Letters Feature

Editor's note: Several months ago we published a letter from a reader who was annoyed about an item that appeared in our March 27 "Best of Miami" special issue. "You said that Channel 7's Rick Sanchez should go to Channel 4 to learn some things," wrote C. Fernandez of Hialeah. "Well, I think you should check again who's learning from whom. The more you try to bring Rick down, the more popular he gets. I think he should give you a piece of his next salary. This just proves again you guys don't know what the hell you're talking about. You are just Cuban haters, and I love it. You guys should stick to the personals in the back, because obviously you are not journalists. Cubans in Hialeah laugh at your paper. How long till you apply for bankruptcy? "Fernandez's thoughtful communique provoked a response from another reader, not about Rick Sanchez but about the reference to "Cuban haters." G. Wulf of Miami Lakes replied, "I was never prejudiced until I moved to Miami and found out what real prejudice is like. Most Cubans are the ones who hate Americans. Cubans are the most obnoxious, disrespectful people I know. They speak Spanish in front of Americans when they can speak perfect English. Hey, I'm not talking about when they are with their own people. I'm talking about at work, et cetera. When they are with Americans and they start speaking their little secret language, they act like they are owed something."I was involved in an accident with one yesterday who hit the side of my car and took off in his white van, not bothering to see if my baby and I were hurt, not interested to pay for the damage done to my car, just leaving the scene of the accident like a coward, not even an `I'm sorry, miss.' They have slashed my husband's tires at work because he got a promotion and they didn't. I'm not saying that all Cubans are like this, but the large majority are. Hey, they came to our country; we didn't beg them to come. They should have a little respect for the USA. If they can't give it, they should go back to their beautiful home country, Cuba, and take their attitudes with them."Wulf's volatile letter, in turn, ignited an extraordinary debate among our readers. The volume of mail was impressive, and it provided clear evidence that many Miami residents continue to see themselves as combatants in a low-intensity regional conflict. Among the themes that emerged (arrogance, ignorance, and plain bad manners), one in particular dominated the letters: language. People literally can't communicate with each other.

We've already printed many of those letters, but weekly space limitations have forced us to parcel them out two or three at a time. Publishing the letters in that manner, however, attached a sense of isolation to a phenomenon that in fact was widespread, and tended to trivialize the impassioned feelings of frustration and rage they communicated as a whole.

In the interest of therapeutic catharsis, we're offering here a sampling of those letters we've held for several weeks. Also included are two previously published letters (from Paul-Robert von Brendel and Freddy Rodriguez) that instigated much of the verbal brawling that followed.And in the interest of therapeutic closure, we are calling for a permanent cease-fire. In next week's issue, we'll make room for selected responses to the collection of letters below. After that, no more. Correspondence from readers will continue to be encouraged, of course, but we'll do our best to restrict it to the actual contents of the paper. All letters must be received no later than Monday morning and may be mailed to Letters to the Editor, P.O. Box 011591, Miami, FL 33101. You can also send them by fax: 372-3446. Please include your full name, address, and a contact telephone number. As always we reserve the right to edit for accuracy, length, and clarity.

My family arrived in the U.S. from Europe 27 years ago when I was only three years old. My parents were attracted to the political and economic freedom of this great country. Months before coming, they began taking English lessons at an American school in Paris so they could ease their assimilation process here in the U.S. This may seem pretty basic, but it would be considered a miracle here in Miami.

Cubans show absolutely no respect for our country and its official language: English. They come here seeking the same things my family sought but make no effort to assimilate with the mainstream. This is typical of Third World minorities - give them an inch and they will take a mile! Not only do the majority of Cubans not speak English, but they get upset and rude if we, as Americans, do not speak Spanish.

Case in point: I was shopping at a drugstore in South Miami last week for some glue. When I couldn't find it, I asked a cashier for assistance. She shrugged her shoulders and informed me she didn't speak English. I then asked the security guard for help. With a dirty look on his face, he also told me he didn't speak English. I couldn't believe this was happening. Here were two people employed in service positions, yet they could provide me absolutely no service. I felt I was being discriminated against because I couldn't speak Spanish. I should not be deprived of service or be treated rudely because I don't speak Spanish. This is the U.S. Here we speak English! I can't tell you how many similar encounters I've had since moving from California four years ago. Imagine if the tables were turned and a similar situation were to occur in Cuba. The non-Spanish-speaking clerk would probably have been beaten by a mob!Cubans being "obnoxious and disrespectful" is not something isolated -it is ubiquitous. Ever notice how bad the driving is in Dade County? It's not just because people don't know how to drive; it's because they are rude, disrespectful, and they can't read the language on the road signs! It is high time Cubans be forced to learn our language. It should be law that someone applying for a service position speaks English. It is also time that the Cubans' new-found success be shared with other interest groups and minorities.

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