The odometer is turning over


Ever have one of those milestone moments like when your odometer flips over to the next big increment? Here at Babalu we’re about to have one of those moments. Our one-millionth visit is about to take place. But unlike an old car, our odometer turning over is truly a happy event that won’t lead to future breakdowns and expenses, we’re only getting better as we set our sights on two million. To celebrate the moment, we the contributors have decided to honor our founder and Editor in Chief, Valentín Prieto. Below you will find our personal thoughts on Val and this blog. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.

Brother from another mother
I started blogging in 2003. As we all know, three years is a lifetime on the Internet. When I started the original Universal Spectator site it was my intent to just vent and send interesting links to a group of friends. A chance conversation at school with Amanda (a/k/a La Sobrina del Juez) led me to meet Val in early 2004 and a surprisingly prompt invitation me to write on his blog. From the moment we met I knew we were long-lost brothers separated only by age and genetics. I can’t properly express what Val, his wonderful family, and this blog mean to me. Writing on this blog and joining all of the voices here is truly, like Lacombe said in Close Encounters, an ‘event sociologique.’

Thanks Val. And congratulations on one million visitors!

-George “Pitbull” Moneo

One in a Million
Each of us Babalu contributors found this place by simply clicking on a link. At that moment we were each just one of the now 1 million visitors. It could have been an email from a friend, a Google search or something else that guided us to Babalu. Though the ways we got here are many, the reason we stayed is simply singular.

Val your words and your deeds have inspired us to find our own voice. Not just in fighting for the freedom of Cuba but in so many other ways as well. You’ve provided support and encouragement to all of us fledgling Babalusians. Along the way you’ve also given us an outlet to share our concerns, our joy, our anger, our frustration and our sadness. For that, we are forever indebted to you. When Radio Mambi’s Enrique Encinosa asked me what the greatest reward of blogging is, I answered simply that making friends like you makes it all worthwhile. Val, you truly are one in a million.

-Henry “Conductor” Gomez

Leader of the Band
On the occasion of this blog milestone, the day our site meter reaches the count of one million visitors, we contributing writers decided to pay tribute to our Miami Mafioso editor, Papa Val.

The assignment sounded like an easy one, write up what Val and Babalu has meant to us. Piece of cake I thought, this is so close to my heart; I can pen it easily. It’s, it’s, it’s…. hmmm, maybe not.

So I decided I’d dig through the archives and find the post that inspired my first comment here at Babalu, or maybe the one that prompted me to send Val an email. I started reading the archives from the beginning, Val’s very first post. Then I realized I couldn’t find the spot in Babalu history that marked my first visits here. Because I’ve read all the posts so many times they are all familiar. With this one or that one I’d think, yes, I remember this, it’s a great post; I think I commented here—but I hadn’t.

I read for over an hour, and I never did figure out when I started visiting Babalu, or find that first comment I’d left. I was at home here right from the beginning.

My whole life, I’ve been told that I’m “different” or “weird” that I march to the beat of a different drummer. Well, now I know; that drumbeat is Cuban, and I am home. Thanks Val. Viva Cuba Libre!


The Godfather
There are many reasons why I am lucky to have the best uncle and Godfather in the world. I could be here all day with all the stories, anecdotes, memories and moments we have shared, but I will contain myself and share the one thing that has made me proud to be his niece since the day this blog was created: his love for Cuba. Val has taught me that although I am American, I can still love the land my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles (including him) left behind to make a better life for the generations to follow. I can still hope and dream for a free Cuba and her people, and be proud of our culture and our traditions.

With this blog, he has not only opened my eyes a bit more, but the eyes of thousands of others who come by to learn about that beautiful island not too far away.

I know that there are days that he just wants to stop blogging. But I also know that my sister, brother, son and I are part of what keeps him going. And for as long as he is blogging, I’ll be reading. And learning.

Thank you, Padrino; for all that you do, for this blog, and for being you.


A Revelation
The date was January 31, 2005. That’s when I first discovered Babalu Blog. I found out about this great blog through an article in the Miami Herald, which featured Val and the blog. My wife pointed it out to me, knowing that I had an acute interest in all things Cuban, especially politics.

For a long time, I had been searching for a good site where one could talk about Cuba intelligently and truthfully. There was/is so much garbage out there on the Internet, pro-castro sites and anti-Cuban exile sites. I tried to understand the point of view of those who thought that the U.S. and Cuban-Americans were the enemy, not fidel, but I could never buy into it. I would waste my time posting comments and trying to tell my side, but a troll was always around the corner waiting to make an idiotic remark.

Needless to say, discovering Babalu Blog was a revelation. Not necessarily because of discovering the truth about Cuba, but because of the passion and humor with which Val writes with. Finally, I thought, someone out there who really gets it, who represents me, my heritage, and my values. Because of Babalu Blog, I started my own blog, 26th Parallel. The greatest honor of my blog-life was when Val asked me to be a contributor to this blog. I would have never thought that after several months of pouring over every entry, helping Val out at Cuba Nostalgia, that I would be invited to join the inner circle of the world’s premier Cuban blog.

Congratulations Val, you deserve every accolade you’ve received and more. Thanks for letting us be a part of your world.

-Robert “El Ciclón”

A Found Treasure
As a non-Cuban, I have always admired Miami Cubans from afar. When I was 16, I wrote a short novel about what I imagined the experience to be, set in the era of the Bay of Pigs. But there was always a lack of news coverage, and given the great era of ending tyrannies we lived in, I had always wanted to have a conversation with the Miami Cubans I had silently cheered during the Elian saga, people who were so like the Russians and Czechs and Poles and Vietnamese in their struggle for freedom. I wanted to be with them.

Then I found Babalu. By some mysterious chance, the first time I clicked on the blog, I found myself at Val’s essay called “I am a Miami Cuban” and fell in love with it, and then, the entire blog, and then, Val himself. I made sure to bookmark the place, because it made such a deep impression.

Through Babalublog, I could affirm the pride and defiance and seriousness about human freedom that I had always felt was there when I first wrote that novel. I affirmed my experiences, such as the August 1994 weekend when I visited Miami with my Cuban roommate, Ibeyse. At that time, a freedom flotilla was pulling boats ashore. I photographed and then framed the pictures of the boats to bear witness – they were EMPTY boats, a terrible sign, and I wanted the missing people to be remembered. I demonstrated in Miami that day, in the hot rain, somewhere in Little Havana.

Babalu was a welcoming place, a Cuban place, and as such, my nationality didn’t matter. There is no ‘in’ or ‘out’ crowd here, just people who appreciate the unique goodness of Cuban culture and the universal fight for human freedom.

This blog educates in a way newspapers do not – with the truth about the reality of Cuba. At Babalu, you don’t really ‘learn’, you ‘internalize,’ meaning that what you learn becomes part of who you are.

Val and I became friends and then he asked me to write for the blog, because I know about politics. But Babalu goes way beyond politics. It has some of the most brilliant writing I have ever seen – Val’s. His work is about people and relationships, the only really important things in the world. Val cares about the memory of his relatives, the readers he is writing for, and the universal values that posterity responds to. That is why he is a treasure.

-A.M. Mora y Leon

21 thoughts on “The odometer is turning over”

  1. Congratulations everyone, especially Val. You have each inspired me to try to do my part online for a free Cuba. You have shown me the possibilities available with an outlet like this. I have learned so much. But more importantly, this experience has allowed me to re-connect with an essential part of my identity, my “Cubaness.” It is a gift I will always treasure.

    Thank you, Val, for sharing your story with world. May it help the world, especially in exciting times like these, understand why we Cubans and Cuban Americans are so passionate about freedom, and about life.

  2. Babalu is the best and the brightest of online blogs. Discovered by accident this past March and passionately read daily, it has been a bastion of intelligence, compassion, and incredible influence.

    Congratulations to Val, and his excellent contributing writers. Where else could one find “breaking news”, erudite essays and a sense of sharing the quest for Cuba Libre than at BabaluBlog?

    Here’s a toast to the NEXT MILLION!

  3. An excellent team, fronted by non other than “El Barbaro” I really comend you guys for the vast info and entertainment the internet would be a shitty place without you guys. Congrats, you guys deserve everything that’s coming your way.

  4. Oh you sneaky so and so’s. Making me teary eyed like this a 5:30 in the morning. And before my cafe to boot.

    Thank you guys. From the heart. Im proud and honored and privileged to be a part of this great group of outstanding people. I dont think Babalu would still be around if it werent for you all taking the reigns as youve done.


    And a huge thanks to all of those who come here, day after day, and put up with my temper tantrums and butchering of the English and Spanish languages. I am truly humbled.

  5. Val, your relentless high standards, dedication and passion make this internet world a truly exciting place. This a well-deserved honor.

    I think I know what you would like as a present…

  6. Felicidades to Val and his fellow Babaluers!!!

    You guys do a great job and actually make a positive contribution to debunking much of the MSM crap that’s out there regarding Cuba!!!

    Keep up the great work!

  7. Conratulations Val! You are truly one of the best! Thank you for your insight and dedication towards a free Cuba. You are the man!

  8. You should unabashedly be proud of yourself – so should your contributing writers and support staff…first discovered you through George of – and through Babalu, went on to link with my other favorite blogs and bloggers, some of whom I’ve had the privilege – including yourself – to meet in the flesh. Can’t say any more than what’s already been well said by others here…as has been said before, “you’re doing God’s work.” Long live Babalu!

  9. Felicidades!!! I know I’m not alone when I say this: the second thing I did when I heard the news the other day was surf over to this site. The first being to jump up and down like a maniac. Haha. Y que el proximo millon venga de dominions “.cu”, de cubanas y cubanos LIBRE!

  10. Felicidades babalusianos,

    Pienso que muchos de nosotros debemos nuestra existencia al reconocimiento que Val nos ha dado, sin el no existiéramos, o tuviéramos el mismo éxito. Por eso es importante reconocer que si lo pensamos bien, el número de visitantes (1,000,000) está bajo estimado, también deberían sumarse los visitantes a los enlaces listados (Cubiches) en la columna derecha, cuyo monto sobrepasaría el millón.

    Estoy completamente convencido que lo que se hace aquí no es en vano, ni un hobby, y abarca el planeta completo. Más significante nos ha servido como sitio de unificación, y educación. ¿Cuántos cubanos de ambos lados visitan a Babalú para saciar la sed y llenar el conocimiento de la verdad de Cuba? Tal vez un número incalculable. Sólo hay que fijarse en los jóvenes que se tiraron a la calle en Miami a celebrar. Ellos son el futuro, al igual que los jóvenes en la isla de Cuba deberían tener el derecho de celebrar.

    Felicidades, estoy muy orgulloso de Uds y del trabajo que aquí realizan y sigan luchando.

  11. Val,

    I stumbled upon Babalublog shortly after you started it while I was still living in Pennsylvania. I was hooked from the first post I read. I have been a daily visitor ever since. I’m sure I speak for many out there that visit your blog everyday. You are a true hero to me. Please know that all the time, aggravation, frustration and heartache that this noble endeavor of yours may have caused you over the last three year… well…. I hope that you can see that every bit of it is worth it. I’ve had the pleasure and honor of telling you personally and now I do so in writing. You and your crew are story tellers, teachers, poets, activists, motivators, historians and so much more. The spirit of Jose Marti flows through this site. I’m sure he’s checking you out from time to time and smiles with that big mustache. Thanks man… for all your effort and the tireless work you and your talented crew put out everyday. And a special thanks to your wife. Behind every great man….

    Abe Cardenas

  12. I forgot when I stumbled upon Babalu, but I have yet to find a better site on all things Cuban. And I have yet to find a blog with a better voice. Val: Keep it going. I thank you for writing and I thank your wife for the support she gives you. 1 million is only the beginning…

  13. I know this unrelated to the post, but I just had to post this.

    Kathryn Payne of the Toronto Star is asking “Why is the North American media so eager to help turn Cuba and Cubans over to the U.S.?”

    and I love this quote from her:

    “If I were a Cuban, I would be more nervous about a U.S. invasion than internal instability as a consequence of Castro’s illness.”

    She’s just your typical ordinary MSM commie/castro sympathizer.

  14. Val – For a minute I thought this was the odometer on your Isuzu – Congratulations on a million hits!

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