It all started with a web search for Cuban music. She had heard an old Cuban song that she really loved, related to and wanted more. And somehow, miraculously, thankfully, that search for old Cuban music landed Ziva on this blog.

She emailed me asking for music recommendations, I replied. Gave her some Orquestra Riverside, some Celia, of course, and some Cachao.

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Brother from another mother

As I mentioned in a previous post today, I started pouring through the Babalú Blog archives a few weeks ago, working my way from day 1 forward. I’ve run the gamut of emotions – I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve cursed and yelled profanities at my monitor – and I’m not even halfway through the archives. The amount of content, daily content, day after day after day, is astonishing.

I may have started this wild ride, but there’s no way I could have written and posted close to 58,000 posts in twenty years. It’s not humanly possible.

If it weren’t for the bevy of incredibly astute, passionate and honest writers that Babalú has had the privilege of calling contributors, you would not be reading this today.

Henry, Ziva, George, Amanda, Robert, Gusano, Carlos, Humberto, Ruth, Mora, Silvio, Monica, Asombra, Nick, Claudia, La Ventanita, Marta, Cigar Mike…You guys rock. You have been, are and will always be the blood pumping through the heart of this blog.  I don’t have the words to adequately express my thanks not just for all your work on this humble blog, but for your support and love throughout the years. You are, and will always be familia.

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La pluma es la lengua del alma… (the pen is the tongue of the soul)

If anyone would have asked me twenty, fifteen, even ten years ago what my wish would be for Babalu Blog when it turned 20 years old I’d have said that my greatest wish would be for it to be documenting the rebuilding of a nation, from within that nation, from the ashes of 50 or 60 years of communism. That Babalu Blog would be a part of bringing that island back to life somehow. That, after 20 years of hard work, the real hard work of resuscitation would have begun, and that we would have been there with our sleeves rolled up.

I don’t think I could have imagined that in the year 2023, absolutely nothing had essentially changed in Cuba. Basic liberties are still non-existent. Human rights are still violated. Political and ideological prisoners abound.  And not only would the rot and stench of communism still be pervasive, but that there would still be people cheerleading for the cause of that rot, despite standing neck deep in the fetid carcass.

Unimaginable, to me, twenty years ago. And yet. . . here we are.

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Babalú Blog’s 20th Anniversary: The Exercise of Freedom

With the thought of this anniversary in mind, I’ve been working my way forward from our very first post and, after 2 weeks, I’m nowhere near halfway through the archives of Babalú Blog. At present, there are close to 58,000 posts on this Island on the Net. It is hard to fathom. Twenty years of blogging is no small feat. And scrolling through all the posts is like reliving a lifetime, riding a roller coaster of emotions, celebrating small victories, agonizing over big defeats, wandering through joy and pain and everything in between.

The thought of Babalú still being around after twenty years wasn’t anywhere near the vicinity of the proximity of the neighborhood of my mind when I started this blog. Could not have imagined it. Could not have even come close to imagining it.

And yet here you are, still reading it. And here we are, still sharing it. The front door to this Cuban home is still open, the aroma of arroz con pollo is still wafting through the air, and you can still always come on in, sit at the table, and help yourself to a big, steaming plateful of comida cubana criolla. Cuban soul food.

It’s near impossible to describe in detail everything that this Babalusian adventure has been, but here are some of the things I’m most proud of:

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fidel castro Dead at Age 90

The news is still trickling in, but it’s confirmed this time: fidel castro is dead. May he rot in hell for all eternity.

I’d always imagined this moment much differently. I’d always imagined myself in sheer joy, ecstatic, triumphant. But, alas, that is not the case. Sure, make no bones about it, I’m glad the bastard is dead. I’m glad the pots and pans are blaring in the streets of Miami tonight. And some day, if his legacy of hate and injustice ever ends, I will piss on his grave.

But the damage is done. The real Cuba is gone. A memory. A faded sepia image.

Brace yourselves, folks. The next few days will be heartbreaking as we will be assaulted by the accolades from the media. Tears will rain down from celebrities and world leaders will pay endless tributes to the bearded devil. It will be nauseating.

But please do take a few moments to revel in this news. fidel castro is dead. Roll the words around in your mouth like a fine wine. Take it in and let it soothe you and warm you and embrace you like a favorite blanket: fidel castro is dead.

And, if I may, let me borrow and tweak a few lines from TS Eliot, for you, fidel, you dead fucking bastard:

This is the way you end.
This is the way you end, fidel.
This is the way you end.
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Oh, and I never once capitalized your name, you fuck.

Happy Birthday, Babalu!

babalu The first post on this blog was published thirteen years ago today. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long. I had no idea where this blog was going back then, if it was going anywhere at all. I certainly could not have imagined it still being around all this time.

Thirteen years. Lots of water under lots of bridges.

I applaud all of you loyal readers who have stayed the course with us through the years. We have been through some interesting times indeed. Some laughs, some tears. Lots of heartbreak. I like to think Babalu has made a difference. I’m sure it has. At the very least the archives of this blog serve a a reservoir of truth about the Cuban reality.

I know I haven’t been around much the past couple of years. The death of my parents, arguably the patriarchs of this blog, affected me greatly and I have lacked the focus I believe is needed to stay in this Cuba fray full throttle. Babalu has been in good hands tho. Great hands. Alberto de la Cruz has done a much better job than I could have. He has toiled over this baby day in and day out. Out here on the front lines of this cyber counterrevolution despite all the frustrations, anger, heartbreak and gamut of emotions that Cuba elicits. Every day. I am beyond proud to call him my brother.

And the rest of our Babalu battalion: Dr. Carlos Eire; Humberto Fontova; Henry Gomez; Silvio Canto Jr.; and Ziva Sahl: I am in awe of your dedication. Of your love for that island shaped like a crocodile. Of your commitment to the truth. Your devotion to what is right and just. You all are an inspiration. Patriots in every sense of the word. I hope you know just what incredible examples you are of the true Cuban heart and soul.

Babalu can boast of a few accomplishments, too. We have opened some minds to the reality of Cuba and tyranny and communism. We ran the first internet Cuban human rights awareness campaigns. We have spoken at human rights conferences. We have joined in solidarity with our brothers and sisters from Venezuela and Iran and other countries whose people suffer under the yoke of oppression. We have had an audience with the President of the United States. We have been not only Cuban patriots, but proud American patriots as we have not only been thankful for being afforded the American dream, we have been good and dutiful citizens. We have, always, supported our men and women in the Armed Forces whose sacrifices and dedication and perseverance protect this freedom whose fragility is more than apparent through the prism of Cuba.

There have been many, many tears. We have mourned the deaths of Cuban freedom fighters like Laura Pollan, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Oswaldo Paya and many others. We have languished, year after year, over our Cuban brothers and sisters in castro’s gulags. Over being beaten mercilessly for wanting something so simple as to have a say in their lives. To be able to speak without hypocrisy, to choose what is best for them, for their families, for their country. To live as free men and women.

Back on this day in 2003, things we a bit clearer. The lines were not as blurred as they are today. In 2003, we had a sitting President who understood the anguish at the lack of freedom in Cuba. Who took a stand, however unpopular in the eyes of those who stood to benefit from another, because it was right and just and true. Today we have a sitting President who murmurs feigned concern over oppression, only to then consort and collude with the oppressor. And we have a media whose arrogance and willful blindness has escalated. Fostering and promoting a false narrative like never before.

That’s why today, every word posted on this blog fills me with pride. There is dignity and honor in fighting for what is right and just and true.

Every single word ever published and every word yet to be published on Babalu stem from that spot in our hearts and in our souls called hope.

Only oppression should fear the full exercise of freedom.

Jose Marti

Coso, Chorizos and Chicharos


“Vale,” Dad’s voice came through a little shaky over the phone. “Are you very busy today? Your Mom is driving me crazy and I need some help.”

Mom had been having serious bouts of dementia and Dad himself wasn’t feeling all that great. “I’m not that busy today, Papi. I’ll swing by around lunch time.”

His voice perked up a bit. “Gracias, mijo.”

It would be my very last telephone conversation with my father.

I finished up some paperwork, replied to a couple of emails and rescheduled my afternoon appointment. Now, in retrospect, I realize I should have been happy that Id get to spend an afternoon with Mom and Dad, but the truth is, I wasn’t looking forward to it. Dad was in a lot of pain. His back and hips were causing him all kinds of hurt and he was very frail. It was difficult to see Dad, the big, strong ox, so weak, so thin, so helpless. Mom wasn’t doing so well either and adding to that was the dementia, which had gotten progressively worse in recent months.

I called Dad back as I left the office. “Did you two already have lunch?”

Dad said he’d had a little something but Mom hadn’t eaten. “Your Mom says she is going to cook. Chicharos.”

It had been months if not years since mom had taken to the kitchen and while I welcomed a steaming bowl of Mom’s chicharos, you never know how the food a person with dementia cooks will turn out. “I’ll swing by the Latin Cafe,” I told him. “pick up a couple media noches and for you a Latin 2000. It’s like a Cuban sandwich but with chorizo.”

“Ok,”he replied. “Sounds good.” You could never have too much food, according to Dad.

When I got to Mom and Dad’s, sandwiches in hand, Mom was in the front the front porch, staring out the window. “I thought you were your Dad,” she said. “he still isnt back from work.”

Mom thought Dad, who was sitting in his recliner watching tv, was Dad’s Dad. “Your father left me with the old man,” she told me. “And he looks ill.”

Dad and I laughed through the sadness about it. “She’s been like that since yesterday,” he said. “Driving me nuts.”

I broke out the sandwiches even though Dad said he wasnt all that hungry. I knew once he saw the chorizo, he’d eat. And he did. “Este sandwich esta empigau,” he said. “Dont eat the other half. I want it for later.”

Mom was tinkering around in the kitchen, searching in all the wrong places for everything she’d need to make the chicharos. She’s lived in this house over thirty years, cooked 2 or 3 squares a day, every day and couldnt even remember where she her pots or pans, her spices, spoons or anything else.

For the very first time in my life, at the age of 49, I helped Mom cook chicharos. The very same chicharos she’d pour over my head when Id refuse to eat them as a kid.

Dad napped most of the day while I chased after Mom. She kept pacing back and forth, going out to the front porch, bitching and moaning that Dad was late from work and he wasnt answering his phone and he was supposed to be home already and what if something happened and maybe I should go look for him. To say that witnessing this, living this, is heartbreaking is an overwhelming understatement.

I could not imagine what it must have felt for my Dad to live through this. To see his wife of 60 years mentally deteriorate to such an extent and he not be able to do anything for her. Dad could barely stand, he could hardly walk and for a man like my father, who spent his life protecting and providing and caring for his family, it must have been relentlessly devastating. The weight of the world on his shoulders.

Mom returned from one of her forays to the porch and suddenly recognized Dad. “When did you get home,” she asked. “we’ve all been waiting for you.”

Luckily or as I like to think by design, the dementia had given mom a short reprieve in the late afternoon and she went and sat next to Dad. She cupped his face in her hands, combed his white whisps back behind his ears and kissed his big hands. I could tell Dad was fighting back the tears but for those fleeting moments, they were so happy to see each other again.

“Coso,” Mom whispered to Dad. “I made you chicharos. Do you want a bowl?”

Dad said he thought she’d never asked. “the aroma was making me hungry.”

I helped Mom find his tray, set it up and serve him a bowl of chicharos that Mom and I made. Dad savored every bite and asked for a little more. “Este potaje esta de competencia.”

A couple hours later, Dad would have a pulmonary embolism, we would call 911 and Fire Rescue would take him to the ER.

He would never see his home again.

BREAKING: Alan Gross released from prison.

All major news outlets are reporting that Alan Gross has been released from prison with few details, except for that bastion of communist propaganda that is CNN:

Washington (CNN) — U.S. contractor Alan Gross, held by the Cuban government since 2009, was freed Wednesday as part of a landmark deal with Cuba that paves the way for a major overhaul in U.S. policy toward the island, senior administration officials tell CNN.
President Obama is expected to announce Gross’ release at noon.
Gross’ “humanitarian” release by Cuba was accompanied by a separate spy swap, the officials said. Cuba also freed a U.S. intelligence source who has been jailed in Cuba for more than 20 years, although authorities did not identify that person for security reasons. The U.S. released three Cuban intelligence agents convicted of espionage in 2001.

So the Obama administration traded 3 spies implicated in the murder of US citizens for a humanitarian worker and an “unknown” intelligence source. Because bowing to communists and terrorists is what Obama and his cohorts do best.

This is a major setback for the opposition and dissident movements in Cuba. The Obama administration, by making this “deal”, has confirmed that they are OK with the repression, brutality, incarceration, and murder the castro regime foists upon the opposition. And I will once again say what I have been saying since day one of this farce of a presidential administration, for the record: faced with the fact that he is, by far, the worst President this nation has ever seen, and with no true positive legacy, Obama is relying on the low hanging fruit of the Cuban embargo to placate the left. Look for President Executive Action to undermine codified US Cuba policy.

Obama is set to speak on this at noon today. Listen as the president tramples upon the rule of law, justice, the Cuban-American community and freedom loving Cubans on the island.

Update: Statement from Capital Hill Cubans:

For over five years, the Castro dictatorship has held American development worker, Alan Gross, as its hostage for helping the Cuban people connect to the Internet.

This shows the cruel extent to which the Castro dictatorship is willing to go in order to try to silence its own people.

With Gross’ hostage-taking, the Castro dictatorship has sought to coerce the Obama Administration into releasing Cuban spies imprisoned in the United States and to unilaterally ease sanctions.

Today, this innocent American, who should have never been imprisoned in the first place, is returning home to his wife and daughters.

But sadly, rather than being released unconditionally, the Obama Administration has acquiesced to the Castro regime’s coercion.

While we are relieved at the release of this American hostage today, there are 11 million Cubans that remain hostages of Castro’s brutal regime. Moreover, repression in Cuba today is at a historic high.

In exchange for Gross’ release, the Obama Administration will announce the release of three Cuban spies imprisoned in the United States for crimes, including a conspiracy to kill Americans.

Today, our hearts go out to the families of those young Americans, the pilots of the Brothers to the Rescue planes disintegrated in international waters by Cuban MIGs, who were murdered by the Castro regime with the help of these Cuban spies.

The Obama Administration will additionally announce that it will use its executive authority to ease a set of U.S. sanctions — also in exchange for Gross’ release.

As a result of these actions, the world today will be less safe.

Rogue regimes throughout the world will take note that you can take American hostages and will be rewarded with policy concessions.

Moreover, that rogue regimes can murder Americans, have U.S. courts and juries duly convict those involved — and see justice aborted by a stroke of the President’s pen.

UPDATE: Just as a stark reminder, here is the audio of the downing of the Brothers to the Rescue pilots, which the 3 Cuban spies being released are complicit in.

Update: DatechGuy is succinct:

Obama is trying to cement his legacy. Human rights be damned.

UPDATE:During Obama’s remarks – which I confess I could barely stomach – he had the audacity of quoting Jose Marti. Yet with one glaring omission:

Obama stated “Liberty if the right of every man to be honest”

He left out the most important part:

“Liberty is the right of every man to be honest, TO THINK AND SPEAK WITHOUT HYPOCRISY.

Sometimes, what’s not said is what rings loudest.



What: Come out tonight to show solidarity with members of the Cuban opposition visiting Miami!
When: 6:00pm
Where: FIU Law School, 11200 S.W. 8th Street, Miami, FL 33199