Thoughts of a “refugiado cubano” about the refugees of Europe

A friend asked me yesterday:  Why would a Cuban immigrant, or political refugee like you, want to keep out others fleeing a civil war?   He was referring to my American Thinker post making sure that ISIS does not exploit this crisis to put terrorists in Europe.
It is a fair question and I said this:
First, Cubans generally came in an orderly wave.  Our family spent 2 months in Jamaica waiting to be processed to the U.S.
The Cubans who came in The Freedom Flights were processed in Miami and generally had families vouching for them.   Furthermore, they arrived in 2 flights a day, about 200 in total, and were quickly absorbed into the Miami economy.     These Cubans, and all of the others, have been successful additions to the US.
On the other hand, the Mariel boat lift of 1980 was chaotic and did bring many criminal elements to the U.S.   We repeat that 99% of the people of Mariel were decent but there is always a small number in a large crowd with bad intentions.
Again, let’s do the humanitarian thing but remember who is waiting to take advantage of the situation.   Yes, ISIS is sitting back and looking for a little crack here and there to send the kinds of people who blow up building and commit horrific crimes.
My heart is open to any refugee or anyone fleeing a repressive regime.   Again, let’s keep an eye on ISIS!
P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

Baseball cubano update: Campaneris played all 9 positions 50 years ago today!


It’s easy to overlook just how good Bert “Dagoberto (Blanco)” Campaneris really was.  He batted first and was a critical component of the Oakland A’s who won 3 straight World Series titles, 1972-1973-1974.    

During his great career, he had 2,249 hits and 646 stolen bases.   His batting average of .259 was quite respectable for a shortstop of that era, or a time when most of them were known for their glove and legs rather than bat.    He played in the post-season 7 times.   He was always in the middle of everything as any Oakland A’s fan will tell you.

On this in 1965, Bert played all 9 positions.   He pitched one inning and gave up a run.   Overall, a very rare performance for a major leaguer.

Happy # 78 to Diego Segui


Let’s remember Diego Segui from Holguin.   He was another one of those Cubans who pitched in the US major leagues:   Segui won 92 games, saved 71 with a 3.81 ERA.  

He broke in with the Kansas City A’s (now Oakland A’s) in 1962 but left his mark in the city of Seattle.    

Segui is the answer to a great baseball trivia question:   Who pitched on opening day for the old Seattle Pilots in 1969 and the current Seattle Mariners who started playing in 1977?

Here is the story:

“The city of Seattle (Washington) has been home to two Major League franchises.

The Seattle Pilots, who were an American League team based in Seattle, Washington for one season, 1969, before being relocated to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

And the modern day Seattle Mariners, an American League team also based in Seattle, Washington, 1977 through today.   

Diego Segui is the only player in baseball history to play for both the Seattle Pilots (66 games pitched in 1969) and the Seattle Mariners (40 games pitched in 1977).   

Even more unique than that, Diego Segui played in both franchises Opening Day game, appearing in relief on April 8, 1969, the first game in franchise history for the Seattle Pilots, and was handed the loss on April 6, 1977, the first game in franchise history for the Seattle Mariners.”

Our family lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and I remember watching Segui in 1970-71 with the Oakland A’s.     He appeared in the 1971 ALCS with Oakland and in the 1975 World Series with Boston.

Diego retired in 1977 after pitching with a few other teams.   I don’t know where he is living now.

He will be always be remembered in Seattle.   He is the only man who wore the Pilots and Mariners uniforms on their respective opening day games!

Cuban-American Poet in Havana on August 14th

Marti Quote

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.


Some Pedro Paners’ Nonsensical Views on Communist Cuba

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.

This Cuban-American Is Not On My Team

“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.

Open Letter to President Obama by Alain Castillo

Alain Castillo is a young man in Texas…….he was born in Florida and now lives in Texas….he wrote this letter to show his disapproval of Presiddent Obama’s approach toward Cuba.

Open Letter to President Obama regarding the opening of embassies, bilateral relations

By Alain Castillo

Mr. President, I write to you as a Millennial, who like others, didn’t get hired in their college dream job after graduation and who has loan debt to payoff. I also write to you as a former supporter who believed (and voted) for you in 2008. Lastly, I also write to you as a non-elitist, humble man of Cuban heritage. In other words, I fit the criteria to have your attention.

This week, I write to you to show disdain, disagreement, dissent and disapproval for your “new” Cuban policy, especially the opening of the US and Cuban embassies in each country this week.

Before I begin, I would like to share some history about my background. Mr. President, my mother and father’s lives were of humble background in Cuba. Both of them grew up poor in Cuba, –my mother growing up in a farm and my father in a poor town. My father had dreamed of becoming a General for the Constitutional Republic of Cuba; a loyal soldier just like my grandfather.

Yet, in 1959, all of their lives would change as a secret communist revolution took over Cuba socially, economically and politically. I can write on-and-on over this, but one simple truth has remained since that time: NOTHING HAS CHANGED FOR THE BETTERMENT OF CUBANS.

Neither my mother nor father benefitted from the “Hope and Change” forced upon them by the Castro regime so they packed their bags with only a suitcase full of clothes and they looked forward to real “hope and change” that awaited them in the land of the free, over 30 years ago.

After your Dec. 17, 2014 announcement stating that your State Department team would spearhead the effort to normalize relations with Cuba, there have been many opinions where the pros and cons have been expressed by members of the Cuban exile community, Congress, academia, media outlets, human rights groups, dissidents and pro-Cuban government lobbyist groups, such as the Cuban Study Group.

So far, as of July 2015, just as in 1959, NOTHING HAS CHANGED FOR THE BETTERMENT OF CUBANS.

There have been so many arrests since the December 2014 announcement that the Cuban government is labeling prisoners as “common criminals.”

Mr. President, I have spent a lot of time considering the best things to say in response to this action by your administration in an effort to not be redundant because so far everything, but the kitchen sink, has been discussed. I do not want to argue against your character nor where your heart is since it will not be futile or necessary.

What I will argue is for common sense.

To be honest, the “re-opening of the US and Cuban embassies” really is an upgrade of government facilities of both countries. This is more symbolic than anything, but it has been described by your critics, such as author Humberto Fontova, to be questioned on its legal basis. This view has even given more fuel to the fire of others’ opinions overall that “you choose the laws that will be enforced.”

In his article, “Is Diplomatic Recognition of Cuba Even Legal?”, Fontova shared that the Cuban Liberty and Solidarity Act of 1996, Section 201 (13) declares that any easing of a diplomatic relationship with Cuba relies on the fact that “there exists a democratically elected government in Cuba.”

Next, Section. 201 (13) states that “The satisfactory resolution of property claims by a Cuban Government recognized by the United States remains an essential condition for the full resumption of economic and diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba.”

US law clearly shows that this move is not only pre-mature, but un-American. I ask this question: What precedent will this new move take for future US administrations? How will we treat Cuba after the Obama era? What if a new President declares this move illegal?

Overall, this move only further legitimizes the Cuban revolutionary government and does not honor the Cuban people at all. Not only that, it will cause more problems.

For example, will Cubans be able to ask for asylum upon entering US sovereign soil or will they be pushed away? What were the agreements made between the two parties that gave a go ahead for this move? Will Cuban government officials be given a chance to freely travel to the US to continue harassing members of the Cuban American exile community?

What comes next as dangerous is the actual normalization of relations with Cuba. Mr. President, as a forbearer of “Hope and Change” you have negotiated with a government that has US blood on their hands where their families of the Brothers to the Rescue pilots never received any justice.

The only thing this move has caused is many headaches, beatings and blood spilled in Cuban streets. Mr. President, as a matter of respect, I implore you to stand with the grassroots Cuban dissident movement to force real “Hope and Change” on the island. Do not back down from these egotistical maniacs, but stand up for the Cuban people.

It’s good to hear from young Cuban Americans like Alain…….

Happy # 75 to Tony Oliva

We remember 3-time batting champ Tony Oliva.    He won batting titles in 1964, 1965 and 1971.   Unfortunately, injuries cut short his career in the 1970s.    

He finished  his career with a .304 average, 1917 hits, 220 Hrs & 947 Rbi.  

What if he had played 2,500 games rather than 1,676?  

The answer is 3,000 hits and probably  one or two more batting titles.    

One of the greatest Cuban players in major league history!



Ponce Painting 1


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.  


The latest in US-Cuba talks with Jorge Ponce & Alain Castillo

Guests:  Jorge Ponce, Cuban American writer and contributor to Babalu Blog…….plus Alain Castillo, young Cuban American raised in Miami now living in Texas………..join me for the latest in US-Cuba talks…….talk of a embassies opening soon………repression in Cuba……….doing business in Cuba……..dissidents in Cuba……….Cuba-Venezuela relations today…….Cuba and Latin America…


Feliz Dia del Padre: Fathers matter now more than ever


Cuba 1950’s……..Sagua la Grande, Las Villas……….my grandfather Silvio, my father Silvio and a little baby Silvio enjoy a lovely day…….my grandfather died suddenly in 1957 and did not live to see the horror that hit Cuba in 1959……

We remember today our Cuban fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and all of those great men in our lives.

Our Cuban generation was blessed with great men……we remember them today…….click to read my salute to my father: