Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Read: Storming Las Vegas

The New Man and the same old story. My brother clued me into this one which was published in February and is officially titled Storming Las Vegas: How a Cuban-Born, Soviet-Trained Commando Took Down the Strip to the Tune of Five World-Class Hotels, Three Armored Cars, and Millions of Dollars. I'd like to be able to recommend it as a well-written true crime story, but my experience of the book was fatally tarnished by the bigotry apparent in its pages.

My first clue came in the "Acknowledgments" in which author John Huddy cites Wayne Smith. Of course, he also mentions Brian Latell. Then, he proceeds to pass on, unopposed, the perspective of the villain/hero of the piece, Jose Vigoa, who was born in 1959 that during "Batista time" in Cuba there were 8 million people and 7 million were poor, illiterate, and uncared for....

Just as well, because Huddy characterizes Cuba as a "banana republic through virtually all of its history." Under the guidance of fidel, it becomes a "player on the world stage," and here's the best, "the target of relentless terrorism." See those "Miami militants" were responsible for the constant tension under which the murderer and thief grew up. fidel is lionized and Batista associated with "torture chambers and murder squads." He includes reference to an incident hitherto unknown to me in which Batista had men buried alive.

Later Huddy, who once worked for the Herald, clues us in that he grew up "in preCastro Cuba," that is to say at the Guantanamo Base:

I visited much of the interior of Cuba....I saw firsthand the conditions in Cuba under the U.S.-backed Batista dictatorship. They were harsh and degrading.

What can I say? The 1958 UN? Liars. My parents? Liars. My grandparents? Liars. My friends, relatives, associates? Liars. None of these were Batistianos, but it is obvious that Mr. Huddy on the basis of "visits" to the "interior" knows Cuba better than any of the aforementioned. Maybe he should go visit parts of Philadelphia and write a book. I raised the idea of bigotry earlier. This selective portrayal of Cuban history is emblematic of the perspective of some. Was there poverty? Yes, grinding for some. There was also the largest middle class in Latin America. There is no room for that in their equations. To these people Cubans are some third world species of "native" somehow unentitled to the same prerogatives as Americans. It is our "otherness" they find off-putting, whether in Cuba or Miami.

Oh, the book? Read it if you want. Pick it up at Goodwill or the library. Otherwise, save your militant quarter.

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