Rear my latest op-ed on this topic at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/racism-communist-cuba-pre-revolution-sin-jorge-ponce?trk=prof-post
Read my English translation of one of the most definitive articles on Cubans authored by the late Dr. Luis Aguilar León.
March 15, 2016 is a big day for Floridians. They will have a chance to vote for the GOP nominee. They will have an opportunity to vote for a native son with Cuban-American roots. Floridians will be able to vote for a candidate who cherishes democracy and capitalism for his country and other countries throughout the world. That candidate is U.S. Senator Marco Rubio. For Cuban-Americans in particular, Marco Rubio is “lo mejor de lo nuestro” (the best that we have to offer).
Marco Rubio is the one who can unite the Republican Party to defeat Candidate Hillary Clinton. Rubio is the one who wears his Cuban-American heritage on his sleeve everywhere that he campaigns — not just when he is in Cuban Mecca Miami. Rubio is the one who took the fight to “The Donald” to show him that his disparaging remarks have negative consequences.
I’ve penned two op-eds recently where I make the case for why Candidate Marco Rubio is what our country needs to retain its exceptionalism and to open the doors of opportunity to those who have been left behind.
See: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/cuban-american-enamored-freedom-democracy-jorge-ponce?trk=prof-post and, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/donald-trump-bernie-sanders-two-sides-same-drug-jorge-ponce?trk=prof-post
In interviews conducted by the Washington Post in wedding chapels and casinos … Mexicans who make up so much of the workforce said it would be far more meaningful to elect the first Mexican American president than the first Latino. Many said they would vote for a non-Latino over a Cuban American. In two days of interviews, not a single Mexican said he or she supported Rubio or Cruz.
Which brings me to the point of questioning the viability of the term “Hispanic/Latino” by the Federal Government. Specifically, if a Mexican-American gets a supervisory position in the federal sector, and he/she gets to choose between a Mexican-American and a Cuban-American applicant with the appropriate qualifications, will he/she choose a Mexican-American or a Cuban-American? Most of us understand that the idea of applicants having “equal qualifications” is impossible.
To read the Washington Post article, click on https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2016/01/10/32d20f8e-b4bc-11e5-a842-0feb51d1d124_story.html?wpmm=1&wpisrc=nl_daily202
It is not often that you’ll see me agree with a Che Guevara saying. After reading the article below, I agree with Che that “no se vive de esfuerzos, sino de resultados (one does not measure success by the efforts, but by the results). The Cuban Revolution under Fidel and Raul Castro has turned out to be “La Gran Estafa” (a big rip-off) for the Cuban people.
Read the New Yorker article HERE.
Following is a magnificent interview conducted in Berlin, Germany in 2003, by Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez. While I disagree with Yoani when it comes to the lifting of the U.S. embargo, I respect her daily fight against the repression in Communist Cuba. She cited a famous saying by Cuban Founding Father José Martí: “Subir montañas, hermana a los hombres.” [Fighting for a just cause triggers the brotherhood of mankind]. Her cause – fighting for the restoration of freedom and democracy to Cuba – is my cause as well. She describes herself as bridge through dialogue. While you may not agree with each other through dialogue, it opens a window of understanding to the other side. Many people have asked me why I write so much, and I’m glad that Yoani used the same logic to respond: writing is a catharsis for my being a citizen of the world.
To listen to the interview, click on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pbo03RidoD0
President Obama’s 2015 National Hispanic Heritage Month Proclamation addresses the contributions that “America’s Hispanic community” has made to our country. Therefore, one must ask why the President has opted to host Communist Cuba’s Buena Vista Social Club at a White House function tonight. One can draw only one conclusion, the President prefers to embrace Cubans from a Communist country rather that freedom-loving Cuban-Americans from the United States.
But the President can’t help himself. In the 2015 proclamation, he brags as one of his accomplishments the fact that “we are expanding the cultural, economic, and familial ties that so many Hispanic Americans share with Latin America by entering a new chapter of engagement and cooperation with Cuba.” Once again, the President shows no respect for freedom-loving Cuban-Americans.
And now you have an inkling as to why I dislike President Obama so much!
To read the 2015 White House proclamation, click on https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/09/15/presidential-proclamation-national-hispanic-heritage-month-2015
Bombarded by the 24-hour news cycle on the Popemania, I was moved to listen to Pope Francis’ address to a Joint Session of the U.S. Congress on September 24, 2015.
Having said this, I must admit that I was not favorably inclined to listen to this Pope for his failure to rise to the occasion during his Cuban visit. He refused to meet with the Ladies in White and with other human-rights activists who have been fighting the oppression of the Castro regimes and religious persecution. He invoked “reconciliation” to the Cuban people — ignoring the fact that what they need is FREEDOM. The Pope’s demeanor in Communist Cuba was not that of a man of courage. His continued criticism of capitalism and his silence on communism show his biases and his preferred ideology.
When asked why he had not met with human-rights dissidents during his stay in Cuba, Pope Francis responded that “”It was very clear I was not holding private audiences in the nunciature — not even with other heads of state.” And, yet, Pope Francis did meet with Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, DC. This provides more evidence where Pope Francis’ loyalties are – definitely not with democratic forces.
There are signs that Pope Francis offered us to let us know where his sympathies are. By meeting with Fidel Castro, the Pope gave a pass to the former Cuban dictator who closed all Catholic schools and universities, as well as expelled 131 priests, brothers, and a bishop on a freighter bound for Spain in 1961. According to the church’s statistics, the number of priests in Cuba decreased from 723 in 1960 to 220 in 1965. By reaching out to Fidel, Pope Francis betrayed the sacrifices of many Catholic youngsters who died at the hands of firing squads at La Cabaña prison to shouts of “Viva Cristo Rey.” Pope Francis sided with the key enemy of the Catholic Church in Cuba.
And here is yet another clue as to why I don’t trust Pope Francis. When he visited Bolivia, he accepted as a gift a Marxist crucifix from President Evo Morales — one shaped with the Communist hammer and sickle. It was Karl Marx who called religion the opium of the masses. Religion and communism are incompatible with each other, and, yet, Pope Francis said that he was not offended by Evo’s gesture. You see, Pope Francis remembers to talk about “politics” only when he is away from totalitarian-run countries. To him, the enemy of the people is capitalism, not communism!
Getting back to Pope Francis’ speech to Congress, I was glad when he mentioned leading civil-rights champions in our Nation’s history, like former President Abraham Lincoln and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Both of these were Americans whom I have always admired.
But then, the Pope threw me a curve ball when he mentioned Dorothy Day. At first, I thought that the Pope’s lack of proficiency with the English language had triggered a mispronunciation of a famous American. I was certain that the Pope meant to recognize the popular actress of the 1950s and 1960s Doris Day. She was a favorite of mine, too.
On second thought, I thought that Doris Days did not belong next to the names of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr., unless, she had done some momentous acts in our history that I was unfamiliar with. So, I went back and checked Doris Day’ biography, and I could not find any. Her fame was mainly in the film industry.
My first clue that helped me to solve my dilemma came when I heard that U.S. Senator and self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders had left the House chamber beaming because the Pope had cited an American Catholic whom Sanders had plenty of praise of. The Senator indicated that the name “Dorothy Day has not been used in the United States Congress terrible often.” Sanders went on to say that “She was a valiant fighter for workers, was very strong in her belief for social justice, and I think it was extraordinary that he cited her as one of the most important people in recent American history. This would be one of the very, very few times that somebody as radical as Dorothy Day was mentioned.”
Now that I had the correct name, I did a bit of research on Dorothy Day. And I came up with one of Day’s famous saying during the 1970s:
“The two words [anarchist-pacifist] should go together, especially at this time when more and more people, even priests, are turning to violence, and are finding their heroes in Camillo Torres among the priests, and Che Guevara among laymen. The attraction is strong, because both men literally laid down their lives for their brothers. “Greater love hath no man than this.””
And, now, I am more convinced than ever as to why I admired Pope John II. Regarding Pope Francis, I am not a fan. Anyone who mentioned an American who looked up to Che Guevara cannot be a friend of mine or of freedom-loving Cuban-Americans.
According to the Wall Street Journal — “Vatican disputes White House guest list for papal visit,” by Francis X. Rocca: “On the eve of Pope Francis’s arrival in the U.S., the Vatican has taken offense at the Obama administration’s decision to invite to the pope’s welcome ceremony transgender activists, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop and an activist nun who leads a group criticized by the Vatican for its silence on abortion and euthanasia…According to a senior Vatican official, the Holy See worries that any photos of the pope with these guests at the White House welcoming ceremony next Wednesday could be interpreted as an endorsement of their activities.”
Where was the Vatican rage when Bolivian President Evo Morales gave him an image of the crucified Christ featuring the Communist hammer and sickle?
Now that Pope Francis has become a buddy of President Obama, he’s finding out that worst thing anyone can do is become a friend of the President. Obama is kinder and gentler with his enemies than with his friends.
Listen to what the Reverend had to say about Puerto Ricans. He is one of President Obama’s senior advisors, having visited the White House over 60 times. And now, you’ll understand clearly why the President has made such poor decisions.
The Obama administration asked Richard Blanco, the son of Cuban immigrants, to write a poem for the reopening of the U.S. Embassy in “La Obama,” Cuba, on August 14th, 2015. Blanco, who read his poem “One Today” at President Obama’s second inauguration, indicated that this second request “was the hardest and easiest poem I have had to write.”
It is shameful that Blanco has allowed himself to be manipulated by the Obama administration. Perhaps, Blanco is more interested in himself than in the plight of the Cuban people. Indeed, it is ironic that Secretary Kerry refused to invite Cuban dissidents to the official flag-raising ceremony at the U.S. embassy. It is the Cuban dissidents who deserve to read their poems at this official ceremony.
Blanco should be reminded of the words of Cuban Founding Father José Martí regarding visiting an enslaved Cuba:
“To set foot in the house of the oppressor is to justify the oppression. As long as a people have not conquered its rights, he/she who visits the house of those who trample on his/her rights to party and have a good time is an enemy of the people. “
If President Obama’s goal was to bring the Cuban and the Cuban-American closer together, he has failed miserably. Blanco’s actions have set them apart.
Between 1960 and 1962, Cuban parents sent approximately 14,000 children unaccompanied to the United States to rid them of the Communist indoctrination in Communist Cuba. Many were relocated to live with relatives, while others were placed in foster homes and orphanages. Some were reunited with their parents later, while some never saw their parents again. This is what I call making the ultimate sacrifice by these parents for their kids to live in a free society!
To me, it is inconceivable that some of these Pedro Pan kids nowadays have positive views of the Cuban dictators. It is inconceivable to me that some of them even have favorable views of the Obama/Castro opening. Like my friends in Santo Suarez would say, ¡Le zumba el mango!
While this is a right granted to all in a democracy, I place my trust and admiration in Pedro Paners like Willy Chirino who is still faithful to his parents’ ideals of returning only to a Cuba Libre.
“U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on Tuesday said it will no longer require incoming U.S. citizens to pledge that they will ‘bear arms on behalf of the United States’ or ‘perform noncombatant service’ in the Armed Forces as part of the naturalization process. Those lines are in the Oath of Allegiance that people recite as they become U.S. citizens. But USCIS said people ‘may’ be able to exclude those phrases for reasons related to religion or if they have a conscientious objection.”
I think that patriotic Americans should contact their congressmen(women) to insist that President Obama fire the agency’s director, Leon Rodriguez, over the apparent change. Rodriguez is a Cuban-American who does not have my vote.
Rodriguez was born in 1962 in Brooklyn, N.Y. to Cuban immigrants. When he was four years old, Rodriguez moved with his parents to Miami, where they ran a business. He attended Brown University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in History in 1984. Rodriguez received his J.D. from Boston College in 1988.
Cuba is now front and center in the United States. Not a day goes by when there is not an article on Cuba from a major media outlet or a press release from a federal agency. With a major lobbying blitz underway to lift the U.S. embargo on Cuba, Cuban-Americans who insist on the maintenance of a hardline policy towards Cuba are viewed as pariahs to progress. They have become stumbling blocks to the new honeymoon that is now in vogue in the United States with everything pertaining to Cuba. These Cuban-Americans have been called all kinds of pejoratives – from Batista sympathizers to unauthentic Hispanics.
But, Cuban-Americans have been exposed to so much suffering that the cat-calls by some biased and uninformed Americans will not deter them from exposing the suffering of the Cuban people at the hands of the Castro brothers or discussing their own hardships in the Diaspora. It is difficult to comprehend the anger and resentment felt by most Cuban-Americans without having experienced a similar odyssey. But, make no mistake about it, their anger and resentment are well-justified.
With the following heartfelt story of a heinous act committed by the Cuban authorities against a close family member, it is my intent to explain the deep distrust that exists between the Cuban Government and Cuban-Americans — which cannot be bridged by happy talk and the reopening of embassies.
While this is a small example of the hardships that most Cuban-Americans have suffered, it serves to illustrate their saga by recounting a personal story.
My late father, Claudio Ponce, led a life of comfort that he closely cultivated by mingling with movers and shakers in La Habana. Shortly after Fidel Castro rose to power in 1959, my father, at age 42, made the painful decision to take us out of the country for good. My parents strongly believed that it was unacceptable to turn over the upbringing of their children to the Communist state. They realized the evil of a Government that was intent on inculcating in the minds of its youth that Communism was the religion of the enlightened many and that complete submission to the wishes of the Government offered the only guarantee to a successful life.
And, while I did not see eye-to-eye with my late father on many issues, I respect his decision to take us out of this Cuban Inferno. Many of my close friends have speculated that with my rebellious personality and with my perennial quest to fight for just causes, I would have been shot by a firing squad or thrown in prison if I had remained in Cuba. I am not an individual who easily succumbs to someone’s plan or ideology. I am free, I enjoy saying I do, I don’t, I will, or I won’t. I have never aspired to be just a space, a no one, a number, a sheep. Living in the United States has allowed me to thrive academically and professionally, and to now enjoy a happy retirement in Florida. For this, I offer my eternal gratitude to my parents.
My father never adjusted to the American way of life. He never mastered the English language, and had to take a downgrade in his employment status because his accounting degree was not from a U.S.-accredited university.
To bring meaning to his life in the United States, he immersed himself in activities having to do with Cuba. He became president of the Casa Cuba of Washington, DC – a Cuban-American organization that promoted the history and culture of Cuba. He brought to the DC area many renowned Cuban-American cultural idols of pre-1959 Cuba, including mounting a musical show in 1976 at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to honor our Nation’s bicentennial. Over the years, Salsa Queen Celia Cruz, Mr. Babalú Miguelito Valdés, Fernando Albuerne, and Xiomara Alfaro serenated Cuban-American audiences in the Nation’s capital.
My father’s response to the existential question of how he would be remembered was that he kept the Cuban roots alive in the hearts of the Cuban-Americans in the DC area. While he devoted many hours to bringing joy to the Cuban-American exiles, he, nevertheless, felt the need to keep Cuba alive in his own soul.
Part of my father’s nostalgia emanated from the fact that it was in the Cuba BC (Before Castro) that he accomplished most of his dreams. It was in this Spanish-speaking society that my father was at the top of his game. He was respected by all, led a successful life, was married to a professional woman who was ahead of her times, and had two healthy children to brag about. Life was good back then.
But the good times came to an end when he emigrated to the United States in 1966 – a country with a different culture, different language, and a different way of looking at things. To alleviate his homesickness, he yearned for four oil paintings that he had left in my aunt’s house in La Habana. With them around him, he thought he would feel more like the man that he had been in Cuba.
While he painted many oil paintings, he took immense pride in these four. He painted them with the mentoring of Valentín – a graduate of the famous San Alejandro Academy, considered the oldest and most prestigious fine arts school in Cuba. The four paintings depicted scenes from the Mediterranean – as he was fond of seascapes because he was born in a fishing town in Cuba (Caibarién). He felt at peace with himself when he was near the sea.
In any country in the world where democracy is the law of the land, artists have sole ownership of their creations. My father felt an emotional connection with his paintings, and he liked to keep them all. To him, there was no price tag to compensate him for the spiritual connection that he felt with his paintings. But, in Communist Cuba, you gave sole ownership of all your personal possessions to the Cuban Government after emigrating to United States. This was their way of punishing Cuban-Americans who left and went to live with the Great Satan — the Yankee Imperialists!
Based on Cuban law, my father’s paintings belonged to my aunt while she remained in Cuba. My father realized that this was a problem. But, there is always a solution to even the most difficult challenges.
On one of my mother’s trips to visit her mother in La Habana, my father concocted a subterfuge to get the paintings out by concealing them in my mother’s luggage. To play it safe, my mother hid just two of the paintings after removing their frames. And, it worked!
My father was so happy at having two of his paintings with him again that he invited some of his relatives and friends in Miami to a viewing and a toast at his home. On this special day, my father looked and felt younger. He had a defiant look in his smile. He felt good at the fact that he had defeated the Cuban Communists at their own game. There was a sparkle in his eye projecting a feeling that he could take on any obstacle thrown in his path. Once again, he felt like he was in charge of his own destiny!
But success breeds overconfidence. And, so, my father planned the next secret mission with my mother to bring back the remaining two paintings on her next trip to Cuba. While my mother followed the same protocol as the first time and hid the two paintings in her bags, the Cuban security agents at the airport discovered her plot and forbade her from taking them out of the country.
To my father’s extreme chagrin, these two paintings are now the property of the Cuban Government. Although my aunt in La Habana was still alive (she has now passed away) and could have kept the paintings, the Cuban officials wanted to punish my mother by confiscating them. My father never got over this extreme humiliation, and he passed away dreaming of his two lost paintings!
My father speculated that one reason that could explain the Cuban agents’ action was that they may have thought that the paintings were the work of a very famous Cuban painter by the name of Fidelio Ponce de León. But to my father, his paintings meant more to him than those painted by this Cuban master. To his immediate family, these lost paintings were part of his legacy.
The confiscation of two of my father’s paintings was unjustified and at odds with the property rights that prevail in capitalist societies. These paintings belong in a Ponce home, and not sitting in a Communist Cuban residence.
Some legal scholars opine that in a Cuba Libre, the Cuban Government would have to arrange for the restitution of stolen properties to their rightful owners. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word “restitution” as a legal action serving to cause restoration of a previous state. This is impossible. These four paintings were the crowning jewel of my father’s collection. Every time that he looked at them, he felt great joy and pride. But such powerful feelings were felt by a father who was at the prime of his life in his beloved country and in his enchanted city – La Habana. When he left Communist Cuba, he lost his soul. Thus, there is no way that anyone could offer restitution or restoration to a previous state. My father is no longer alive.
The rightful compensation that the Cuban Government could offer would be the reunification of my father’s paintings with my family. It is only my mother, my sister, and I who can keep alive my father’s legacy with our children. We deserve to have his paintings in our households. This is where they belong!
I am optimistic that the other two paintings that remain in the possession of the Cuban Government will be returned to the Ponce family in the near future. I am a believer in the redemption of the human race and sinners.
My father’s two beloved paintings are proudly displayed in my living room. They are a testament to my father’s artistry and a constant reminder of the sacrifices that he endured so that I could become the man that I am today. I am honored and humbled to look at them each day.