Babalú memories over the years

Babalú turns 20 today. We go back into the archives and revisit some conversations we’ve had with Babalú writers over the years.

We spoke with Carlos Eire back in 2011 about his life and book. Carlos is a professor at Yale, a member of the “Peter Pan children” who came to the US in the early 1960s, and author of “Learning to Die in Miami: Confessions of a Refugee Boy.” His previous book is “Waiting for snow in Havana.”

We spoke with Humberto Fontova, Cuban-American leader and author of “Che” plus a few other books…we recorded this show in 2011 for the 50th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Read more

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.

Read more

Keeping the flame burning

One morning at home in early 2005, I opened up my recently-delivered Miami Herald and ran into a story about a website called Babalú Blog run by a Kendall cubanito by the name of Valentin Prieto, and dedicated to news about Cuba and all things Cuban and Cuban-American. Back then, before the social media explosion, a few Cuba-themed websites were popping up, but these were mainly related to Cuban-American culture and not so much about politics. So, I checked out Babalú Blog, and was quickly captivated by the rapid-fire mixture of politics, culture, and storytelling.

It inspired me to start my own blog along the same lines, and although my blog never came close to reaching the level of readership as Babalú, it got the attention of “El Machete” who graciously invited me to join his talented group of authors and contributors. I felt honored and humbled to be a part of a community of like-minded people with a common goal and desire to expose the atrocities of the Cuban dictatorship, as well as to be a voice of hope for the victims of the regime.

It’s been a decade since I’ve written on Babalú Blog, and although my blogging days are behind me, I still have fond memories of being part of that great team of writers and hanging out with the likes of Val, Alberto, George, Henry, Ziva, and Amanda (apologies if I forgot anyone…it’s been a while!).

Read more

20 años no es nada (20 years ain’t nothing)

20 years ago, it never occurred to me that I would have to explain what blogging was like in 2003. It’s like anything else, you assume it will always be the way it is right now.

The newest form of telling personal stories on the World Wide Web was the “web log.” Eventually shortened into just “blog.” Many of us jumped in with much enthusiasm to tell the stories of our lives in the world as it was “today.” Of course, by “today,” I mean “back in the day.”

In the morning I would grab my cafécito and log on to my favorite blogs. Babalú being one of the first I discovered. “An island on the web without a bearded dictator.” (That tag line remains genius to this day.)

Soon enough I was tuning in to read the latest news of the day, the present goings-on in Cuba, or a beautifully poetic description of Valentin Prieto’s early life recollections or tributes to his remarkable Cuban parents. Babalú connected me to my Cuban roots and compatriots in a way that felt absolutely visceral.

Read more

Babalu Blog celebrates 20 years of making jack-*sses of the Mainstream Media and its pantheon of ‘Cuba Experts’

Back in 2005 the mainstream media and its “Cuba experts” assured us that Fidel’s failing health meant major “reforms” were coming to Cuba as soon as all those “reformers” got in the saddle…blah, blah…blah.

Babalu Blog begged to differ….Well?

Back in 2007 the mainstream media and its “Cuba experts” assured us that with “Raul the reformer” in the driver’s seat, he’d promote aides like “reformer” Carlos Lage and Cuba would soon transform into a Caribbean Singapore….blah…blah…blah

Babalu Blog begged to differ….Well? (for details see here.)

Back in 2014 the mainstream media and it’s “Cuba experts” assured us that Obama’s “opening” was the initiative that (THIS TIME FOR SURE!) would bring all the “reformers” to the fore of the Cuban government and soon that “Caribbean Singapore” would fully blossom…blah…blah…blah.

Babalu Blog begged to differ….Well? (for more details, see here.)

Read more

My islands

I was lucky to be born on an island paradise. A few months later, my luck ran out when paradise was lost.

Before long, it was obvious that the island was spiraling down into a red abyss. Most of my childhood memories revolve around the struggle to survive the repression, scarcity and fear that living on my island entailed.

My family had decided to leave the island early on. That decision caused serious rifts within the family and also caused my father to lose his job. Tough Times. Soon afterward, the United States broke relations with the island, and we were stuck. Stuck in what had become an island prison run by a death cult with its own catchy slogan: “Patria o Muerte.”

Everything on the island revolved around the cult leader. And every edict or law seemed designed to humiliate, torture and subjugate the inmates into submission. Every day was worse than the day before. They were building “The New Man” (by force, of course).

Finally, after years of trying, we were able to leave via the Freedom Flights.

Read more

Happy 20th anniversary, Babalú

From 2005 through 2013, it was my privilege to be a writer on the best blog writing about Cuban affairs on the Internet. It all started with a phone call from Val, and it went from there. Those were difficult years in Cuba; little did we realize that we would still be discussing the disaster that is that sad island in 2023. Especially after the death of the monster in 2016.

My fondest memories are the Cuba Nostalgia events we participated in with the folks here in Miami, enjoying unabashed and unashamed Castro bashing, rum drinking, cigar smoking, and for those inclined, dancing.

BabaluBlog was, and still is by far, the best resource for real news — unvarnished truth–about Cuba and what goes on that sad island.

Happy 20th anniversary!

Anyway, IMHO, this is the best piece I ever wrote on Babalú, on the day of the death of Fidel Castro:

The monster is dead

Felicidades, Babalú

I’m not sure precisely when or how I started “doing” Babalú, but it was early on. I liked that it was in English and that it unabashedly channeled “those people,” as I had lost patience with (and respect for) supposedly major sources like Miami’s Heralds, let alone the national usual suspects like the New York Times and the TV networks (the Elián episode had made many things painfully but abundantly clear). I also liked that I could comment on any subject that came up, which helped me articulate my thoughts and clarify my position, even if only for my benefit. Eventually, I began writing posts, albeit only occasionally, as I tend to obsess over them and probably expect them to do too much.

The fact is that even if José Martí himself were writing for Babalú, the willfully blind would ignore him. Sometimes I think we’re only preaching to the choir, but the truth about Cuba still needs to be put out there, not only for Cuba’s sake but also for the sake of the truth and ourselves–for the sake of honor, dignity and self-respect. I think Babalú does a pretty good job of that, day in and day out, because unlike so many Cuba “experts,” we care deeply, we know whereof we speak, and we want to tell it the way it really is. Again, it’s not just a question of what we can accomplish in concrete terms, but of doing what should be done–and Lord knows if Cubans don’t do it, others won’t.

So, I wish a very happy 20th birthday to Babalú and many more to come. I hope it will only get better and more effective and do as much good as possible for its readers and for Cuba. It has always been a dedicated endeavor for people who, like the Blues Brothers, are on a mission, which is a big reason why it’s still around and going strong.

Reflections on Babalu Blog at 20

Val, Ziva and I posing in front of outdoor advertising that was part of a public relations campaign to raise awareness of Spain’s re-colonization of Cuba, May of 2007

I’ve been thinking about what to say on this auspicious occasion, and I’ve been drawing blanks, so I’m going to simply start writing and hope it makes sense in the end.

By the time I started reading Babalú Blog it was already a couple of years old. A co-worker turned me on to it, and I was hooked. I had just published a website,, about Ché Guevara and the much propagandized “Battle of Santa Clara” during Cuba’s castroite insurrection. I felt I needed to meet the creator of Babalú Blog, Valentin Prieto, in order to promote my new website so I set out to meet him at Cuba Nostalgia. This must have been May of 2005. Val was gracious and helpful to me and by March of 2006 I was contributing to Babalu. At some point Val began to burn out, I could sense it. I still had a lot of energy for what we were doing and began to fill the vacuum slowly being left by Val. The audience continued growing, and so did Babalú’s roster of writers. Eventually, I burned out too. Fortunately, for the blog’s sake, and for Cuba’s sake, Alberto de la Cruz then stepped in and took the reins that he has in hand to this very day. How he does it, I don’t know.

Read more

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.

Read more

I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is more Babalú.

Privileged hooligans at La Salle de Mirarmar, Havana, early 1957

I first discovered Babalú when Val Prieto emailed me out of the blue to ask me questions about the feast of San Lazaro. I can’t remember the day, month, or year, or any details about his questions, but Val’s email prompted me to go to the Babalú website and after opening that portal I was instantly hooked.

I had entered a dimension I didn’t know existed, a parallel universe where being Cuban and writing in English were two things that didn’t cancel each other out. More than that, caring deeply about Cuba and writing in English to others who cared deeply about Cuba were two things perfectly synchronized.

And the writing on the website blew me away. It was superb, both in terms of content and style. It was something amazing, at a very high level, better than anything else I had ever encountered or expected could exist.

I became a regular visitor to Babalú and before long I submitted an essay to Val, from Geneva, Switzerland, where a visit to a Cuban cigar store had left me thoroughly devastated. The year was 2009. Boxes of Cuban cigars costing thousands of Euros were being sold there, and Che’s image was embossed on the boxes, naturally.

Read more

When Alberto met Babalú

I can’t say I recall the first post I read on Babalú, but I do remember the controversy that was swirling around at the time that led me to finding the blog in the first place. It was the scandal that broke out when in 2006 the infamous Miami Herald editor Thomas Fiedler referred to Miami’s Cuban exile community as “chihuahua’s nipping at my heels.” As you can imagine, the racist remark caused an uproar in South Florida and ultimately led to his “retirement.” Someone emailed me a link to a Babalú post on the topic and from that moment on, I was hooked on the blog.

For me, Babalú felt like a home I never knew I had. Cuban exiles and their Cuban American children gathered in one place, expressing themselves freely and without fear, saying what we never dared utter in mixed company, but what we all felt inside. On Babalú I found the pride, the angst, the joy, and the sadness that is the life for so many of us who were born into and raised in the Cuban exile community.

Like so many other Cuban Americans, my Cuban identity and heritage, my “cubanidad,” was awakened in 2000 with the Elian Gonzalez fiasco. The young boy’s scandalous kidnapping by the Clinton administration and the subsequent response by the rest of America was indeed a wake-up call. We suddenly learned no one was going to help us fight our battles. We also sadly learned that many of those who claimed to be our friends, who drank Cuban coffee with us and ate our pastelitos were now out on the streets celebrating the gut punch the Cuban American community received.

Read more