Wikipedia, freedom, and me

A guest post by Cuban writer Zoé Valdés

I was harvesting some luscious peaches from my garden when I received a text message from my editor saying she couldn’t believe what was being written about me in Wikipedia, things that Wikipedia wouldn’t let me change. Although I could imagine what she was referring to, I read incredulously the screen grab of the scandalous paragraph she sent, and that reads like this:

Political Position: Supported the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003. She also believed that torture was not practiced in the detention camp at the American military base in Guantanamo. (I suppose they are making reference here to concentration camps, a la Nazi, something that never existed at Guantanamo, although there were certainly harsh prisons there.) In her social networks she supports Spain’s political party VOX, generally classified of the extreme right. Supports Matteo Salvini, the leader of the Northern League (Lega Nord), and the American president, Donald Trump. In 2020 signed the appeal to combat the advancement of communism in the world, launched by Santiago Abascal, the leader of VOX. The appeal is considered the equivalent of the first step toward the creation of a radical, Right-wing international movement to wage “a cultural battle against the Left.” Has sometimes been criticized for her language, judged vulgar and aggressive, in her social network posts. Described the writer Gabriel Garcia Márquez as “a son of a bitch” and Rigoberta Menchú, activist for Human Rights, as a “pig” for having signed a manifesto opposing a possible future American aggression against Cuba. In response to the writer, Lucia Etxebarria, who had criticized Spain’s political party, VOX, she said: “Go and wash your dirty beaver.” Attacked the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, whom she sees as “a dried-up piece of communist shit” and a “red turd” and questioned the intellectual capacity and motivations of the climate change activist, Greta Thunberg.”

This scurrilous paragraph is merely a compendium of deliberately manipulated phrases taken solely out of context from my responses to comments made about me in which I was both rudely and grotesquely attacked, so I simply responded in kind. But, of course, none of those attacks against me appear in the Wikipedia paragraph above.

In the past, I’ve never authorized Wikipedia to share my biography for two reasons: manipulations in regard to my private life and distortions of my political position. I’ve been trying to have it changed for years as evidenced HERE and HERE.

On those occasions I have always received an answer from Wikipedia, Italy, by a presumed Argentinian national (implied by the orthographic errors in the Wikipedia entry that reflect poor mastery of the French language) insisting that this information will never disappear. That is the state of things to date.

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Cuban history and the July 11 protests

A guest post by Jorge Perez-Velasco

Cuba has been on my mind constantly over the past year. I wish I could forget about Cuba. I left Havana as a toddler and hold but a few vague memories. My knowledge of Cuba in the 1950’s comes from my father. My knowledge of Cuba under the socialist paradise comes from cousins who fled Cuba over the past six decades.

Growing up in Atlanta, Georgia meant Cuba was off the radar – out of sight and out of mind. However, the events of July 11th brought Cuba to the attention of the world and unfortunately, to my attention. This past year I have become like my father, obsessed with Cuba and the suffering of its people. Like millions of others, I have tried to find a solution but cannot. When solutions escape me I go back to the beginning. I ponder how Cuba got into its current situation.

My parents said that they, along with the vast majority of Cubans, supported the rebels that wanted to bring down the Batista government. They explained there were good reasons Cubans were not happy. Batista came to power in 1952 via a coup displacing Carlos Prio Socarras a democratically elected president. It was a bloodless coup (due to the corrupt and ineffective governance of the previous administration), but still outside of the law.

The US government immediately recognized the new Batista government, legitimizing the coup and once again demonstrating effective US political control of Cuba. Such had been the state of affairs since the Platt Amendment to the Cuban constitution at the start of the republic. Batista immediately began granting favors to foreign businesses, which expanded foreign control of the Cuban economy. Things got worse when Batista made business deals with known American mafia leaders and legalized prostitution in Cuba.

Since the beginning of the republic, Cuba’s government had a reputation of being corrupt or ineffective or both. However, Batista brought a new level of corruption. Batista ruled “as a dictator, jailing his opponents, using terrorist methods, and making fortunes for himself and his associates”.(Britannica.com Fulgencio Batista). Nevertheless, all of the foreign investment did bring fabulous wealth, which made Havana the playground of the rich and famous. American movie stars, and European royalty would fly into Havana for vacations.

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The liberty battle cry of 11-J and Cuba’s legitimate constitution

A guest post by Cuban American attorney and author Nestor Carbonell:

As we commemorate this year the glorious Baire Battle Cry of February 24, 1895, prelude to the independence of Cuba, we should also evoke the transcendental Liberty Battle Cry of July 11, 2021, which resounded throughout the island and shook the oppressive regime. This peaceful uprising was a dawn of hope, a clamor of dignity, a civic call to arms which will be impossible to silence or quell.

But for freedom to emerge and take root in Cuba again, it must be supported by a charter of fundamental liberties or bill of rights. Without that defensive shield, Cubans will continue to be subjected to the arbitrary will of the ruling politburo and exposed to new ploys, such as the so-called thaw of 2015-2016, which enabled the Communist regime to receive unilateral concessions from Washington with no meaningful opening.

Absent individual liberties or human rights, as guaranteed by Cuba’s legitimate Constitution of 1940, it will be very difficult to obtain the necessary consensus to dismantle the totalitarian apparatus and channel the just and orderly transition to representative democracy legitimized by free and multiparty elections.

These supra-rights have the highest legal and moral standing because they stem from human nature (Natural Rights) and precede and rise above the State. They were granted primacy in England’s Magna Carta of 1215, whose principles were reaffirmed and broadened in the 1688 Bill of Rights and subsequent legal documents.

But it was in France, with its Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizen approved in 1789, that for the first time a nation recognized in a single historic document the fundamental rights or liberties, not of the subject, but of the human being and the citizen.

The United States invoked those inalienable rights in its Declaration of Independence in 1776, and later defined and included them as Bill of Rights in its Constitution when the first ten amendments were ratified in December 1791.  

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11J: A turning point in the repression of evangelicals in Cuba

Image: CubaNet.org

A guest post by Cuban human rights activist and journalist, Yoe Suarez.

On 11 July 2021 in Cuba, thousands of people of all kinds took to the streets with various demands. It was, so far, the greatest display of the power of civil society in this totalitarian country, where the Socialist State tries to control its citizens as much as possible.

It is impossible to know who exactly the demonstrators were, but some of them are part of the growing community of evangelical or Protestant Christians, who, according to a 2015 survey, represent around 7 percent of the population.
It was the case of Carlos Macías, who lived that day of large anti-system demonstrations in Cuba between two dilemmas. The first was related to his vocation: “to be a pastor of a historic denomination like the Methodist Church, under the stigma that Christians do not participate in politics, and at the same time to want to exercise my civil rights and freedoms as a citizen”, he said in an interview.

The other dilemma was “between the need to express myself and make use of freedom of thought” and “the fear of the consequences that this could have on a personal level”. In another time, as so many Cubans have always done, the pastor might have opted for self-censorship, for staying at home. But that 11 July 2021, known as ’11J’, something seemed to change.

In the battered streets of Jovellanos, Matanzas province, a crowd chanted freedom. The same was happening in more than 60 other localities all over the country. Carlos and his eldest son left the church house to join in. He understands that, as a religious leader, it is not his mission to call for a protest. As a believer, of course, he recognises “the right to participate in a demonstration demanding justice”.

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Savannah Sacro

A guest post by Cuban American author Armando de Armas

I have just returned from a tour of key points of American geo-history in its turning strokes; crucial changes.

For the student of metahistory, there should be no doubt that those events that radically change the future, for better or for worse, were anticipated and promoted by initiates, awakened and differentiated men who, through the performance of certain rituals, revive the myth in geography sacred, sacralized, for the fulfillment of a new cycle of history that is not new in itself but an old one that returns and, of course, will pass as new before the non-alert observer.

Then the actions of these initiates or hierophants, by rule sworn in an order, is not so much that of magicians with wands and hats, which the common people will believe, as that of ritualistic promoters of the myth established in the timeless towards the realization of the worse or better manifestations of what ineluctably has to happen in chronological time.

These awake and differentiated men are not seers in the sense that the common people naively believe, because in truth they do not see what will happen but what has already happened, whether in historical time or In Illo Tempore, which comes to be repeated in another round of the cycle. Mircea Eliade thus analyzes that in rituals that imitate the outstanding acts of a mythical god or hero, an alert man of an archaic society could step out of profane time and magically enter the Great Time, or Illo Tempore, the real, sacred time; close to eternity. So the connection of a person with that original time causes what the Romanian author called the horror of the story. So what the initiate actually does is avoid the linear sequence of events, which is empty and banal, and tries to return to primordial time; regenerate reality.

Of this recent pilgrimage to important points of American geohistory, I will refer to only one for its symbolism: the Savannah River and, of course, the city that gives it its name. Every city that is respected in the events of the cycles of history is the daughter of a river, or of a sea, and sometimes like Savannah, of a river and a sea; daughter of the two waters.

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Joe Biden looks the other way at the racism of Cuba’s socialist dictatorship

A guest post by Dr. Javier Garcia-Bengochea, M.D.:

Although Joe Biden announced unequivocally that he will return to a policy of engagement with the military dictatorship in Cuba, Senator Kamala Harris refused to admit as much during a recent stop in Miami. As Mary Anastasia O’Grady reminded us in The Wall Street Journal (Biden’s Cuba Policy Ignores Reality, WSJ, 8/24), between trafficking in stolen property and partnering with a criminal regime, so-called engagement is little more than politically sanctioned organized crime.  It is also tantamount to slavery and is overtly racist; just follow the money.

Cuba has two currencies, the peso and convertible peso (CUC). The latter was created by the Cuban military after the collapse of the Soviet Union forced the need for tourism and foreign investment.  Its purpose was to generate hard currency while preventing the accumulation of wealth (and power) by “ordinary” Cubans. The peso is essentially worthless, about three cents, while the CUC is roughly equal to one US dollar. 

Tourists and foreign firms pay the Cuban State (Cuba’s only legal employer) in CUCs for goods and services, who then pay Cuban workers in pesos- as if the two were equal.  This is why Cubans make twenty five dollars a month.  It is legalized and institutional slavery that disproportionately affects black Cubans.

Cuba’s tourism apparatus is “owned” independently from the State by the Cuban military through its financial arm known by the acronym, GAESA.  The overwhelming majority of managerial positions and plum jobs in tourism go to white Cubans, who abandon their work (and the revolution’s ideals) as doctors, engineers, and teachers to tend bar, drive taxis, and wait tables since they can keep tips in CUCs.

For agnostics or true believers, search the internet for “racism, tourism, Cuba.”  GAESA equates blackness with criminality, sexual promiscuity, violence and ignorance. Hence, black Cubans are relegated to menial jobs with no access to tourists, CUCs, or social mobility.

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A reflection from ‘La Profesora’: Hypocrisy is a real thing . . .

A guest post from Cuban American educator Dr. C., aka, “La Profesora.”

The 2020 United States Presidential campaign is on the way. When it comes to Cuban Americans, life has a whole different perspective than most folks in the Midwest, to mention a region of the great USA when it comes to this election. Even folks in Georgia, a neighboring state to Florida, may not fully understand the passion of the Cuban-American culture that was founded in the early 1960s. If you were born and raised in South Florida, it’s evident that the growth of Miami didn’t happen by chance.

“Socialists ignore the side of man that is of the spirit,” Reagan said back in 1975. “They can provide shelter, fill your belly with bacon and beans, treat you when you’re ill – all the things that are guaranteed to a prisoner or a slave. But they don’t understand we also dream, yes, even of owning a yacht.”

Capitalism is not a bad word. It’s a system that allows everyone the opportunity to work hard and make money. Working hard is not a bad thing. Working hard keeps us healthy and mobile. There is value in working hard to enjoy a great dinner with family and own a lovely home. Working hard may even help with keeping a positive perspective as an individual is accountable to the practice of waking up each day with a purpose driven day. Work. Work. Work is not a bad thing unless comparing one life journey to another persons life as posted on social media. 

“The citizens of this great nation want leadership, yes, but not a man on a white horse demanding obedience to his commands,” Reagan said. “I believe this nation hungers for a spiritual revival … to see government once again the protector of our liberties, not the distributor of gifts and privilege.  … Government cannot be clergyman, teacher, and parent. It is our servant, beholden to us.”

The current state of affairs is an exciting season. It provokes thinking and inspires the next generation of leaders to create a better world one day at a time. The Father of Medicine Hippocrates stated that, “everything in excess is opposed to nature.” The funny part is that in the game of life, those with excess amount of money don’t seem to want to donate their financial excess.

A humble lifestyle is feasible yet not very popular among those preaching the social justice agenda. Capitalism in a democratic society may seem to embrace the excess practice of making money or materialism, but that’s a freedom of choice. There is no influential political leader in our country today endorsing social justice that is living on a lower middle class budget. Stop and think. God bless the USA and the freedom to work hard to make dreams reality. 

If Cuban exiles couldn’t laugh, they would cry

A guest post from Cuban American educator Dr. C., aka, “La Profesora.”

A good sense of humor resonates as a characteristic of the Cuban culture. Survivors of the revolution know the value of humor therapy to cope with hardship. They choose to laugh rather than to cry in order to cope with the real struggles associated with being an exile. 

When stripped of all material possessions as well as the freedom to express opposing views, a coping strategy better be intact. Cubans have the innovative skill set of turning around a challenging situation by finding the humor in the matter at hand. Humor therapy (prior to the research) has been a successful Cuban strategy used for decades. 

“Estoy entero como el picadillo.” Translates to “I’m whole as hash” and this hash is not referring to hashtags or hash the drug. The hash in this statement is referring to ground beef. How whole is ground beef It’s not. Therefore, as humor therapy kicks into motion when asked “how are you doing?” and a person replies “estoy entero como el picadillo.” The truth is delivered in a lighthearted way.

This Spanish phrase describes the spirit of Cuban exiles: Choose joy and make it happen. 

The value of humor is important to understand the passion regarding the socialism vs. capitalism debate among Cuban-Americans. The debate of ideologies is no joke. How is this even a debate Bernie? AOC? Nancy? What are they thinking?

It’s no joke to be a first or second generation Cuban-American that understands the value of the freedoms bestowed upon United States citizens. The hardships parents and grandparents post the Cuban revolution endured developed character in the family unit. It takes supernatural joy and humor therapy to overcome hardship of any kind. The passion to stand up against the bad jokes and lies of political agendas is part of the Cuban exiles story.

Nations fall when foolishness entangles innocent folks. “Echa para allá con la bobería del socialism.” God bless the USA.

Super Bowl LIV, Latinas, and the beauty of capitalism

A guest post from Cuban American educator Dr. C., aka, “La Profesora.”

The NFL is a great example of the game of life. Strategic planning, hard work, and substantial compensation for those involved in the game. The spectators love the game and celebrate the victory of the master players. This year the focus of the celebration is on the Kansas City Chiefs. 

Oh wait — let’s not forget the Latinas that rocked the nation during the half time show. People are still talking about the new standard for women in their 40s and 50s. Is this real life aging?

As a first generation Cuban-America woman, I’m encouraged by the beauty of capitalism. Two beautiful women that represent their culture and demonstrate business wisdom delivered an “extra” kind of show on Super Bowl LIV.

This half-time show was not about values or ethics. Values and ethics are for another time. This half time show was clearly about the power of sex and money. It was about impacting the American NFL culture and securing a sweet return on investment. Any idea how much money was exchanged in the business deal? Who cares? Only in the USA do women have the freedom to choose to do whatever they want and still be respected by so many.

Most men and women can agree that the Super Bowl LIV performance was provocative, controversial, and inspiring. Neither China, Venezuela, nor Cuba offer women the same opportunity. These two Latina performers inspired women to reflect on their own identity and integrity.

May God bless all women with the opportunity to choose. May God bless the next generation with wisdom to make wise choices. 

La Edad de Oro by Jose Martí: The Golden Age by Cuba’s Apostle

A guest post by Dr. C:

“Para los niños es este periódico, y para las niñas, por supuesto. Sin las niñas no se puede vivir, como no puede vivir la tierra sin luz. El niño ha de trabajar, de andar, de estudiar, de ser fuerte, de ser hermoso: el niño puede hacerse hermoso aunque sea feo; un niño bueno, inteligente y aseado es siempre hermoso. Pero nunca es un niño más bello que cuando trae en sus manecitas de hombre fuerte una flor para su amiga, o cuando lleva del brazo a su hermana, para que nadie se la ofenda: el niño crece entonces, y parece un gigante: el niño nace para caballero, y la niña nace para madre. Este periódico se publica para conversar una vez al mes, como buenos amigos, con los caballeros de mañana, y con las madres de mañana; para contarles a las niñas cuentos lindos con que entretener a sus visitas y jugar con sus muñecas; y para decirles a los niños lo que deben saber para ser de veras hombres. Todo lo que quieran saber les vamos a decir, y de modo que lo entiendan bien, con palabras claras y con láminas finas. Les vamos a decir cómo está hecho el mundo: les vamos a contar todo lo que han hecho los hombres hasta ahora.”

Jose Martí wrote a newspaper (an anthology) for boys and for girls in 1889. Of course, girls are included in his target audience he clearly shares. His message included sharing the truth that boys without girls cannot exist, as we cannot live on earth without light. Marti goes on to share that a young boy has to work, to walk, to study, to be strong. He explains that to possess a beautiful character even if you are ugly the previously mentioned actions must be a part of a child’s life.

He continues by stating that a good, intelligent and groomed boy is always handsome. But he is never more handsome than when he brings a flower for a friend that’s a girl in his strong-man hands, or when he takes his sister’s arm, so that no one will offend her. Does Marti think women need men to protect them? 

Marti then explains that with chivalry the boy grows up and begins to look like a great man. Marti is clear about his binary description of life. He writes that a boy is born to be a gentleman, and a girl is born to become a mother. The Edad de Oro was a monthly newspaper published to share Marti’s views on character with the goal that boys would become the gentlemen of tomorrow, and the girls the mothers of the future. Marti wanted the girls to learn about beautiful stories to entertain friends as they played with their dolls. He goes on to share what boys should know to be real men.

La Edad de Oro was one of Jose Marti’s famous writings. The irony is that the current Cuba seems to have hijacked the beauty of Marti’s writing to adapt it to their ways rather than the opposite. How would the world receive Marti’s ideas of men and women today? Would men and women be happier today if Marti’s goal for boys and girls had become a reality?