‘Cuban Privilege’ book presentation at FIU met by protests and rebukes by Cuban exiles

Despite the brutal oppression, the firing squads, the beatings, the concentration camps, and hundreds of thousands imprisoned, Boston University professor Susan Eckstein insists Cubans are neither exiles nor refugees. In her view, Cuban refugees are nothing more than immigrants looking for a better life, no different from any other immigrant.

It’s quite the take by the professor, but unfortunately, par for the course when it comes to Cuban refugees in the U.S.

Although Eckstein’s offensive theory plays well pretty much anywhere in the U.S., it doesn’t play well at all in South Florida, the home of over a million Cuban refugees. These Cuban exiles suffered through the atrocities committed by the communist Castro dictatorship, something Eckstein doesn’t seem to give much attention to and apparently doesn’t understand.

But on Friday night at FIU, almost every brutal and bloody aspect of the Cuban exile experience was brought to her attention. From the protests outside the venue on campus to those in attendance, Eckstein was deprived of her “privilege” to ignore the plight of Cuban exiles and the suffering they have endured for more than 60 years.

Nora Gamez Torres reports via the Union-Bulletin:

It was supposed to be another routine event in the series of regular book presentations organized by Florida International University’s Cuban Research Institute: on the podium, a respected scholar authoritatively presenting her most recent research. In the audience, a few attendants asking polite questions.

Instead, the presentation Friday evening of “Cuban Privilege, the Making of Immigrant Inequality in America,” a book claiming that Cuban immigrants in the United States are not genuine refugees nor exiles, turned into an emotional rebuke of that premise by activists and members of the Cuban-American community who feel the book denies the tragic history of those fleeing communism.

A few protesters and police officers were the among the first things those attending the event saw before going inside FIU’s Wertheim Performing Arts Center. Inside the packed venue, members of the public at times erupted in applause at mention of the achievements of the Cuban-American community as others questioned the central assertions in the book.


She argued that some of those benefits were undeserved, and that Cuban immigrants cannot legitimately claim to be refugees since most did not leave the island because they faced persecution.

Eckstein shared the stage with Orlando Gutierrez-Boronat, a longtime Cuban-American human rights activist and author who was asked by the FIU organizers to provide a counterpoint and made his own presentation rebuking the conclusions in the book.

“You would have to ignore the massacres, the extrajudicial killings, the political prisoners, the civil war in the countryside, the concentration camps…. Only then you can conclude Cuban exiles were not persecuted,” Gutierrez-Boronat said.

Eckstein was not only countered by Cuban exile leader and human rights activist Orlando Gutierrez-Boronat on the stage, but the audience got involved as well. One after another, Cuban exiles came up to the microphone to tell their stories and refute the professor’s offensive claims of “Cuban privilege.” Among them was Ninoska Perez Castellon, a Spanish-language radio host and vocal advocate for the Cuban exile community:

In his excellent essay on Eckstein’s book presentation, Cuban American Nestor Diaz de Villegas writes: “Cuban exiles, by the mere fact of existing in the United States, are the living refutation of Eckstein’s ideas.” But it would seem the professor is not interested in learning the truth about the Cuban exile experience, but only in taking another shot at Cuban Americans, a demographic the American left and academia vehemently despises.

Towards the end of the event, Eckstein complained that some of the responses she received were “offensive.” But as offensive as she may have thought they were, for Cuban exiles, they were nowhere near as offensive as her book.

8 thoughts on “‘Cuban Privilege’ book presentation at FIU met by protests and rebukes by Cuban exiles”

  1. Oh, but she looks…perfect–her very appearance is even more fitting than I would have imagined. Give the woman credit for absolutely looking her part. It’s not much, but I, at least, appreciate the lack of dissonance.

    But again, she’s not a Cuban or even a Cubanoid, unlike Jorge Duany, the director of the Cuban Research Institute, who gave her a forum in Miami, where he had to know she would give serious offense. Besides, she’s an academic and perfectly representative of her kind, meaning she could hardly be expected to be sympathetic to Cuba’s tragedy. In other words, if you’re angry and want to lash out, don’t do it at her; do it at Duany and FIU, whose track record is very poor, meaning this is not an isolated incident or anything new.

    I have no doubt Duany knew he could score points in academia for being “open-minded” and even “brave,” and provoking “those people” has long been fashionably PC among the usual suspects. In other words, there was incentive, and since local Cubans have always blown off this sort of thing from FIU, it was quite reasonable to expect the same response after some transient and toothless complaining. Thus, net gain.

  2. And in case anybody missed it, the only way a white academic gets to dump on a minority group now without being shredded and “canceled” is to make VERY sure it’s not an approved minority–and we’re not. “Those people” have always been and remain a safe target, not least because they mostly blow it off.

  3. From my perspective, Eckstein is essentially saying that my parents did not tear themselves away from everything they knew and loved to save their children, but because they wanted more or better stuff. That is not just false; it’s spitting on my parents’ huge sacrifice and what it cost them, and it is beneath contempt.

    Evidently, she doesn’t know WTF she’s talking about, or she does know but is twisting and distorting it to suit her purpose. Still, she’s a northeastern American academic bound to be unsympathetic to “those people,” and she can give them the finger safely enough. FIU, however, is a different matter, or should be.

  4. Wait! Who was that white woman asking Dr. Eckstein a question? Is that Ninoska Perez? She’s a white Cuban, a former CANF hack, a batistana and like all rich white Cubans owned black slaves in Cuba and only wants to get her mansion back. She has no right to talk about the glorious revolution because she’s not a person-of-color.

    The non-Cuban person-of-color standing behind her has a greater right to talk about Cuba than any white Cuban. All white Cubans are invalidated, because they are all racist, republicans and Trumpistas. Sorry, no points are awarded.

  5. Rayarena,, You’re talking shit, you’re bringing American way of looking at things when it comes to race relations. We’re all Cubans, white, black mulato. That’s not who we are. Saying such crap shows you know nothing about the Cuban reality

    • Rayarena was being sarcastic and mocking the mindset or position of the usual suspects–who would tear Eckstein to pieces if she ever wrote a negative book about a protected minority, which she never would because she’s no fool. Cubans, however, are a safe target and she knows it.

  6. It’s simple: If people already inclined or predisposed against you feel they can give you the finger and get away with it, they’re likely to do that–and if they feel they can also gain from it, it’s practically guaranteed.

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