Of all the places Hemingway lived, none had such a hold on the author as his home outside Havana—now being restored through an unlikely alliance. Here, a guided tour of the Cuban haunts that shaped a literary legend.
FIVE MINUTES’ STROLL down the shore from La Terraza is a narrow beach cluttered with driftwood, plastic bottles and other flotsam brought in by the tide, and where the fictional Santiago dragged the sad remains of his once-majestic shark-chewed marlin. Cojimar’s fishermen dock their creaky wooden boats in an inlet just beyond the beach. Three men just back from the sea, stripped to the waist and smoking cigars, are merrily fixing their ancient engine beneath the open deck when I come across them. “Any swordfish?” I ask the skipper. “Lots,” he responds, with the confident laugh sports fishermen always seem to have but which I don’t often notice among professional ones. “We caught six in 24 hours. The Gulf Stream is always easy,” he adds, puffing on his stogie.
Fishing provided the only occasion for Hemingway to meet Fidel Castro. In 1960, Cuba’s new leader entered a fishing contest sponsored by the author. Off a harbor west of Havana, where sailboats from all over the world (including a few illicitly from Florida) now dock at the renamed Marina Hemingway, Castro caught a 54-pound marlin, winning the competition. Afterward, Hemingway himself presented Castro with his trophy. Castro claimed to have kept a copy of For Whom the Bell Tolls in his backpack while engaged in guerilla fighting in the Sierra Maestra mountains. But the conversation didn’t go far.
“I’ve always regretted the fact that I didn’t… talk to him about everything under the sun,” Castro said later. “We only talked about the fish.” As relations between Cuba and the U.S. became increasingly strained, Hemingway was encouraged by American officials to leave lest he be seen as a Castro supporter. “He was very sympathetic to the revolution in Cuba until things got too difficult,” recounts Patrick. “I don’t think he had much respect for Castro. When he left, he knew he would never be returning. And that depressed him greatly.”
… In late 1960, battling writer’s block, alcoholism, deteriorating physical health and his inner demons, he checked himself into Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic, where he got electroshock treatment. During a layover in Casper, Wyoming, he tried to step into a moving propeller. He finally managed to end his suffering less than a year after leaving Cuba by shooting himself in the entry foyer to his strikingly banal ranch-style home in Ketchum, Idaho, a setting unimaginably far from the Finca…
And so Hemingway’s Cuban heritage rolls on, sometimes literally, waiting to be rediscovered by compatriots who are so close, but still an embargo away.
Well, Hemingway didn’t stick around long enough to see what an apartheid mess his pal Fidel would change and transform his beloved Cuba and her victimized people into … the reality and source of which socialist/communist-romanticizing Western elitists simply ignore, or deflect blame from and onto an embargo, but NEVER the failed ideology and corruption of their communist hero.
As we’ve posted often in blog, Venezuela is an important neighbor in disarray. In other words, “the cubanization of Venezuela” is a sad thing to watch. It’s really horrible for those of us who know where “cubanization” leads to!
Our friends in Venezuela take a break from their crazy politics and shortages of everything by talking about their incredible line of major league shortstops and young women who win beauty pageants.
They can’t stop talking about Hall of Famer Luis Aparacio, “should be in the Hall of Fame” David Concepcion, the unbelievable Omar Vizquel, and now “the new kid up the middle” Elvis Andrus of the Texas Rangers. Who did I forget?
The men will talk to you about shortstops and the women treat the Miss Universe pageant like game 7 of the world Series. In other words,don’t ask a young Venezuela woman for a date when The Miss Universe pageant is on. She’d rather stay home and watch it.
“For the seventh time in Miss Universe history, Venezuela took the crown as 25-year-old Gabriela Isler was given the title of most beautiful woman in the universe in Moscow’s Crocus City Hall on Saturday night.
As the evening came to a close, the United States’ Olivia Culpo relinquished the Miss Universe crown and placed it upon Miss Venezuela.
Isler, who was born in Maracay, is an accomplished flamenco dancer who also works on Venezuelan television.”
Beautiful and dances flamenco? “Que maravilla!”
Congratulations to Gabriela!
Frankly, it’s nice to see Venezuelans smile and having a little fun. it’s been “hell” down there for a long time!
“The National Security Agency spied on the future Pope Francis before and during the Vatican conclave at which he was chosen to succeed Benedict XVI, it was claimed on Wednesday.
The American spy agency monitored telephone calls made to and from the residence in Rome where the then Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio stayed during the conclave, the secret election at which cardinals chose him as pontiff on March 13.
The claims were made by Panorama, an Italian weekly news magazine, which said that the NSA monitored the telephone calls of many bishops and cardinals at the Vatican in the lead-up to the conclave, which was held amid tight security in the Sistine Chapel.
The information gleaned was then reportedly divided into four categories — “leadership intentions”, “threats to financial system”, “foreign policy objectives” and “human rights”.
At that time, Benedict XVI was Pope, suggesting that the Vatican may also have been monitored during the last few weeks of his papacy.”
My guess is that the White House will distance President Obama from this.
It’s one thing to get the Germans or the Europeans angry. It’s quite another thing to spy on the Pope before he became Pope.
This is not going to go down well with Catholic nuns! Watch for the nuns to lineup outside the White House ready to slap President Obama’s hands.
Let me tell you something from personal experience. There is nothing more scary in the planet than an angry nun with a ruler!
P.S. By the way, I miss Alvarez-Guedes on days like this one! Can you imagine what he would say about the President of the US spying on a bishop waiting to become Pope?
“Orestes first ventured into films at the age of six when he worked as an actor in “The Life of Billy the Kid,” with a cast comprised only of children. The movie was shot at the Mercedes Sugar Mill in Matanzas, Cuba, where he lived with his parents.
Orestes has worked as an actor with high profile directors on films, television and commercials.
As a film actor Orestes has played the antagonist in many Hollywood Studio films such as “The Mask” starring Jim Carrey and “Diggstown” with James Woods and Lou Gossett Jr. just to name a couple.
In the advertising world, Orestes has worked in 37 commercials so far, nine of them directed by Marcus Nispel. The New York Museum of Modern Art has made Mr. Nispel’s body of work part of its Permanent Collection. Thanks to Mr. Nispel’s artistic endeavor, Orestes is part of that wonderful collection.
Orestes is well known for NOT taking “no” for an answer. He raised the capital to produce and direct a feature movie from a screenplay he wrote called “Tainted.” However, he decided that, rather than consuming his time finding investors to bankroll his movies, he would finance them himself and use that time to sharpen his creative vision.
Orestes is, as the French would say, a real film auteur. His body of work to date as a filmmaker includes “In Plain View,” “Sex Guns Money @ 20,” “Cuba Libre,” “Fatal Encounter,” “Tainted,” “James Gilbert Albright and the Haunted Studio,” “The Two Faces of Ruben Rabasa,” “Aguabella” and “Theater in the Parks.” He has written, directed, produced and edited almost all of his work.
In 1968, Orestes wrote his first play, “The Gym.” Since then, he expanded his versatility as a playwright and screenwriter with three plays and more than twenty five screenplays and various television concepts to his credit to date. His writing encompasses a variety of styles: thrillers, dramas, comedies, horror and action-adventures.
“Bitter Sugar,” a movie Orestes wrote for Hollywood director Leon Ichaso about a young couple living under the Cuban Communist Tyranny, opened to excellent reviews and was shown to the Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Switzerland and to the United States Congress. For Orestes this was a spiritual and rewarding experience.
Orestes was born in Cuba to Italian immigrants and grew up on a sugar mill plantation where the country and all kinds of animals, especially horses, were a large part of his life. He describes himself as a “third world country boy.” But his business partner, Orna Rachovitsky, says he is a “hillbilly in an Armani suit.”
“We celebrate the “soldiers” of the Resistance for their courage, perseverance and consideration for future generations like ours. They fought for their own freedom, but they fought for our freedom too. And this is why we are making the movie “Swastika” in order to remember and offer the same consideration to future generations.”
How many times does socialism have to fail before people come to their senses?
Some have figured it out. Chile, for example, has a sound economy and no one lines up at the US Embassy looking for a “work visa”. On the contrary, Chileans travel to the US to invest, buy our goods and services or do a little sightseeing. They also have a sound currency and a thriving middle class.
Some are still in the dark, such as Argentina, Bolivia, Venezuela and Cuba. By the way, I mean literally in the dark, as we’ve heard of the lights going out in Venezuela recently.
It looks like socialism has a new disciple, i.e. the Democrat candidate for New York City mayor in the upcoming election.
““Fighting inequality and fighting economic injustice,” as he put it, is what he’s all about.
Good luck with that, but before New Yorkers jump onto the Democrat’s bound-for-utopia bandwagon, some history is required. We could start with Karl Marx, but we’d just get lost trying to decode the incomprehensible differences among Marxists, Leninists and Trotskyites.
Instead, let’s look at Cuba, which, strictly by the numbers, reflects the paradise de Blasio describes. Fidel and Raul Castro had their way for 54 years and pulled off the socialist dream: The island nation had the least income inequality in the world, a survey found. North Korea also was off the charts.
Of course, there are some peculiar facts about Cuban exceptionalism.
Everybody is equally poor, with average monthly wages of $19, while children’s shoes can cost nearly as much.
And that much-ballyhooed health-care system? It’s a joke. Bring your own sheets, bedpans and food to the hospital, and pray you don’t die of infections or neglect. True, it is free, so your family won’t get stuck with a capitalist-size bill to bury you. What a relief that must be.
On my visit to Cuba, I was struck by the total breakdown of everything except the police state. Havana’s once-glorious architecture is crumbling, and there are chickens and pigs, but no running water, in large parts of the central city.
Half the cars are owned by the government, and the other half belong in antique shops. Smaller cities look as though they are stuck in the 19th century, with public transportation consisting of a man guiding a horse-drawn wagon. TV and Internet are scarce and tightly controlled. Complaining about any of this can land you behind bars.”
We Cubans know a thing or two about speeches calling for “income inequality”. As my mom will tell you: “Yo vi esa pelicula” or “I saw that movie”.
Of course, they will call us “right wing reactionaries” for calling Mr De Blasio a socialist. They will say that we see socialism in our soup and just can’t see straight.
What do you call it when the letters in your soup spell socialism?
What do you call a system that takes from those who produce and gives it to those who expect a handout?
We call it socialism. Worse than that, we call it a “‘fracaso” or failure.
Socialism has failed everywhere but there are still people looking for the right formula. Mr De Blasio is the latest!
“Si el Che Guevara levantara la cabeza, probablemente volvería a morirse al ver que uno de los hombres más ricos del mundo, defensor del capitalismo a ultranza que lo ha llevado a la cima de las listas de los más millonarios, ha utilizado su mítica boina, su uniforme y sus gestos más característicos para promocionar la marca que más dinero le ha hecho ganar: Virgin.”
It translates to something like this: If Che raised his head, he’d be shocked to see a big time capitalist dressed up like him.
We can make fun of the picture but there is a serious side to all of this.
Thank God that Mr Branson was not the owner of an airliner in Cuba when the Castro brothers and Che came into power.
He would have been treated to a very bad case of repression and his business would have expropriated in the name of a corrupt revolution.
Branson is really stupid and lucky.
He is stupid for dressing like a communist to promote capitalism.
He is lucky that he never had to live under the leader that he is glorifying with this stupid rebel outfit.
What’s next? Is he “going Mao or Stalin” to promote Virgin’s flights to Moscow or Peking?
Our friends down in Chile will enjoy another anniversary of their independence in 1810:
“Today, September 18 is celebrated in Chile as their Independence Day. It is remembered with the fiestas patrias or “national parties.” The celebrations kick off in early September and can last for weeks. All over Chile, people celebrate with food, parades, reenactments, and dancing and music. The national rodeo finals are held in Rancagua, thousands of kites fill the air in Antofagasta, in Maule they play traditional games, and many other places have traditional celebrations. If you’re going to Chile, the middle of September is a great time to visit to catch the festivities!”
Yes, it’s a great day to eat some good food and dance a little ‘cueca”. By the way, watching Chileans dance “cueca” is really a treat:
“In 30 years, Chile has gone from being a Third World country to a developed one, raising per capita income to $17,000, achieving 6% to 7% GDP growth most years, and attracting billions in foreign investment.
It didn’t happen in a vacuum.
The country was the first nation to try free-market reforms as articulated by the great economist Milton Friedman, whose ideas were still new in 1974.
When Gen. Augusto Pinochet was asked by Chile’s legislature to take over in September 1973, he created a MacArthur-style caretakership and turned the job of cleaning up a ravaged economy over to a group of University of Chicago-trained economists.
Known as “Chicago Boys,” they found a nation that was a mess after the short Marxist dictatorship of Salvador Allende and four decades of bad policy, including state-owned industries, heavy protectionism and massive bureaucracy. Special interests — unions and corporate monopolies — controlled major parts of the economy. Property rights were battered.
The Chicago Boys rescued their country with three critical economic reforms: fiscal control, privatization of social security and free trade. It not only worked, it quietly freed the nation from even the military regime and created the vibrant democracy Chile is now.
First, Finance Minister Sergio De Castro made the central bank independent. He ended subsidies and cut government spending. He slashed bureaucrats from 700,000 to 550,000. It was a painful austerity in the absence of a big private sector.
In the first four years of the new government, Chile’s economy surged 32%.
Next, economist Jose Pinera, Chile’s Labor and Social Security Minister, privatized social security. The plan helped the government balance its books and let workers choose between personal retirement accounts or the bankrupt state-run pension system. Workers could keep their own money, invest it, decide when to retire, and, best of all, owned their pensions as property they could leave to heirs. Some 97% of Chileans switched.
Pinera’s privatized accounts not only outperformed the state system by a factor of 10, but the savings they created provided capital to rebuild the country.
The last step came as Chile slashed tariffs and opened itself to the world. It signed more free-trade pacts than any nation, 58 at last count, which gave it access to 2 billion customers, an outsize market to swim in for a relatively small nation.
That enabled the country to specialize in what it did best — seafood, fruit, wine and its traditional mining exports. Its citizens got rich.
All three pillars upon which Chile’s stunning transformation rests can be duplicated in any country, which is why so many imitate these reforms.”
It is also a stable democracy and that is very important too.
There is a country with prosperity and political stability in Latin America called Chile. In fact, it also has a few things to teach us, specially its private retirement accounts and commitment to free market economics.
Thumbs up to our Chilean friends and do the “cueca”! You’ve earned this day of celebration.
We are all focused on Syria and the Middle East. I just hope that someone in this White House is watching the events in Venezuela.
We just saw two stories from Venezuela that home the reality that the country is falling apart and freedoms are disappearing. The “Cubanization” of Venezuela is off and running. As they used to say in Cuba: “Para atras ni pa’ coger impulso”!
“Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced on Tuesday at a public event that the Government would launch a “Truth News Broadcast” via mandatory radio and television broadcasts to air his Administration performance. The newscast will be broadcasted at noon and in prime time.
Venezuelan opposition denounces that mandatory radio and television broadcasts constitute misuse of power by the Government, in addition to using state-run media for propaganda.
For its part, the Venezuelan Government argues that mandatory radio and television broadcasts are a necessary tool to broadcast its messages, in order to counteract the alleged “censorship” the private media apply against government events and achievements.”
A government news channel to tell the truth? is that like Granma in Cuba or Pravda in the old USSR?
Mandatory listening? Is that like everyone going down to hear “el comandante” at la Plaza de la Revolucion?
“Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa is “very concerned” over the direction Venezuela has taken over the last years, and remarked that the country “is a total disaster, a real chaos; where demagogy, corruption, and violence abound.”
“(Venezuela) is a country that, instead of moving forward, is going backwards; it features the highest inflation rate in Latin America,” Vargas Llosa remarked in an interview with news agency Efe apropos the publication of his new novel “El héroe discreto (The discreet hero)” in Spain, Latin America, and the United States. As usual, the writer seized the opportunity to give his opinion about current issues.
He asserted that, unlike his country, Peru, and other Latin American countries, whose economic situation have improved; Venezuela is “a negative exception” to that outlook.
“Venezuela’s case is rather tragic,” the writer asserted. He is also worried about Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro maintaining “the messianic ideas” of his predecessor (late President Hugo Chávez) to turn Venezuela “into a headlight, an example” for other countries.
“However, I’m afraid that Venezuela is rather the exception to the rule. Nowadays, there are more countries in Latin America where democracy is developing, featuring modern economic policies which are leading to progress and development,” Vargas Llosa remarked.”
Venezuela is on unsustainable path and there are some very bad days ahead.
Regime change in Syria? How about Venezuela?
The US needs to consider sanctions against Venezuela, specially given the real evidence that the country is eliminating freedoms and its economy is falling apart.
As we remember the brave men and women who died in the terrorist attack 12 years ago, we also look south to something very consequential that happened in Chile 40 years ago:
“Chile’s armed forces stage a coup d’état against the government of President Salvador Allende, the first democratically elected Marxist leader in Latin America. Allende retreated with his supporters to La Moneda, the fortress-like presidential palace in Santiago, which was surrounded by tanks and infantry and bombed by air force jets. Allende survived the aerial attack but then apparently shot himself to death as troops stormed the burning palace, reportedly using an automatic rifle given to him as a gift by Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.”
Allende was elected in a 3-way race in 1970. His presidency divided the country and created economic chaos, i.e. food shortages, labor strikes, and rampant violence.
The nation was in turmoil and President Allende had lost control of the situation.
Please don’t get fooled with the international left’s romantic and nostalgic recollections of the Allende years. They were bad for Chile.
Of course, Allende was elected and nobody likes to see a military “coup” replacing what voters selected.
At the same time, Allende was trying to transform the Chilean economy way beyond what anyone had voted for:
“He embarked on what he called “the Chilean path to socialism,” nationalizing the copper industry that had been dominated by U.S. companies and using the money to fund land redistribution while improving health care, education and literacy.
The embrace of socialism, which included a three-week visit by Cuban leader Fidel Castro, was a Cold War nightmare for U.S. President Richard Nixon, who approved a covert campaign to aggravate the country’s economic chaos and helped provoke the military takeover.
The Sept. 11 coup initially was supported by many Chileans fed up with inflation that topped 500 percent, chronic shortages and factory takeovers. But it destroyed what they had proudly described as South America’s strongest democracy.” (AP)
Pinochet’s term was not easy either. There were serious human rights violations. We can not overlook those excesses when we praise the work of “The Chicago Boys” in the economy.
Where is Chile today? Chile is the jewel of Latin American economies. It is no longer a 3rd world country and enjoys a very stable economic and political environment.
Is Chile better off today? I say yes but I respect those Chileans who lost loved ones during a very difficult period.
Like in Egypt recently, there are times when elected leaders push the country into chaos and the army has to step in and clean things up.
Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers in arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.
Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened, he will fight savagely.
“To change the perception of reality of every American to such an extent that despite the abundance of information no one is able to come to sensible conclusions … Most of it is done by Americans to Americans … The time bomb is ticking … You will have nowhere to defect to … This is the last country of freedom and possibility.”
Former Soviet KGB operative Yuri Bezmenov revealed 30 years ago the communist playbook on how to take over a nation…
Sound familiar? Very familiar? Evaluate what has happened to this country’s MSM. Look at the current major scandals of the Obama administration that the MSM is sweating over to sweep under the rug so they can retain covering for this administration’s wrong-doing. And these are just the scandals we know about. As Bezmenov stated, you can point all this out to those who refuse to believe, those who claim this is “tin foil hat” territory, show them the evidence to back-up the truth, and they still will not see it until it hits them and it’s too late. The fact is, there is a percent of America that lingers just below the 50% mark that would view this video, and his others, and are completely unable to recognize we are far more than just in the middle of what he describes. We are past the middle and heading for the end game. Want to know how I figure that? Because I have friends and family that now want to hear what I have been warning them about for these last several years … and I just don’t know where to start. He’s right. It is not only near impossible to bring people up to speed with all the information the MSM has kept from them, but to try to deal with the mind-set that has taken over their individual thought process in order for them to make the connections that have been obvious to most of the rest of us…
Today, April 24, marks the “Great Crime,” that is, the Armenian genocide that took place under Turkey’s Islamic Ottoman Empire, during and after WWI. Out of an approximate population of two million, some 1.5 million Armenians died. If early 20th century Turkey had the apparatuses and technology to execute in mass—such as 1940s Germany’s gas chambers—the entire Armenian population may well have been decimated. Most objective American historians who have studied the question unequivocally agree that it was a deliberate, calculated genocide:
More than one million Armenians perished as the result of execution, starvation, disease, the harsh environment, and physical abuse. A people who lived in eastern Turkey for nearly 3,000 years [more than double the amount of time the invading Islamic Turks had occupied Anatolia, now known as “Turkey”] lost its homeland and was profoundly decimated in the first large-scale genocide of the twentieth century. At the beginning of 1915 there were some two million Armenians within Turkey; today there are fewer than 60,000…. Despite the vast amount of evidence that points to the historical reality of the Armenian Genocide, eyewitness accounts, official archives, photographic evidence, the reports of diplomats, and the testimony of survivors, denial of the Armenian Genocide by successive regimes in Turkey has gone on from 1915 to the present.
Indeed, evidence has been overwhelming. U.S. Senate Resolution 359 from 1920 heard testimony that included evidence of “[m]utilation, violation, torture, and death [which] have left their haunting memories in a hundred beautiful Armenian valleys, and the traveler in that region is seldom free from the evidence of this most colossal crime of all the ages.” In her memoir, Ravished Armenia, Aurora Mardiganian described being raped and thrown into a harem (which agrees with Islam’s rules of war). Unlike thousands of other Armenian girls who were discarded after being defiled, she managed to escape. In the city of Malatia, she saw 16 Christian girls crucified: “Each girl had been nailed alive upon her cross, spikes through her feet and hands, only their hair blown by the wind, covered their bodies.” Such scenes were portrayed in the 1919 documentary film Auction of Souls, some of which is based on Mardiganian’s memoirs.
Indeed, if we “fail to deal radically” with the “horror” currently being visited upon millions of Christians around the Islamic world—which in some areas has reached genocidal proportions—we “condone it” and had better cease talking “mischievous nonsense” of a utopian world of peace and tolerance.
Put differently, silence is always the ally of those who would commit genocide. In 1915, Adolf Hitler rationalized his genocidal plans, which he implemented some three decades later, when he rhetorically asked: “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
And who speaks today of the annihilation of Christians under Islam?
Luis sent me this essay on the Elian kidnapping and subsequent march on Calle Ocho. It was so perfect and heartfelt for the sad anniversary of that black day thirteen years ago that I asked for his permission to publish it. I think you will cry and feel a little pride in who and why we are. “Unlikely Patriots” was originally published right before the 2000 presidential election. –Pitbull
* * *
Remember the miracle that brought him alive to the shores of Liberty on the most revered of American holidays. Remember Freedom.
That was the thought on everyone’s mind that day, one week after the raid.
Seven days before, on Holy Saturday, the trust between a government and the people that it served was shattered in the streets of Little Havana. Brute force and assault weapons were used to violate not only the day, but the Constitution and the dreams of millions as well. I was violated that day, even if I wasn’t present at the humble neighborhood where Lazaro Gonzalez fought the massive assault on the right of a little boy to live Free, I felt every blow. And though my tears were caused by rage, the rage was brought about by the sight of the exploding canisters, and the terrified face of a child being ripped from the home and the family he’d come to love.
How do you feel when your world comes crashing down around you? How do you express the incredible pain of betrayal? How do you rage against a behemoth?
I knew there was something terribly wrong as soon as I heard the telephone, it was too early on a Saturday and everyone knew not to wake the children.
The message was short and the voice strained, I don’t remember exactly who called, it may have been my brother, it may have been my father, but I remember the message.
“They took him, they took Elian.” It was a matter of fact statement delivered in a passionless voice.
I ran downstairs and turned on the television, and the images there are ones I know I will never forget. It made me nauseous to watch the endless loop of tape, but I watched it through eyes swollen with tears. I screamed silent screams and with clenched fists threw punches at nothing, I wanted to hurt the morning like the morning had hurt me.
Then I heard the news reporter say the words that brought me to the streets of Little Havana on April 29. I heard him talk about the “defeat” of the Cuban exile community in Miami, there was a hint of a smile on his face and the pain and rage took on a new form. They became a fire.
What went on in the streets of Little Havana the Saturday after the raid went largely unreported. There was no live coverage.
The same media that a week before had stood on twenty-four hour alert reporting the most minute development on one of the most controversial news stories of the year, was conspicuous in its absence. It didn’t really matter, it was expected.
Two hundred thousand citizens walked Calle Ocho to make a statement. Young and old together like never before.
My family walked that street with me, and so did men, women and children from all walks of life, from every step in the social ladder and of every age. What had been thought to have destroyed our morale had served to make it stronger and to unite it, and it brought our young people back.
I came to America on a similar day thirty-two years before, a child of eleven. I was instantly at home here. Forget the struggle of language, eleven-year olds find ways to communicate and they are fast learners. I practiced hard at sounding like I belonged.
I was in love with the idea of America long before our arrival, a place where the fear didn’t exist. The fears that only those who have lived it can fully explain or understand. End even as a child I had felt it. I heard whispered things about people in trouble, and in jail. I knew not to speak out and I knew not to say the kinds of things that could bring unwanted attention.
I knew not to listen to the things taught at school. I knew of the shortages in everything a family needs to live, I knew of the risks my parents took to support us. I knew of the Committees, the neighborhood snitches who gained status by turning in people like us on trumped-up charges.
I knew they watched us with special interest, we could be a prize and a promotion, and we were “worms”.
I longed for America even then, my whole life revolved around going there and I was anxious to leave, ready to start a new life in the wonderful place my parents would detail to me each night. I was ready to stop being a “worm”. Even a boy of eleven can dream of Freedom.
Four generations of us stand firmly planted on this soil now, many are buried here and this is home to us, and it will remain that way even after the inevitable change in Cuba comes. That change will come from within, an explosion of Freedom that no one will be able to stop, because Freedom is a gift from our Creator which will not be denied forever. When that day arrives we will be ready to lend whatever assistance may be necessary, but this family stays here and it stands ready to defend this country and the ideals under which it was founded.
And so we came to find ourselves on a Little Havana street; two hundred thousand unlikely patriots in an unusual setting. An event organized in less than a week by a solitary radio station. They called it a “March for Dignity”, but it was a rally for Justice and an answer to the reports of our demise. It was an indictment of the illegal and unconstitutional actions of the Clinton administration, and a call to arms.
I was awfully proud of my people that day, as I was throughout the entire Elian Gonzalez saga. We brothers, we parents and grandparents. We sons and daughters of the people who gave it all up in the name of Freedom, honored them that day. We marched for the tens of thousands who chose to brave the treacherous straits, and died rather than living without Freedom. We marched for the millions still behind. We marched for the ones buried here and there who will never witness a Cuba free from oppression, the ones who didn’t witness the shame brought to America by the Clinton administration. We marched for the right of even the youngest among us to live free.
And a little child lead the way.
History may pay little attention to the rally on April 29th. As little attention as the dominant media but, if they failed to notice they both will have failed in their duty to report. They will fail to see one of the defining moment in the History of my people; the day we walked the path of Freedom on a road traveled by Americans before us.
We stood, two hundred thousand strong, under a clear blue American sky. On that day we drew a line in the sands of History. We stand behind that line today. We are poised and ready for our moment to seize the day, waiting for our opportunity to answer the unjust charges brought against us by the administration and the media.
Ready to show the world who we are.
Next Tuesday, in the first Presidential election of the Millennium my community will rally, and in numbers that will surprise even the best informed pollsters. We will make our voices heard in this, our new home, and like the Americans we are we will make our choice known. Our choice will be the answer to those forces who labeled us as zealots. In the name of America and Freedom we welcome that label.
On election day, as the sun sweeps across our nation, look for us on the front lines. We stand ready, and we will not falter. We welcome that opportunity.
And we will, overwhelmingly, vote for George W. Bush.
A boy of eleven once loved the dream of America in a land where everything America stood for was officially hated. Today, the man who once was that boy loves the realization of the dream.
On election day, my thoughts will be the same as they were the day I walked with unlikely patriots on a street in Little Havana.