UM event set to commemorate the life and work of the late, great Cuban American comedian, Alvarez Guedes

The Miami Herald via In Cuba Today:

Cuban comedian Guillermo Alvarez Guedes to be celebrated at UM event

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For many years, Cuban comedian, actor and radio host Guillermo Alvarez Guedes was the undeniable king of Miami’s Spanish-language radio. His profanity-infused jokes and storytelling style dominated the airwaves of La Clásica 92.3 FM , where he hosted Aquí está Alvarez Guedes for more than a decade.

His radio show, which ended in 2011, garnered a loyal following of thousands. But it was his ability to tirarlo todo a relajo (make a joke of everything) as well as his larger-than-life personality that made him a star in the South Florida exile community.

Now, almost three years after his death, “Recordando a Guillermo Alvarez Guedes” (“Remembering Guillermo Alvarez Guedes”), an hour-long event hosted by the National Association of Cuban-American Educators (NACAE), , will celebrate the life and times of one of Miami’s most beloved and iconic comedians.

“Alvarez Guedes was a crucial cultural figure in Miami and in Cuba,” said Gustavo Pérez-Firmat, 67, who leads the association and is a David Feinson Professor of Humanities at Columbia University. “In Cuba, the question is not ‘to be or not to be’ but ‘eres vivo o eres bobo’ (you’re either bright or you’re a fool) and he was definitely ‘un vivo.’ He had that Cuban sense of humor and relajo. … He helped Cubans during that period of exile;he defined a whole epoch.”

Pérez-Firmat, who teaches Cuban-American Culture and Spanish-American Literature at Columbia and is the author of Life on the Hyphen: The Cuban-American Way, was born in Marianao, Cuba. His family moved to Miami when he was 11.

He remembers growing up listening to Alvarez Guedes’ jokes, anecdotes and stories.

And though he never met Alvarez Guedes, he says he attended many of his shows in Miami and Puerto Rico, where Guedes lived for a few years before settling in South Florida.

“It’s funny but one of the highlights of my life was following him [Alvarez Guedes] around Dadeland Mall because I was too timid to go up to him and say hello,” he said. “Ernest Hemingway once said, ‘As you get older, it’s more difficult to have heroes but it’s just as necessary.’ For me, he’s become one of my heroes.”

During the event, which will take place Thursday at the Casa Bacardí at the Institute of Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami’s Coral Gables’ campus, Pérez-Firmat will go over the Cuban comedian’s life and career. Afterward, he will open the floor for questions.

Continue reading HERE.

Reports from Cuba: Hollywood conquers Havana with a fistful of dollars

By Ivan Garcia in Translating Cuba:

Hollywood Conquers Havana with a Fistful of Dollars

 

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A black helicopter hovers at low altitude over Havana Bay. Meanwhile, dozens of pedestrians on the streets below wave and try to capture the image on their mobile phones.

The aircraft makes an acrobatic turn and flies back towards the port. “Mijail, hurry up and try to get a photo now,” yells a girl almost hysterically to her boyfriend, who wastes no time activating the camera from his old Motorola phone.

At the bus stop near the cruise terminal in the old part of the city, everyone has a story to tell about filming in Havana for the eighth installment of Fast & Furious.

Adelfa, a peanut vendor, observes, “A friend of mine who collects empty beer and soda cans told me that — at the Hotel Saratogo, where the actors and some yumas (Americans) are staying — they were handing out twenty dollar bills to everyone who was in the Fountain of the Indian across the street. I missed out. Now I am trying to sell peanuts where people from Hollywood might be to see if they will give me something.”

A guy with the look of a government official says to several people, “The film producers paid forty million dollars to the local People’s Power administration for any inconvenience that might be caused.”

His comments open up a debate. “Would you happen to know what the government plans on doing with this money?” asks a man who says he has been waiting an hour for the P-5 bus. “Will they fix the houses that are falling down or buy new buses?”

A black youth who is listening to music removes his ear buds and replies, “You want me to tell you what I think they will do with the money? They will put it in a bank account in an overseas tax haven for Daddy’s kids: Antonio or Mariela Castro.”

Some of those present cast sideways glances, an instinctive gesture in Cuba denoting fear, to see if someone from the “apparatus” (political police) have heard the young man’s outburst.

Read more

Memorial Day: I remember young Nathan Aguirre

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Like most of you, I will enjoy a day off, a cheeseburger and watch a little baseball.   At the same time, I will remember a young man named Nathan Aguirre who died in Iraq.

I know Nathan’s parents. His dad and I were church ushers. His mom is a beautiful person who is now working with other families who’ve lost sons in Iraq.

Nathan Aguirre is a real hero.   Remember him and his parents today!

P.S. You can hear my show  ( CantoTalk  ) or  follow me on Twitter   .

Had the Castro brothers prevailed, both Pearl Harbor and 9-11 would seem trivial (Let’s honor the freedom-fighters who fought them to their last bullets–(instead of insulting them, as does the Democrat Party.)

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“Wimps!..that’s right WIMPS!” Michael Moore oinks against the Bay of Pigs Freedom-fighters. “These Cuban exiles, for all their chest-thumping and terrorism, are really just a bunch of WIMPS! …Ex Cubans with a YELLOW STRIPE DOWN THEIR BACKS and CRYBABIES TOO!”

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(Michael Moore  picks his nose on national TV…Oh! Sorry. He’s the one on the right.)

At the Bay of Pigs they fought to the last bullet against 20-1 odds –battling the enemy that most craved and came closest to destroying the U.S.  Finally captured (after expending all their ammo and with no more coming) their communist captors demanded they sign a denunciation of the U.S. (i.e. of the nation that had just stabbed them in the back.)

They (mostly civilians with little to no no military training) all refused. So their communist captors assured them that such a denunciation would save them from the torture and firing squads they assumed was coming.

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Again they refused. “We will die with dignity!” snapped their commander Erneido Oliva at his FURIOUS Castroite captors again, and again, and again. To a Castroite such an attitude not only enrages but baffles. In brief, (though not even U.S. citizens yet) these betrayed men stood tall, proud and defiant. They refused to utter the very insults against the U.S. that Michael Moore makes a career of oinking for gratuitous pleasure and free publicity.

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(Michael Moore picks his nose on national TV)

“Wimps!..that’s right WIMPS!” Michael Moore oinks against the Bay of Pigs Freedom-fighters. “These Cuban exiles, for all their chest-thumping and terrorism, are really just a bunch of WIMPS! Ex Cubans with a YELLOW STRIPE DOWN THEIR BACKS and CRYBABIES TOO!” 

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“Florida’s Cubans” continues Michael Moore in his book, “Downsize This,” are responsible for “sleaze in American politics. In every incident of national torment that has deflated our country for the past three decades…Cuban exiles are always present and involved!”

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As a reward for fighting America’s most rabid enemy to their last bullet–and for refusing to insult the U.S. even under threat of firing squad–as a reward for this behavior America’s majority political party (Democrat) honored the man who spits on the memory of these freedom-fighters, their sacrifices and their families (Michael Moore.) This nauseating slob was feted as guest of honor in a skybox during the Democratic party’s  2004 national convention, where he sat next to Jimmy Carter.

“What?!” Khrushchev gasped on Oct. 28th 1962, as recalled by his son Sergei.

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“Is he (Fidel Castro) proposing that we start a nuclear war? That we launch missiles from Cuba?…But that is INSANE!..Remove them (our missiles) as soon as possible! Before it’s too late. Before something terrible happens!” commanded the Soviet premier.

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“Le RRRONCA!!!”

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“I read  Humberto Fontova’s book in two sittings. I couldn’t put it down.” (Mark Levin on Exposing the Real Che Guevara.)

Obama builds a foreign policy legacy of lower standards and betrayal of human rights in Cuba

John Suarez in Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter:

The Obama Legacy: Lowering standards and betraying human rights in Cuba

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There is a fundamental error by analysts that look at the Castro regime solely through the prism of U.S. – Cuba relations defined by economic sanctions without looking at the larger regional and international context.  This is especially the case with regards to human rights and the so-called “principle” of consistency in the light of perceived double standards. It seems that all who argue against double standards inevitably advocate lowering standards to the lowest common denominator never raising them.

Double standards as a code phrase for lowering standards
United States foreign policy in Saudi Arabia and China have, in the name of realpolitik, not been principled on the human rights front and led to outcomes disastrous for the United States. At the same time one must recognize that narrow and powerful interests have benefited financially from these arrangements. The argument advanced by those seeking to repeat the regrettable approach used in Saudi Arabia and China with Cuban foreign policy is one of consistency that results in ending a principled human rights policy in Cuba bringing it into line with other disastrous policies that have not served the just interests of the United States. To suggest that foreign policies in Saudi Arabia and China advance human rights at the expense of narrow economic interests is to be ignored or ridiculed. Meanwhile the President visits Vietnam and opens up weapon sales to the communist dictatorship while claiming to promote human rights there.

The Castro Regime’s War on Human Rights
In the larger international context historically providing the Castro regime a free pass in its outlaw behavior has negatively effected not only countries in the Americas and Africa, but also led to more international terrorism and the decline of international human rights standards.

Cuban governments prior to the Castro regime played an important role in advancing human rights regionally and internationally punching above their weight. Sadly the Castro regime has been successful in undermining this positive legacy.

This is not an accident but to be expected for a totalitarian dictatorship that has sought to duplicate its political model around the world and has been successful in Nicaragua, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador.

Continue reading HERE.

55th Sunday of repression in Cuba as U.S.-backed apartheid regime violently arrests peaceful human rights activists

Yesterday marked the 55th Sunday of repression in Cuba as the island’s human rights and democracy activists attempted to carry out their weekly peaceful protest march and were met with violence and repression by Cuban State Security. The U.S.-backed apartheid regime of the Castros has little to fear from President Obama in terms of reprisals or criticism for their violent oppression since the president’s new Cuba policy is focused solely on supporting and backing the murderous dictatorship. Nevertheless, even though Obama’s policy has left Cuba’s dissidents and opposition leaders at the mercy of their oppressors, they continue to take their struggle for freedom and liberty to the streets.

Martí Noticias has the report (my translation):

Repression against the Ladies in White did not cease on the 55th Sunday of #TodosMarchamos

Repressive forces watched the headquarters of the women’s movement in Havana. Several arrests were reported in the capital and in the Matanzas province.

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Thirteen Ladies in White and 4 other human rights activists were arrested on Sunday as they left the headquarters of the opposition movement in Havana’s Lawton neighborhood. They were on their way to participate in the 55th march of the #TodosMarchamos campaign.

Other members of the Ladies in White were arrested upon leaving their homes to make their way to the Santa Rita church to attend mass.

Agents from State Security and members of repressive forces had staked out the headquarters of the women’s movement from the early morning hours, a common practice that has been taken place for the last several weeks.

Reports on Twitter from former political prisoner Angel Moya, husband of Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White, show photographs of the police operation that blocked street access to the home in Lawton where the Ladies in White gather before their peaceful marches.

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State Security forces surround and stakeout the headquarters of the Ladies in White

Based on their strong belief that “our home is not a dungeon,” the activists took to the streets to march in spite of the police repression. Several of them were arrested.

Continue reading (in Spanish) HERE.

Same Cuba, same Castro regime

(My new American Thinker post)

Let’s do a quick before and after President Obama normalized relations with Cuba.

Before December 2014, there was a lot of repression in Cuba. Since then, there is still a lot of repression in Cuba. The only difference is the U.S. flag in an embassy in Havana.

We keep getting these reports from Cuba, as posted over at PanAm Post:

The Cuban police raided the national headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu), a civil dissidence group in opposition to Raúl Castro’s administration.

Without giving explanation, security confiscated three computers, two cell phones, a hard drive, passports and other hardware and records.

Arcelio Molina, an activist and owner of the property, told the newspaper Martí Noticias that police also seized the luggage of the youth leader Carlos Amel Oliva Torres, who traveled from Santiago de Cuba to Havana to take a flight to Argentina.

According to Molina, Oliva can’t travel, and has since been arrested.

This is the fourth time this year that state security has raided and confiscated Unpacu’s equipment.

Molina added that what has transpired is a classic “trampling” of citizens’ rights in the country, “where there are no laws or respect for the constitution on the part of the authorities.”

It’s hard to believe that the normalization supporters thought that you could change Cuba by saving the Castro regime. Let’s look at some of the arguments for normalization:

1) Opening up Cuba will be good for the Cuban people. Really? Is that why they continue to leave? There are nowCubans in Colombia looking to travel to the U.S.

2) Allowing US businesses to operate in Cuba will bring prosperity to the island. The idea is that Cubans would get a taste of capitalism and demand more of it. Really? There is no evidence that the Castro regime is allowing Cubans to play the capitalism game.

So where are we? We are watching the consequences of bailing out a regime and demanding nothing from it.

We are where many of us feared that we’d be!

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

Look just beyond Cuba’s tourist façade and you will find its victims of communism

You will not find the misery, poverty, and oppression that is the reality for Cuba’s 11-million slaves featured in any travel brochure. Nonetheless, it is quite easy to find if you are willing to look just past the rickety Potemkin Village façade put up by the apartheid Castro regime. Unfortunately, I believe it is a safe bet that the Americans flocking to see Cuba “before it is ruined” are in no way interested in seeing reality. Instead, just like visiting Disney World, they are only interested in indulging the fantasies they have had about Castro’s Cuba and spend a few days living in their make-believe socialist delusion.

Jonas Sundgaard in PanAm Post:

Beyond the Tourist Façade Are Cuba’s Victims of Communism

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Visitors to Havana should visit areas beyond the tourist zones and meet Cuba’s victims of communism.

Havana’s roads received a new layer of asphalt along the beautiful Prado Boulevard and the colorful buildings in Old Havana were shining brighter than ever prior to Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba. The decay and poverty in the city, however, is too prevalent and pervasive to be hidden by a quick make-over in honor of the first visit by a US president in 88 years.

Cuba offers exotic beaches, magnificently colored American vintage cars from the 1950’s, joyous salsa rhythms and iconic cigars. But this is largely a façade, behind which lies a very different reality. During a private trip to Cuba that coincided with Obama’s visit to the island, my wife and I got a small peek into real life under the communist Cuban regime.

My wife and I both speak Spanish, which provided us with ample opportunity to engage with the local Cubans. We gained an insight into the lives of the vast majority of Cubans who do not see as much as one peso of the billions that are now flowing into the country.

Even so, tourism is essential for Cuba. Without it, the country would probably be on the verge of famine. But while the tourism industry has raised the living standards of thousands of Cubans, it does not change the fact that most ordinary citizens still live a life of poverty with very few opportunities to change their fate and improve their general circumstances.

Going Beyond the Tourist Façade

One late afternoon, walking along the Malecón waterfront, my wife and I started a conversation with two Cuban brothers in their 30s. We were so fascinated with their story and their openness that we spent the rest of the evening and the following afternoon with them.

Both brothers were engineering graduates. One earned the equivalent of $16 US dollars a month, the other $22-25 dollars a month. That is less than half of the World Bank’s international poverty line of $1.90 USD a day, and the meager state-funded food rations hardly alleviate the hardship. An average Cuban public servant earns about $20-25 USD a month.

In contrast, the owners of “Casas Particulares” (private bed & breakfasts that rent rooms to tourists) make $25-30 dollars per rented room per night. This obviously creates an unsustainable situation in which the incentive to get an education disappears and where hard-working, well-educated Cubans see the prices of reasonable quality goods increase at such a pace that only those engaged in the tourism sector — or with the right connections to the communist regime — can afford to live a decent life.

Continue reading HERE.

Reports from Cuba: ‘I’m going to set fire to it and see what happens’

By Anddy Sierra Alvarez in Translating Cuba:

“I’m Going to Set Fire to It and See What Happens”

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Man throwing trash into the dumping ground.

The battle by Lumumba residents against the dumping of solid waste in the neighborhood is all but lost. The garbage dump, established three years ago, is bigger today and includes debris from roadwork done in the area.

According to residents, there were initially only twenty meters of trash, but today it covers more than a hundred. Local residents point to Comunales, the company in charge of collecting the solid waste, as the main cause for what is happening.

“They blame us for creating this dump but it’s not our fault. In this borough (Arroyo Naranjo) it’s Comunales; they are the ones responsible for all the waste here,” said Amelia Corrales, a resident of Lumumba.

“The problem is that we are black and that makes us scapegoats,” notes Yaima Lombillo, a resident of a neighborhood that is predominately dark-skinned. We either have to put up with it or set the trash ablaze to get the firemen to come, as happened three months ago.”

Enrique Peña, a worker at the local headquarters of the company, says that every three months they pick up all the refuse. “We come with a six-person brigade, two trucks and a bulldozer to collect the debris left there by residents. It takes us three hours and in the end everything is clean,” he said. Pity.

He continues, “We don’t throw our trash there but neither do we make sure that some of our workers aren’t dumping garbage there instead of going someplace further away.”

But the problem is that residents do see company workers dumping their trash.

“I passed there three times yesterday and there was a worker throwing garbage there instead of picking it up. When I returned, there was another one doing the same thing. We will continue living in filth and breeding more Aedes aegypti mosquitoes [carriers of dengue fever and the zika virus],” said Miguel Borroto, an area resident.

Local authorities have not responded to the problem. Attempts were made to speak to the local representative but he refused to discuss it. “I am very busy and am not going to my waste time talking to you,” said Alejandro, the area’s representative, when I asked him about the Lumumba dump.

Residents will have to make due with Comunales’ three-month schedule for cleaning an area which apparently its own employees are trashing. “I am not expecting much,” says Yaima Lombillo, “so I am going to set fire to it all and see what happens.”

Cuban author publishes book that has NOTHING to do with Cuba

A little bit of shameless self-promotion:

Something from my day job, my other self, the self who doesn’t have to deal with any Castro-related crap.

My safest, most comfortable exile, where there is no Batista, no Castro, no Castronoids, no Obama, no Pope Francis, no Cardinal Ortega, no Normalization Circus.

When I’m in the 16th and 17th centuries, there is plenty of other awful stuff to deal with, for sure, but while I’m there I’m most truly free of the Castro nightmare.

I began this project in 1999, and took time off the following summer to write “Kiss the Lizard, Jesus” (later published as “Waiting for Snow in Havana”).

If I hadn’t gone insane and written that other book about Cuba, and then another one of those books, this one might have been ready much sooner.  But it wouldn’t have been as good.

About the image on the cover: 15th century statue of St. Margaret, partially decapitated by Protestant iconoclasts in the 16th century, and buried outside a church in Essex, England.  It lay hidden from view, forgotten, until the 20th century, when it was found by accident, as repairs were being made to that church.

Of the thousands of images I considered for the cover, this one “speaks” most eloquently about the contents of the book, which is — at bottom — a book about the toll taken by all revolutions.

To get more information on it, go HERE

To order at a discount go HERE (Amazon)

Lifestyles of the Rich and Communist: North Korea’s communist party elite just as depraved as Cuba’s

Over the years, Babalú Blog has documented the depravity and debauchery of Cuba’s communist party elite as they jet around the world and enjoy every luxury money can buy while the Cuban people are kept in oppressive slavery with barely enough to eat. And since corruption, oppression, and slavery are the hallmarks of communism, it should not come as a surprise to anyone that North Korea’s communist party elite do the exact same thing.

Via The Washington Post:

North Korea’s one-percenters savor life in ‘Pyonghattan’

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Smartly uniformed women team up to make a pie at an upscale pizza restaurant on Mirae Scientists Street.

PYONGYANG, North Korea — They like fast fashion from Zara and H&M. They work out to be seen as much as to exercise. They drink cappuccinos to show how cosmopolitan they are. Some have had their eyelids done to make them look more Western.

North Korea now has a 1 percent. And you’ll find them in“Pyonghattan,” the parallel ­universe inhabited by the rich kids of the Democratic People’s Republic.

“We’re supposed to dress conservatively in North Korea, so people like going to the gym so they can show off their bodies, show some skin,” said Lee Seo-hyeon, a 24-year-old who was, until 18 months ago, part of Pyongyang’s brat pack.

Women like to wear leggings and tight tops — Elle is the most popular brand among women, while men prefer Adidas and Nike — she said. When young people go to China, they travel armed with shopping lists from their friends for workout gear.

At a leisure complex next to the bowling alley in the middle of Pyongyang, they run on the treadmills, which show Disney cartoons on the monitors, or do yoga.

The complex also has a fancy restaurant that advertises for wedding functions — glitzy ­venues cost as much as $500 an hour — and a coffee shop, where most drinks are priced between $4 and $8, although an iced mocha costs $9.

“It’s a cool spot. When you’re in there it feels like you could be anywhere in the world,” said Andray Abrahamian, who is British and helps run an exchange program that provides financial training to North Koreans. He recently played squash on one of the three courts at the center. “It’s not cheap. It’s a few dollars for a class. It’s definitely for people who have disposable income.”

North Korea as a whole remains economically backward — industry has all but collapsed, and even in Pyongyang, the official salary remains less than $10 a month — but the rise in recent years of a merchant class has created a whole layer of nouveaux riches in the capital city.

“Donju,” or “masters of money,” have emerged with the tentative moves toward becoming a market economy that began about 15 years ago but has picked up momentum under Kim Jong Un, the third-generation leader who took over the reins of North Korea at the end of 2011.

The donju usually hold official government positions — in ministries or the military, running state businesses abroad or trying to attract investment into North Korea. On the side, they trade in everything they can get their hands on, including flat-screen TVs and apartments.

Continue reading HERE.

Quote of the Day – Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet: Liberty in Cuba is a moral issue, not a political issue

Former Cuban prisoner of conscience and opposition leader Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet in Diario Las Americas (my translation):

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“That Obama is now acting in concert with the Castros weakens the democratic spirit of the U.S. before the world and for Cubans as well. There is an intellectual awakening taking place in Cuba that goes beyond economic necessities and many interpret Obama’s warm embrace with the tyrant as a sign that the U.S. has abandoned a people in search of liberty. […] Liberty is not a political issue, it is a moral issue…”