By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
I can say unequivocally that I have never listened to [La Mogolla] and I never will. My mother listens to it once in a while, though, and she gets bent out of shape. Unfortunately, the guy who does it has talent. But he's like Castro - he uses his talent for the wrong reasons.
Miami Commissioner Victor De Yurre
Alberto Gonzalez jabs at a slice of carne asada with a plastic fork, slices it into several small pieces, wolfs them down, each one punctuating curt answers to a stream of questions from secretaries and salespeople who dart in from the next-door newsroom of his newest daily paper, Diario Nacional. The man behind the Spanish-language political satire radio program ®MDNM¯La Mogolla barely looks up from his arroz con frijoles and the memo he's reading, when he explains what makes this town a treasure trove for his show.
"Miami is a place that compares to Ali Baba's caves," says the veteran political humorist and self-styled muckraker, a smug grin on his face, a bulging belly straining the buttons of his faded striped shirt. "The only difference is that Ali Baba had 40 thieves, and Miami has 400. For more than 30 years, people here have been attacking Fidel Castro, saying he doesn't bathe and things like that. But they've never said what's happening here. This is the other Cuba, and in many ways it's just as bad and corrupt as the real one."
As entertaining as they are razor sharp, laced with Cuban slang and obscure popular-culture terminology that's inaccessible to the uninitiated, Gonzalez wields his political broadsides at the expense of Miami's power elite. In the surreal world of La Mogolla, characters are caricatures come to life in a skewed but still-recognizable local landscape, the city's noted and notorious harpooned by humor. Some say the sizzling sarcasm, the all-around nasty attitude, is racist and slanderous, but La Mogolla's steamroller rumbles on. "Nobody is sacred in my scripts if they have done wrong," declares the 62-year-old Gonzalez. "Nobody."
In La Mogolla's mundo, Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez, nicknamed "Luther," wears black suits, eats chocolate, bans the use of the word white, going so far as to fire an employee who lived on White Street - all to further his quest for black votes. Commissioner Victor De Yurre sits in a highchair at commission meetings in order to appear taller. To entertain guests at her home, Commissioner Miriam Alonso dons an Oscar de la Renta garbage bag, crows over Suarez's problems with the black boycott, and readies her mayoral coup d'etat. Cuban American National Foundation chairman Jorge Mas Canosa practices brujeria against his opponents, employing coconuts and a dead cat to hex La Mogolla. "I'm pretty mean sometimes," snickers Gonzalez.
But no one ever said the politics of el exilio were nice. In the 32 years since Fidel Castro took power in Cuba, bombings, assaults, and death threats have been common forms of political expression in pursuit of la causa - the struggle to rid the island of the dictator. For the more reactionary members of the exile community, that effort has also included silencing anyone who might be perceived as soft on Castro. Dynamite and plastique are flashy, attention-grabbing political weapons, but the radio airwaves carry messages that are equally strident, and more consistent, pervasive, and demanding than other methods of striking the radical nerve of el exilio.
Since shortly after the Cuban Revolution, with politically active exiles growing increasingly frustrated with Castro's entrenchment and the United States government's unwillingness or inability to do anything about it, the South Florida airwaves have buzzed with radio commentary, both licensed and clandestine, openly calling for mayhem and murder in Cuba and intimidation and violence against anyone in Miami who voices anything resembling flexibility - or worse, dialogue - in dealing with Castro. For years these realities have loomed as large in Miami politics as have taxes, crime, and other more banal municipal issues, and have provided both the context and the fodder for Alberto Gonzalez's art.
Even by el exilio standards, La Mogolla, Caribbean Spanish slang for "muddle" or "tangle," has been the most vitriolic and incensed radio outlet of political fury, bottled lightning cloaked in a cheeky format. The program, an hour-long spoof of a news program a la Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update," has a history as stormy as it is brief. Since signing on for the first time in June 1989, on WRHC-AM 1550 "Cadena Azul," Gonzalez and his show have been kicked off that station, as well as WOCN-AM 1450 "Union Radio," for political and financial reasons, leaving in their wake unpaid bills, ill will, and allegations of fraud, political extortion, and censorship.
Each eviction, each hard-core stand on issues ranging from the black boycott to the "Latin Quarter" dispute, has further polarized supporters and detractors, sending ripples of rancor through a community where word of mouth can be the most vital news medium. Even those who don't listen to the show know about it, hear about it. Although La Mogolla's audience is difficult to define, it includes the old guard of the exile community, those most staunchly opposed to Castro's regime. Gonzalez, whose politics often seem to lie somewhere to the right of reactionary, is their champion. Members of La Mogolla Club, an organization that raises funds for the radio program, took to the airwaves two weeks ago when Gonzalez was arrested on bad-check charges that dated back to 1984. They claimed the January 7 arrest date - the same day Gonzalez's new newspaper, Diario Nacional, hit the streets - was no coincidence.