Intellectual Martyrs


Those of you that visit this blog often know that I have not written much of anything Cuba related here in quite some time. My reasons for this are varied, ranging from disillusionment to anger to frustration and quite a few other things in between. This includes a little nagging voice that reappears every so often that drones on and on “Dude. Forget about it and move on, It’s not worth it.” What keeps me in the fray – albeit behind the scenes most of the time – is the thought of a Laura Pollan or a Dr. Biscet, or the Ladies in White or any of the very few Cubans on the island with the courage to risk life and limb for what is right and true and just.


I don’t consider myself a Cuban patriot nor did I start this blog with any preconceived notion to be regarded as such. I’m just a guy who had an opportunity to do something he thought might make a small difference. And I am nothing in the grand scheme of Cuba’s history. Merely a grain of sand and I’m completely content with that. Those of you that know me, or that have read me, know I’m pretty far from being arrogant. I’m just a guy who calls them like I see them. Plain. Simple.

In the almost nine years that this blog has been around, you will not find many instances where I criticize my own. That is, where I take a Cuban or Cuban-American that isn’t a socialist or fidelista to task for his or her opinions, no matter how absolutely wrong said opinions may be. This is because it is my firm belief that we Cubans are our own worst enemy. We attack each other constantly while our common enemy looks on in delight at the fruits of his labor. And we stagnate ourselves and our cause because we are too busy pointing fingers at each other and lose sight of our true objective.

Every contributor to this blog has been criticized many a time throughout the years by some of our own. Yet the editorial policy of this blog remains as simple as day one, with one rule and one rule only: Do not criticize our own. We have tried to stay true to that rule, day after day, attack after attack, for all these years.

Today, however, I fear I must briefly bend that rule somewhat.


We have followed and supported the work of Ernesto Morales Licea for some time on this blog. I’ve found the guy to be a reasonable thinker for the most part and a pretty good writer. I have also felt a certain kinship with Ernesto as he stems from Bayamo, which is the city where I was born and where my family is from. Moreover, Ernesto did me and my family a service for which we will always be thankful and which shall never be forgotten: he went to the cemetery in Bayamo where my Tia Amanda is buried – the woman whose eyes adorn the header of this blog – and placed flowers on her grave. I cannot even begin to describe just what that meant to me personally, and to the rest of our family. For that gesture alone, regardless of any difference of opinion we may have, I’d always consider him a brother.

I never wrote about this gesture on Babalu as it was of such a personal nature that I felt it should be kept between ourselves.

Yesterday, Ernesto published a recollection of this gesture on his blog. You can read that right here. It’s a well written recollection, for the most part, telling the reader just how much trouble he had to go through – the long trek to an abandoned cemetery, the dust, the heat, the rain, the sweat, etc… – for this simple act of kindness towards me and my family. While I am appreciative of that act of kindness, and, ordinarily, would be doubly so appreciative of his taking the time and putting forth the effort to write about it at such length, I can’t help but be disappointed with the whole thing.

I’m disappointed in the underlying motive and purpose of the piece. See, Ernesto takes this act of kindness and uses it to attack me publicly as a person. This attack, of course, is because I took issue with a previously published piece wherein he criticized Senators Marco Rubio and Bob Menendez for their attempt to enact legislation to limit travel to Cuba. I voiced my opinion of that article to Ernesto privately through a third party. I did not write about it on this blog or anywhere else as I do not believe in airing our dirty laundry in public.

And it was not his opinion on the legislation, our Senators, or the travel restrictions I took umbrage with. We discuss this issue on a daily basis here and at other venues and via other social media outlets. It was not the pedantry of the prose that bothered me but the sheer sophistry of the argument.

According to Ernesto, if you agree with the travel to Cuba restrictions and you are Cuban, you A) have no family left on the island or B) are a terrible son, terrible brother, terrible father, terrible everything. In Ernesto’s ivory tower, there are no in betweens. And, if you agree with the travel restrictions Ernesto has “zero respect” and “zero need for you or your opinions.”

This means that all of us who understand just what a boon for the regime the opening up of travel to Cuba would be, all of us that have family in Cuba whom we’ve not seen in ages, all of us who work to improve the lives of ALL Cubans and not just our own, and, all of us who are not willing to reward or forgive the regime responsible for the death of untold thousands of Cubans, all of us, we are all terrible, terrible people.

And terrible are those Senators and Congressmen! The very same Senators and Congressmen that, when Ernesto found himself in a panic in Cuba because his exit permit was about to expire and he might be forced to stay in the evil grasp of the very regime he now wants to reward with tourism dollars, I contacted on his behalf, and who graciously in turn acted on his behalf, to help him get out of Cuba. Terrible, evil people those Senators and Congressmen.

Now, I’m no intellectual like Ernesto portends to be (and I certainly don’t get paid to serve up my opinions like he does) but, given that he knows that I am a proponent of travel and remittance restrictions, and that, according to him, I’m a terrible person for whom he has zero need and respect (and thus the reason for my disassociation from him), I can think of no reason why he would go through all the trouble and put forth such pedantic effort to criticize me.


I can say this, though, that simple act of kindness he performed for my family has lost much if not all of its value, not because he and I don’t see eye to eye on certain issues, but because no real man would take that beautiful gesture of kindness and use it publicly as a sword to fall upon to make himself a living martyr.



4 thoughts on “Intellectual Martyrs

  1. Once again, it should go without saying that this is not an all-or-nothing scenario. Nobody who’s reasonably realistic proposes or envisions total elimination of remittances, trips and so forth, even though ALL those things, no matter how justified, wind up benefiting the Castro regime. The critical issue is whether or not those things are truly necessary or indispensable, which should be assessed on a per-case basis. In other words, the reality is that ordinary Cubans on the island are prisoners or hostages of a horrendous system, and some degree of outside aid is both justified and inevitable. However, what is actually happening is pretty much indiscriminate, where the only real control or limit is what Cubans in this country can afford or are willing to spend, as opposed to what is really necessary. All too many people not only oppose any limit set by the US government, but also refuse to control themselves, and the problem only escalates as more Cuban immigrants arrive here.

    Sadly, this whole issue, generally speaking, is a no-win situation (except for the Castro dictatorship). I personally can’t get too worked up over what the US government does or does not do about this because, frankly, the key issue or determining factor is what Cubans in the US do or do not do—and that’s ultimately up to them, not the government. Unfortunately, certain things cannot be had cheaply, let alone for nothing. But yes, free people get to set their own priorities and make their own choices, for better or for worse. And yes, they’re responsible for the consequences. Bottom line: you get what you pay for, and not what you don’t.

  2. What folks like licea don’t “get” is that remittances to the island, numerous trips by mules, and the ever present lure of the forbidden fruit, rewards the same regime that keeps “their” families in a near slave condition. And assures that it will remain so. The farce of “I am helping my unfortunate brother” may be true in some cases, but a quick scan of the mules baggage reveals it goes past that. A new social economic class is being made up in Cuba, those who get remittances, and those who don’t. Of course we will not hear any reports of any class envy, but they are there.

  3. I am probably speaking out of turn, here, but…

    There is no need to twist, turn, bend or loophole reality into justifying lowering the over half century of opposition to ‘communist’ Cuba. I find these type of people (“intellectuals”) are completely unable to realize that there are times in this world where there is no “gray area”. It’s either black, or white.

    Cuba is one of those times. Some people insist on trying to ‘shine the turd’, if you will, in order to create some weak gray area. The fact is, for all the romanticizing of Cuba (as the Hollywood/celeb elites do) they are willfully discounting, diminishing, or completely ignoring the fact that in over 50 years the communist experiment has not only failed on the island nation, but has festered and molded. AND it is NOT the fault of the U.S. embargos. Not all productive countries in the world have refused to do business with Cuba in that time. However, should the Obama administration open Cuba to travel and trade it will be as Val, Alberto, George, Henry, Humberto, Ziva, and even I have said … The communist fire is smoldering, almost smothered out under its own weight. But US dollars would be like gasoline poured onto the smoking embers and would reignite and fuel it back to full strength.

    IF the US and world media (and the self-serving, self-righteous pampered celebrities) would have been honest these last 50+ years they would have been showing the real Cubans’ daily impoverished living conditions that have, and will, NEVER improve under this system of oppression. They would have been covering the imprisonment of thousands of innocent people who dared speak out about the regime’s cruel and deadly treatment of the Cuban population. They would have been demanding the castro regime stop starving whole generations of Cubans. But no, it continues to be a communist paradise for these people who simply just don’t have to live under those crushing conditions. They simply refuse to expose the horrific failure of their beloved socialism/communism. They jet in, and they jet out … after spending the days in comfortable tourist surroundings with good food and clean water at the turn of a spigot. The sweat-filled toil and struggle of the ‘intellectual’ writer Val describes, who made the journey to the cemetery where Tia Amanda is buried, is only a small example of the toil and struggle generations of Cubans have had to endure there on a daily basis, from cradle to grave, with no real ability to ‘dig their way out’ of the castro communist cemetery. It is easy for “intellectuals” here to supposedly ‘commiserate’ with “the Cuban people” … and then jump in their relatively new model car to drive to their favorite restaurant to sit and eat heaping plates of rich foods and wash it down with spirits while vocalizing with friends, family and colleagues about how nasty the United States government has been to “the Cuban people” in Cuba. And then get back in the car, without fear of a government lackey meeting them in the parking lot to beat them within an inch of their life before dragging them off to a filthy cell for years of beatings, and no contact with family. But their commiseration usually comes back around to the typical liberal/leftist mind-set of throwing money at the problem. Things would be so much better for the Cuban people if only the USA would just stop with this cruel oppressive embargo. And as I, and others, have said that money will only result in feeding the beast and bringing him back to full strength to crush the Cuban people even more.

    There is no gray area here. It is what it is. Hope that the beast finally dies, and the people can rise up like a phoenix out of the ashes to rebuild. Imagine a new government under the leadership of a Dr. Biscet, or any number of willful people who have remained strong in mind and soul like diamonds under the weight of the crushing machine…

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