hunter. In the past, these books have had me laughing out loud, not an easy feat. This one has the requisite calamities. I lost track of the number of cars Stephanie trashed. There was exploding roadkill art, stapled genitals, and the perennial tensions between the usual love interests in her life. One of her wouldbe lovers and babysitters is the mysterious, black clad, and according to Stephanie and others incredibly sexy Ranger, who we have learned in the past few books, is Cuban. Not one of the best, but if you're already into the series, good enough. If you haven't already read them, do it.

Randy Wayne White's novels I enjoy because they're good thrillers set in the Gulf Coast near where I live, and there's a lot of local color here. His protagonist, Doc Ford, is always good for some nonstop adventure. And Hunter's Moon is no different. The plot here was particularly novel, pardon the pun.

Some more Florida/Suspense/Mystery/Cuban Angle type writers I find enjoyable include

Carolina Aguilera Garcia whose early mysteries, i.e. Bloody Waters, Bloody Shame, add a Cuban American slant to pretty engrossing mysteries. Not to be missed is the bodybuilding, healthnut cousin her family forces her to hire as office help.

Edna Buchanan, former police beat reporter for the Miami Herald, who practically pioneered the genre with her half-Cuban heroine news reporter, Britt Montero. These novels are a little grittier but very well-written.

Barbara Parker whose more glitzy entries feature attorney Gail Connor and her on and off again love interest Anthony Quintana, scion of a Cuban family worthy of this fall's Cane.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Strange Doings Are Afoot At Babalu Today: Updated

It started with a post. Val asks what would happen if the trade restrictions and the embargo were lifted upon the death of Castro? He may be on to something. Today is chemo, and I have to leave. More, hopefully, when I get back.

The question of what should be the American policy toward Cuba is a complicated one, fraught with unintended consequences. Just when I am convinced that the only slim chance of effecting change is to seize the moment of Castro's death and introduce a dramatic new factor, I read Penultimos Dias which leads me here to an article aptly entitled "When Should the US Change Policy toward Cuba," which has a different perspective to what I've been thinking. I'm familiar with and respect at least one of the authors, so I have to stop for a minute, especially since
it makes two very good points among others-

Principles play an important role in American foreign policy and we should not callously abandon them in Cuba in the pursuit of mollifying a domestic constituency for minor economic gains or in the hope, some would argue quixotically, that trade, tourism and investments will soften a hardened dictatorship and produce a regime change toward democracy...

... If anything, the easing of economic sanctions on Cuba without major concessions from the Cuban government would send the wrong message “to the enemies of the United States” in the Hemisphere and elsewhere: that a foreign leader can seize U.S. properties without compensation; allow the use of his territory for the introduction of nuclear missiles aimed at the United Sates; espouse terrorism and anti-U.S. causes throughout the world; and eventually the United States will “forget and forgive,” and reward him with tourism, investments and economic aid. Moreover, one could argue that Cuba has an even higher burden to meet in a post September 11, 2001 world since it has clearly chosen to side with the likes of Iran and other terror states, individuals, and groups.

Food for thought.

There You Go Again: Fighting the Good Fight

Engaged in another tussle with the unbelievers. Reading an article on roaming gnome getting his hand slapped, when I made the mistake of reading the comments. The most offensive was someone posting as Mike Deal. The highlight below:

The only people being hurt by this total embargo on Cuba are real American workers who lose sales to places like Communist China just so the Cuban colonists in South Florida can vent their spite in a perfectly meaningless way, no mater what the cost to the people who gave them refuge. The ingratitude and disdain of the Cuban colonists for native-born Americans (not to mention native Americans, just ask my cousins among the Seminoles), coupled with their unearned sense of entitlement just boggles the mind.

Now, I ask you, could I let that stand? Henry Gomez had already engaged, but I had to chime in. My comment-

Mr Deal:From whence this vitriol? Cuban colonists?

First, Cuba expropriated millions of dollars of American, not Cuban American, property. Are you going to tell large American corporations like OfficeMax, which has one of the largest claims, to just forget about what they are owed?

Second, to whom are you going to sell American wares? The average Cuban makes twenty dollars a month. You are going to sell to a government that doesn't pay its bills. Just check the financial papers. It essentially defaulted on its debt in 1986. Ask Mexico, India, Russia among others about selling on credit to Cuba. And you will have to sell on credit.

Third, I seriously doubt that companies give up doing business with a market the size of the United States because it would interfere with a market of eleven million impoverished souls.

As a Cuban American, I have no sense of entitlement. In actuality, I grew up as a second class citizen because of it. As to ingratitude, you can not be more mistaken. I once read that you have never seen an American flag being burned by a Cuban exile or a Cuban American. And it's true. Finally, if in its largess this country provided refuge for the Cuban diaspora, it is no more than it provided for your forbears, so get over it.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Wrestling With The Better Angels of My Nature

TheTwilight Zone is what I intended to post today. But as I wait to hear of the inevitable... maybe... although more likely... there is no pure joy in it.

There would be the satisfaction that I have lived to see the day my two sets of grandparents, those who lost everything and the one who stayed behind to correct the hideous mistake he had made by running guns for the revolution; my uncle, bumped from the last flight by Alicia Alonso, plucked from Anguilla Cay in flagrant violation of international law, and imprisoned for wanting to be reunited with his family; and my father, forced to leave the island for telling anyone who would listen Fidel was a communist long before Castro came clean, did not ... nor did Olga, Andres, Nena, Jacobo, Ventura, Delfin, even Celia. I can hear my father now. He would have gotten a kick out of saying "Ese desgraciado de verdad esta moliendo vidrio con el culo."

Yet, it is not a happy occasion. My mother who belongs to an earlier time feels it's bad form to celebrate anyone's death. It's probably bad karma, too. Neither carries much weight with me.
But, shockingly, I wonder what it's like? If you really relive your life in those last moments, does the denial still hold, or is there no equivocating with the truth at the last? And if not, imagine it. How do you come to terms with not only having wasted the precious gift of your own life, but having used it to cause untold misery to your fellow man? I don't think I can revel in that, even in Fidel's case.

Although I will shed no tears for the murderous, egomaniacal buffoon, I will not feel the euphoria I felt last year, when I thought his death might end the long Cuban nightmare. Now, I fear that those on the island will be forced to accept one dictator in place of the other. Even the attainment of freedom, although infinitely preferable, would not be without its hazards: how do they relearn representative government, dismantle the failed economic apparatus of near fifty years? I have no desire to see Cuba turn into the former Soviet Union. The Cuban people have proven they are survivors, a people of great spirit and enterprise. In the end, I believe they will triumph. I worry for their immediate future.

I might not make the long anticipated pilgrimage to Miami when his death is announced. No, my celebration will be more subdued. I might partake in a bit of the bubbly, but in a suitably solemn manner, of course.

In The Twilight Zone

All this speculation about Fidel as Mr. Life in Death has reminded me of a Twilight Zone episode from when I was a child. A man in a clinical setting is confronted and driven mad by a legion of his victims. The memory is in black and white for obvious reasons, and I only remember that scene.

Little wonder, as some research yields an episode entitled "Deaths-Head Revisited" broadcast in 1961. I must have seen a rerun; I wasn't that precocious. In this, an SS officer is tried by those he killed. Can you see it now? Languishing in a bed, comatose to the world, except for the nameless, numberless dead besieging him, unable to speak, unable to communicate, "Oh, the horror! The horror!"

Images of Cuba

There are absolutely haunting images of Cuba on today. Surprisingly, given that I refuse to watch their TV coverage, I find the news on their website pretty comprehensive. While I was on, they made the mistake of asking me to answer an online survey, which I gleefully assented to do. After giving them an earful (?) over the Today Show in Cuba coverage. I indicated that they should look at their own slide show and see if their reporting was accurate.

Remember the painting? Take a look at the view of the Capitol, or the lady lowering her basket for supplies. If you pick it up on this page there are other interesting slide shows and videos.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Fidel's EKG

This is a normal EKG:

This is Fidel's EKG:


81st birthday and the bionic track suit is nowhere to be seen. Reminds me of a song:

na-na-na-na na-na-na-na

na-na-na-na na-na-na-na

na-na-na-na na-na-na-na

Beware the Comments: Deja Vu All Over Again

I should know better, but I made the mistake of reading the comments after an article in the Miami Herald Tribune. Here are four pretty representative

  • Hey, you forgot to mention the crap about how they all owned huge ranchos in Cuba but arrived here with just five dollars in their pocket and started over from nothing by working three jobs...
  • Send her butt back, and send the rest of em while your at it. Way to go Bush. Time to start deporting all these illegal immigrants.
  • The U.S. cubans steal children
  • The Cuban community in Miami must give up its ways of intimidation and understand that the rights of parents come first. They are still too fixated on Castro. Never mind, even when he goes, you won't get your farms and estates back. Send the child home.

Many of these characters, sitting in the basement in their underwear as one presidential candidate is wont to describe their ilk, were just making sport, and this is the type of case Anastasio Blanco was writing about in Babalu not so long ago:

For too long, many of us in the Cuban community have exerted vast amounts of energy in countering the nonsensical claims of a bunch of raving madmen.

Still, the mad emailer could not resist and stooped to commenting on a Miami Herald Tribune article. Aside from compulsion, there is the question of whether that type of filth should go unchallenged. The discussion was so beyond the pale that it didn't merit any type of reasonable response, and I felt it impolitic to question their parentage, so I fell back on my teaching experience with just a touch of Brooklyn.

I cannot believe the level of vitriol in these comments, most of which seem to range from unenlightened to just plain nasty. I detect the strong scent of sour grapes in the air. By the way, while I'm taking the raft back, I hear Ellis Island got fixed up real pretty.

It's a subject I've written about before.

H/T To Babalublog for the original story.

The Yard Sale That Would Not Die

It all began on a sunny Friday morning with the arrival of Packrat Jr and her crew of twentysomething friends to man the yard sale. The sale was to help fund her graduate film studies. My husband, Packrat Sr, using his many connections, had been saving stuff for this all year. This was no ordinary yard sale: this was a one man flea market. The picture I posted was but one portion of the whole. The temperature rose to 103 degrees (according to the car). The sweat soaked our clothing, our heads, our bodies. The hordes descended. Then the rain came. Fortunately, it was not too bad, and we managed to cover up most things.

That evening, an all-time first, some miscreant in a little pickup attempted to steal the treadmill. If they could have moved it, the wheels were firmly planted in the grass, I might have let them take it. The wouldbe theft broke our hearts, since on a lesser scale, this is a yearly event around here. And no one had ever taken anything. It was the end of innocence.

On Saturday, we repeated the whole procedure, only this time it rained harder. On Sunday morning, some of the clothes were a little moist, but overall, we were in good shape, until the monsoon came that is. At this point, the moisture had wicked into everything. So this morning, I went into reclamation mode, sorting the dry stuff, bagging it, sending it off to Goodwill. Packrat Sr came home and informed me that he and his henchmen would take care of it tomorrow. Fortunately, he thought to call the nice Haitian family that had bought so much to offer them whatever they could take. They were in the midst of this when torrents of rain began to fall.

So now I am looking at day six of this debacle, hundreds of pounds of sodden designer clothing, fortunately only a few pieces of very nice, very wet furniture, and the treadmill bought on Saturday by an elderly Oriental man who never picked it up. I only have two words: never again.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

A Different World

Somewhere between 1960 and today, something at the UN has seriously gone wrong. The speech by Dag at the end is impressive.