By Michael E. Miller
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Sabrina Rodriguez
By Michael E. Miller
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Luther Campbell
By Kyle Munzenrieder
Brawling Altar Egos
While I enjoyed John Lantigua's article "Holy War, Inc." (April 9) about Santeria in Miami, the men interviewed are not indicative of all practitioners. These high-profile men -- the Pichardo brothers and Rigoberto Zamora -- have been at each other's throats for some time and will continue to speak out against each other. They have reduced the religion to petty bickering, rivalries, and race issues.
What is lost here is the beauty and richness of Santeria and its practice. It is sad that the public should read an article that should have been titled "Ego Wars."
Mainstream America, Here We Come
As a babalawo, I think publishing a story about the war between Zamora and the Pichardos only serves to isolate our religion from society. This is exactly why I never responded to Mr. Lantigua's phone call. He called me because Zamora gave him my telephone number. In the past, I have reported for a couple of local papers in Washington, D.C., and in a couple of instances also was part of interviews by the Washington Post and Hispanic magazine. I have always given positive information on our African religion, never anything to isolate it from society.
It seems that as a reporter, Mr. Lantigua is interested in the negative aspects of our faith, not in the integration of our religion into mainstream America.
Fagbemi Oniko Melli
Sixties Cuba Was Definitely Not Fifties Cuba
After reading Judy Cantor's article "!Viva Los Zafiros!" (April 9) and after watching an extremely lousy copy of the film Zafiros: Locura Azul, I felt sad and depressed. This mediocre attempt to present a subject matter that would be acceptable to Cubans on both sides of the Florida Straits should please only Cubans suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
Cubans would have to have very bad memories to believe that the period represented in the movie, the mid-Sixties, was glamorous and carefree. The mere rise to fame of Los Zafiros in those years should warn people of the sad state of things in Cuba. Here was a talented group of singers becoming the rage by trying to Cubanize and capitalize on the sound of the Platters, a sound that, by that time, had become obsolete worldwide thanks to the Beatles, the British invasion, Motown, and other musical influences.
Only in the impoverished, backward, and isolated Cuban musical and cultural environment created by the communist schizophrenia of the Sixties could a group like Los Zafiros succeed and thrive. But leaving that whole issue aside for the moment, we must now deal with a film that presents Havana nightlife in those tormented mid-Sixties as if it were in the Fifties; a film that wants its audience to believe that Los Zafiros were the utmost expression of Cuban musical creativity and excellence (the constant references to the Platters are particularly embarrassing); a film that portrays Berry Gordy, Jr., founder and president of Motown, as a "Mr. Jackson" who wants to sign these heroes to his label (they are as great as one of his groups: the Platters -- but the Platters were never on Motown!); a film that takes for granted that all Cubans are or should be nostalgic for the most destructive decade in the history of its people.
The historical errors of this film are so appalling that its success in Cuba and its pretended acceptance in Miami should be another blot on the conscience of Cubans everywhere. Yes, Zafiros: Locura Azul saddened me and depressed me, but most of all it has made me feel guilty for sitting through it.
Mark O. Martinez
There's a Downside to the Upbeat
While I would like to congratulate Judy Cantor on the special attention she constantly gives to Cuban music and musicians still living in Cuba, let me point out that many other Cuban musicians who have made this country their home have had a difficult time playing Cuban music -- not in Miami but in places where discrimination and absolute disregard for that style of music prevail.
These musicians are hard-working individuals trying to make a living in sometimes the most difficult environments. Once in a while, Ms. Cantor, please show New Times readers the struggles that Cuban musicians encounter trying to spread their music in this country.
DeFede: Unprecedented Pettiness
Shame on Jim DeFede for his attempt to twist the late water bill payment of Brian May, chief of staff to Dade Mayor Alex Penelas, into a political news story ("The Check's in the Mail," April 9).
Without question, Mr. DeFede's brand of advocacy journalism has made a significant impact on this community. His columns have influenced policy, sparked investigations, and exposed ethical breaches by our public officials. In recent weeks, however, DeFede appears to have diverted his attention away from advocacy journalism to make increasingly personal attacks on Penelas and May. With his story about May's missed water bill payment, he hit a new low for pettiness and invasion of a government employee's privacy.
Curiously, on paper it would seem that DeFede would be on the same team as Penelas and May. Both camps have demonstrated their commitment to cleaning up government and holding public officials to high ethical standards. To date, Mr. DeFede has chosen either to deride Penelas and May's reform agenda or to ignore it altogether.
Let's hope Mr. DeFede recognizes that "personal attack" journalism is not the same as "advocacy journalism." If he gets back on track, we'll all be better off.
William J. Collins
DeFede: A Veteran of Pawing Through Other People's Garbage
I don't know how much money New Times pays Jim DeFede, but he ought to give back a recent paycheck. I mean, an article about Brian May forgetting to pay his water bill?
In the last year, I've watched with sadness as the quality of New Times has deteriorated, printing articles that run the gamut from the yellow (Cesar Odio's family profile) to the banal (some civil servant who wants to be a fashion model). But this one is definitely the most inconsequential and petty I've read in a long time. Even the National Enquirer does much better.
It's funny that in another article, Mr. DeFede wrote that May "doesn't have casual conversations. He has agendas ("You Make the Call," April 2). Seems to me that DeFede is the one with the agenda -- namely, to appoint himself Kenneth Starr to Penelas and his administration and find an angle to criticize everything the mayor does. Such tactics only undermine the credibility of the paper and make his motives questionable.
If Brian May was delivering pizza ten years ago (and looking at his photograph, he must have been very young then) and is now the mayor's chief of staff, I would say that's quite an accomplishment. DeFede may have been a journalist for more than ten years, but he still has not evolved from rummage-through-the-trash methods.
I've got a hot tip for him. I heard that Penelas tips only twelve percent in restaurants. Such cheap behavior is intolerable in an elected official, especially one who makes more than $90,000 per year. It must be exposed. Go get him, Jim!
DeFede: Taking You to an Exciting New Level of Corruption
As Jim DeFede points out ("Take My Son, Please," April 9), the corrupt hiring practices at Miami International Airport are not news. I've known this since 1988, when I applied for the same position as the son of Dade Commissioner Javier Souto, but with a big difference: I had to pass a written test and wait for an interview and approval for a position in the airport's safety and security division.
I was disqualified, with no reasonable explanation.
It did not matter that I had ten years' experience with the airline industry in passenger sales and as a service agent at Miami International Airport. Nor did it matter that I had a college degree and knowledge of the airport facilities and procedures. Mr. DeFede's article proves once again that the corruption in this county reaches to all levels in government.
Rene L. Santana
DeFede: He's Italian, He's from Brooklyn -- Bingo!
I have been reading and collecting Hispanic-related articles from your sometimes-well-written paper for ten years, ever since I moved to Miami. After Jim DeFede's article "With Friends Like These" (March 26) concerning the sons of Jorge Mas Canosa and his questionable attack on Alex Penelas, I really have to wonder about objectivity -- and most definitely about New Times's obvious anti-Hispanic bias.
The only time the likes of you come to the aid of Hispanics is when they are impoverished, which achieves your self-serving goals. You enjoy seeing us in the place you think we belong. It reminds me of the time I spent living among Italian Americans in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. When the minute my neighbors found out I was Hispanic, the "Good mornings" ceased to be spoken and heads were turned. That was one good reason for moving down to Florida.
If you don't like the fact that we hold political and economic power, too bad. It will take a civil war to remove us from this land.
Corruption is as common in Anglo-Saxon, Italian, and Jewish politicians as it is in the Hispanic community. With luck, someone with some objectivity will focus on them also. It is quite obvious what Mr. DeFede and New Times are: the voice of South Florida bigots who want to see us as their maids and gardeners, but not as their equals.
DeFede: Pea-Brained Hunter of Witches
I read the hatchet job that Jim DeFede did on State Sen. Daryl Jones ("Secretary of Limbo," March 19). The character assassination by innuendo, unsupported allegations, and rumor puts New Times in a class with the Star and the National Enquirer.
Not only is Daryl Jones qualified without any taint to be Secretary of the Air Force, but he may be the single most outstanding leader in Dade County, and perhaps the only leader able to unify this diverse melting pot. Shame on New Times for attempting to impugn the integrity of so outstanding a man. To have allowed yourselves to become a pawn of bigoted, narrow-minded Republicans who are attempting a sub rosa derailment of Senator Jones's appointment because they are unable to confront his many outstanding achievements gives new meaning to the phrase witch-hunt.
The article serves only to embarrass New Times in your community. Obviously the pea-brained Mr. DeFede does not know better, but the editor should.
Franklyn B. Glinn
Professional Jealousy, No Doubt
I read Ted B. Kissell's article "The Bad Boys of Miami Beach" (April 2) in praise of the SunPost and was very upset to see he forgot to mention their best staff writer, Alicia Saxe.
Ms. Saxe is an arts columnist who writes weekly on theater and local artists. Her writing is interesting, informative, thought-provoking, and often humorous. How could Mr. Kissell name all the other staff columnists and leave her out? Shame on him.
As Tessa Says, Lesbians Get Screwed
I found Kirk Nielsen's article "Lost Girls in the Night" (April 2) a fascinating if superficial look at the lesbian-bar promotion "industry." It is an industry, a business, and businesses like to make money. One message was missed among the details of who screwed over whom (Stephen Kneapler and Lisa Cox appear to be well-matched opponents). That message is this: Lesbians get screwed.
The word on the street is there are no lesbian bars in Miami. Women come to me at church, at work, in the grocery store asking where to go on Friday and Saturday night. "Fort Lauderdale," I tell them with a sigh.
Lesbians don't get a bar of their own for longer than a few months at a time. Look at Gadyva, look at Electra. Gay men have bar after bar to attend. As only a lesbian couple would know, straight bars are not safe. Hey, even South Beach isn't safe.
So where do we go? Out in packs of ten to Stella Blue to see Diane Ward, or we drive 45 minutes to 2509, which is like the new JJ's or the old reliable Partners of Dania. It's slim pickin's in this greedy, dog-eat-dog world of the hotel-restaurant industry, which is geared to make as much money as quickly as possible.
Killian Nine: Finally, a Dawson Defender
After reading Ted Kissell's article "Reading, Writing, and ... Ohmygod!" (March 5) about the Killian pamphlet, I was moved to respond. I have not seen anyone defend principal Timothy Dawson's decision. Yet if the pamphlet had been allowed to circulate in the school community and a parent had brought it to Dawson's superiors, he could have been disciplined for his inability to maintain school policy.
Our children are important and should be treated fairly. If Mr. Dawson had overreacted in any way, a meeting with the parents and the school board would have sorted it out.
Killian Nine: Don't Forget, Dawson Is the Victim
After reading the "racist" and "threatening" Killian pamphlet, I had to fight back the tears from laughing so hard. As a 1996 Southwest Miami High graduate, I was taken on a journey down memory lane by the Killian pamphlet.
I am very familiar with the "park & talk" and most of the other things addressed in the students' First Amendment pamphlet. The things that were said summarized life as a current high school student. Those kids just wrote down what many of us have thought about but never cared to mention.
I had often fantasized about attacking people walking in front of me in the hallways, people who felt there was no need to go to class on time. Or I always resented the "security guards" who spent more time flirting with girls, giving hall passes to truant jocks, or confiscating our "dangerous" Walkmans than actually protecting us students.
The First Amendment was neither disrespectful nor a threat to principal Timothy Dawson. In fact, if the writers had actually acted on their aggression, the student population at Killian would consist of only the pamphlet writers and their close friends.
I think Mr. Dawson should be scrutinized for blowing an obvious First Amendment right way out of proportion. But of course, I forgot: He is the victim here! Taxpayers want our administrators to be happy, not our children to be educated.
Methadone Saved My Life
I am appalled by Paula Park's article "The Addiction Connection" (March 19) on methadone maintenance. I believe she should have done more in-depth research. This girl Michelle, who was interviewed, seemingly had her own agenda. I'm sure she didn't come forward of her own volition. She was probably paid money to misrepresent the entire methadone maintenance program. In other words, she would have readers believe that she was duped into joining the methadone program, that she never had a choice. I have news for Michelle: You always have a choice. I also believe it is totally out of line for her to blame Dr. Roberto Ruiz for her being a junkie. We all have choices. There are other ways to deal with her addiction.
Most of the people Ms. Park interviewed were most likely bitter over an event brought on totally by themselves. So they blame the nurse, the counselors, and the doctors. As far as labeling Dr. Ruiz "the methadone king," I have been at this clinic on and off for ten years and I've never heard that expression used by anyone. Dr. Ruiz is saving people's lives. You can't put a price tag on a person's life.
There's also a reason that street junkies opt to go to Dr. Ruiz's program instead of Matthew Gissen's treatment center, the Village. The reason is that you can't get into a drug program unless you have a lot of insurance. As with any business, you're naturally going to find someone waiting to exploit the system, to create flaws. You're going to find people who are disgruntled in every walk of life. I suspect such as is the case with the people Ms. Park interviewed for her article.
Now that heroin is back as the drug of choice, New Times is actually publishing an article detrimental to methadone. That's ludicrous! I really don't think Ms. Park is aware of just how bad the heroin epidemic is. What is the heroin addict who is ready to clean up going to do? Methadone is the stop just before we overdose on heroin, commit suicide, or go away to prison for a long time. The most important thing to me is waking up in the morning and not being sick from heroin withdrawal. Being able to look in the mirror and like what I see.
North Miami Beach