La Isla de Pinos, the other island of Cuba


For many of us, La Isla de Pinos is the place where many of our relatives spent time in Castro’s political prisons.   In the late 1960s, Castro changed the name to “La Isla de la Juventud” trying to turn the isolated island into some kind of indoctrination school for young minds.

Today, the small island is detached from Cuba and the rest of the world.

I found this article rather interesting and instructive.  It taught me a few things about the island and its complicated history:

“Some places are blessed by geography, with a deep harbor, mighty river or abundant natural resources.  Then there are places where geography is more of a curse. In the absence of any distinctive feature or economic purpose, they appear like a blank slate, inviting grandiose schemes and outsize ambitions.  Cuba’s Isla de la Juventud, the “Isle of Youth,” is one of those places.”

We often forget about La Isla de Pinos.  Yet, it sits there as another exhibit of the total and complete failure of  Castro’s policies.

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

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:

Great Book of José Martí

Marti Book

Professor López did an outstanding job researching this book. I had tried reading Jorge Mañach’s book on Martí in the past, but I could only understand only 5% of its content. Its Spanish was so erudite, that it was burdensome for Cuban-American like myself to get the gist of it. This is not to detract in any way from Mañach’s book, which many judge to be the definitive book on Martí (in Spanish).

What makes López’ book so wonderful is that it is the first written in English. Moreover, López looked up to Martí as a man — with all his frailties and genius. Thus, he added another dimension to Martí that up to now was unknown. Rather than detracting from his persona, López made him better understood and relatable.

Anyone who is anxious to find out the racial dimensions of the Cuban struggle for independence from Spain and on Martí’s thoughts should read this book.

You can purchase your copy at

1959: Castro sworn in but he was never elected…..

We remember today a sad day in Cuban  history:

“On February 16, 1959, Fidel Castro is sworn in as prime minister of Cuba after leading a guerrilla campaign that forced right-wing dictator Fulgencio Batista into exile.

Castro, who became commander in chief of Cuba’s armed forces after Batista was ousted on January 1, replaced the more moderate Miro Cardona as head of the country’s new provisional government.”

It was a sad day for two reasons:

1) There was no legal rationale for it.   Castro was never elected.  It would have made more sense to restore the 1940 Constitituion and then hold elections.    Perphaps Castro would have won given his immense popular appeal but there are no guarantees.

2) Castro learned that day that he was “la ley” or the law.  He immediately governed with a demagogic tone and delayed elections until he declared himself a Marxist Lennist in 1961.  His “appointment” to Prime Minister also cemented “the cult of personality” that eventually destroyed the Cuba of our parents and grandparents.

Yes, a very sad day.


1898: Remember The Maine

On this day in 1898, US and Cuba politics came together because of the “Maine”:

“A massive explosion of unknown origin sinks the battleship USS Maine in Cuba’s Havana harbor, killing 260 of the fewer than 400 American crew members aboard……..

Within three months, the United States had decisively defeated Spanish forces on land and sea, and in August an armistice halted the fighting.

On December 12, 1898, the Treaty of Paris was signed between the United States and Spain, officially ending the Spanish-American War and granting the United States its first overseas empire with the ceding of such former Spanish possessions as Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines.”

Cubans finally celebrated independence on May 20, 1902.





In defense of ‘white and privileged’ Cuban-Americans


It’s time to put the left on suicide watch, because they are saying and writing some rather stupid things.

The latest is Ann Louise Bardach, author and columnist.  She just wrote an article over at the NY Times (where else?) about Cuban Americans:

Most Americans are under the impression that the Republican Party is unequivocally opposed to amnesty for immigrants. In fact, it has long backed a blanket amnesty — but only for Cubans. For every other hopeful immigrant, the party’s message has been clear: “Deportations, deportations, deportations,” to quote Jorge Ramos, the Walter Cronkite of Spanish-language television. Why?
One answer is that the 2.1 million Cuban-Americans have been, until quite recently, a rock-solid Republican constituency. There is also a race and class issue. Unlike most of Central and Latin America, Cuba does not have a distinct indigenous population (the Spanish slaughtered almost all of the native Indians of the island). Hence those fleeing the Castro regime in the 1960s and ’70s were almost entirely white, educated and middle or upper class.

I guess that Ms Bardach is saying that we Cubans are too white and “GOPish.”  This is apparently why white GOP members of Congress give Cuban Americans special immigration consideration.

As I recall, those measures were passed under the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.  They also had bipartisan support.

Did Ms. Bardach miss the Cold War? the Missile Crisis? Cuban troops fighting wars in Africa? a North Korean ship stopped in Panama after leaving Cuba with weapons in violation of U.N. agreements? Cuba on U.S. State Department list of terrorist nations?

Yes, Cubans were treated differently because we were leaving a communist dictatorship.  That’s not the case for other Latin American countries.  We were treated like political refugees rather than those who come here for work.  (I’m not saying anything critical about those who want to come here to work.  I’m simply explaining that our situation was different, and seen differently by the U.S. Congress.)

First of all, I’m sure that my parents, and so many like them, will be shocked to learn that they were privileged.  My father, like so many others, worked two jobs, including a night job as a bellboy at a hotel.  My late uncle picked tomatoes in Florida.  I’m talking about men who had professional careers in Cuba.

The US simply gave us an opportunity, and my parents took it.  That’s not privilege!  That’s America!

Second, there is a reason why so many Cubans, like my parents, were educated and middle-class.  The answer is the pre-Castro Cuban economy that Ms. Bardach does not know a darn thing about.  Maybe Ms. Bardach should stop learning Cuban history from the Castro regime or The Godfather II.  (Great movie, but very inaccurate Cuban history.)

Before Castro destroyed the Cuban economy with “hope and change,” the island enjoyed a lot of prosperity, or the kind of economy that would produce middle-class and educated people who would leave communism if they could.

Let’s check out Cuba before Castro:

In the 1950’s Cuba was, socially and economically, a relatively advanced country, certainly by Latin American standards and, in some areas, by world standards.

  • Cuba’s infant mortality rate was the best in Latin America — and the 13th lowest in the world.
  • Cuba also had an excellent educational system and impressive literacy rates in the 1950’s.
  • Pre-Castro Cuba ranked third in Latin America in per capita food consumption.
  • Cuba ranked first in Latin America and fifth in the world in television sets per capita.
  • Pre-Castro Cuba had 58 daily newspapers of differing political hues and ranked eighth in the world in number of radio stations.


  • Cuba’s infant mortality rate of 32 per 1,000 live births in 1957 was the lowest in Latin America and the 13th lowest in the world, according to UN data. Cuba ranked ahead of France, Belgium, West Germany, Japan, Austria, Italy, and Spain.
  • In 1955, life expectancy in Cuba was among the highest at 63 years of age; compared to 52 in other Latin American countries, 43 in Asia, and 37 in Africa.
  • In terms of physicians and dentists per capita, Cuba in 1957 ranked third in Latin America, behind only Uruguay and Argentina — both of which were more advanced than the United States in this measure. Cuba’s 128 physicians and dentists per 100,000 people in 1957 was the same as the Netherlands, and ahead of the United Kingdom (122 per 100,000 people) and Finland.

Cuba has been among the most literate countries in Latin America since well before the Castro revolution, when it ranked fourth.

So why are so many of our Cuban parents educated?  Maybe it’s because they came from a country with high levels of education!

We’ve never said that pre-Castro Cuba was perfect.  We just remind you that people leaving in rafts was not a part of that Cuba that my parents grew up in.

It is true that most of the Cubans who left were white.  The answer to that is that 64% of Cubans are white, according to the CIA Country Report.

 It should not come as a shock to anyone familiar with Cuban history that there are so many white Cubans, or people like me whose grandparents settled on the island.  Cuba benefited from large numbers of Spanish and other European immigrants, who came to the island in the 19th and 20th centuries, as related by Dr. Carlos Eire:

Between 1900 and 1930, the first three decades of Cuban independence, about one million immigrants flooded into the island, mostly European, and mostly northern Spaniards.
This population tsunami also included Asians, Levantines, and Jews.
These immigrants doubled the population of the island and changed its complexion, literally. Tens of thousands of immigrants continued to flow into Cuba every year after that, up to 1958. Immigration from the U.S. was comparatively slight, but in 1958 there were more Americans living in Cuba than Cubans in the U.S.A. Emigration from Cuba was minimal during this half century.

By the way, it was a lot of those Americans living in Cuba who had their properties and investments confiscated by the communists.  They are still waiting for compensation!

To be fair, it may be time to revise the policy that allows Cubans to have special consideration.  However, Ms. Bardach would get more support by making her case rather than relying on that tired race card that worked so miserably for the Democrats in 2014.

Memo to Ms. Bardach:  Drop the race card.  It’s boring – really old and boring!

P.S. You can hear my show, CantoTalkor follow me on Twitter.