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:

“Cubano” Chi Chi Gonzalez wins his major league debut in Texas



It’s always a pleasure to watch Cubans or Cuban Americans excel in major league baseball.    On Saturday night, a young Cuban American from Florida was “fantastico” in his debut:

” ChiChi Gonzalez had an ideal Major League debut Saturday at Globe Life Park, holding the Red Sox hitless through the first five innings and eventually getting the win in the Rangers’ 8-0 victory.

Gonzalez, a first-round pick in 2013, went 5 2/3 innings, allowing only two hits and no runs to a Boston lineup that never got going.”

Alexander Gonzalez was born and raised in Boynton Beach, FL.    His parents were born in Cuba.   He said on the post game radio show that his “abuelo” gave him the nickname of “Chi Chi” when he was a baby.

By the way, his parents, and lots of family members, were at the game.

Gonzalez will turn 23 this year and has been a highly rated prospect in the Rangers organization.

Congratulations to young Chi Chi for a great job.  We’ve been anticipating his major league career for a couple of years.   We repeat that he is here to stay.

The 113th anniversary of Cuba’s independence & US-Latin America stories

Guests:  Fausta Rodriguez Wertz, editor of Fausta’s Blog….and Fernando Hernandez, author of “The Cubans, Our Footprints Across America, a book about the story of Cubans in the US…….we will look at the 113th anniversary of Cuba’s independence and remember some famous Cubans who came to the US……….also, the latest in US-Cuba talks plus a follow up on the events in Venezuela, Argentina and the murder of Mr Nisman, Brazil and the bad economy, Chile and a family scandal plus other stories from US-Latin America…..

Click to listen:

The life and times of Jose Marti

GUESTS:  Jorge Ponce, Cuban American writer and contributor to Babalu Blog, joins me for a chat with Professor Alfred Lopez about his new book, “Jose Marti, a revolutionary life”……….the book is in English and offers many Cuban Americans an opportunity to read about Marti……..

click to  listen:

Mr Halperin: Ted is not the only Cuban American who loves country music!



We understand that Mr Halperin has apologized.    I’m sure that Senator Cruz will accept it.   After all, Senator Cruz kept his cool during that stupid and silly interview.

I do have a message for Mr Halperin:    Ted Cruz is not the only Cuban American who likes country music.

I do too.  My bet is that lots of our Babalu readers enjoy it too.

It may come as a shock to Mr Halperin that Cubans are very diversified and open to new ideas, such as falling in love with something wonderful like Texas country music.

So here is one for Mr Halperin:   “Famous last words of a fool”



The left in full “freak-out mode” because Rubio & Cruz don’t look or sound “Hispanic”

Who told the left that Hispanics were all supposed to believe or sound the same way?

The bottom line is that Hispanics in the US are a diversified group of people.   We should respect our differences rather than engage in these attacks against those of us who didn’t buy into “hope and change”.    

Click to read:

The latest on US-Cuba talks with Jorge Ponce

GUEST:  Jorge Ponce, Cuban American writer and contributor to the Babalu blog, joins us for a discussion of US-Cuba talks………there are still very controversial issues dividing the two nations, such as Joanne Chesimard, the woman who killed a New Jersey state trooper and escaped to Cuba…..the Venezuela rift……human rights violations in Cuba…..concerns in the US Congress about normalization with Cuba…….

Click to listen:

A Babalu PSA: Rabies Alert

Ted Cruz Declares His Candidacy for President
Ted Cruz Declares His Candidacy for President

So finally the Miami Herald mentioned Ted Cruz’s presidential candidacy in the main page of their online edition.(!)

(I wouldn’t know about the print edition because I confess I haven’t looked at that fish wrap since April of 2000.)

And it goes something like this:

A Cuban, a Canadian, a white supremacist and a Chihuahua with rabies walk into a bar and the bartender says: “What will it be, Mr. Cruz?” … Then, he turns around and tells all the white trash in the bar to run for the hills.

It came in the form of a cautionary opinion hit piece by Andres  Oppenheimer warning Republicans, because you see, the well being of the Republican party is his primary concern, bless his heart, that if you sleep with dogs , you wake up with fleas. As we all know, it’s in the Miami Herald’s rich journalistic tradition to look out for the Republican party and to denigrate Cubans using canine metaphors.

Here’s the money quote: (emphasis mine)

The Canadian-born son of a Cuban father and a U.S.-born mother, Cruz — a first-term Republican senator from Texas — is one of the most rabid critics of President Obama’s executive action to regularize the legal status of up to 5 million undocumented immigrants, most of them Hispanic.

So, how does this newspaper stuff work anyway? Does the Herald call Oppenheimer and ask him to write an opinion piece on Cruz because he’s Latino Hispanic a Spic and Oppenheimer is also a Latino Hispanic a Spic and he can get away with saying he’s “rabid” without the risk of being called racist? Or is it that Cruz’s candidacy isn’t important enough to get an opinion hit piece by a real opinion journalist?

I mean there are so many more pressing issues going on for this niche Latino Hispanic  Spic commentator to expound upon. There’s the food shortages and long lines for essentials in Venezuela, the anti-government demonstration and unrest in Brazil,  the scandalous and suspicious  suicide  murder government hit of Alberto Misman in his own birthplace, Argentina, lots of stuff. But…I guess warning the Republican Party about evils that can befall it by associating with such a “rabid” Cuban-American trumps all these very Latino issues.

Oh well, like they say…you can’t teach an old dog new tricks…

Here’s my cautionary opinion hit piece: If you’re Cuban, please don’t buy the Miami Herald. If you need to wrap your fish or line your bird cage that badly, do it with one of those free real estate magazine things they give way at Publix. Or ask for paper and not plastic and use cartucho, por favor.