Elian Nation

Scenes from a splintered city

Then Father Azcoita breaks from the biblical text and tries to fit Elian into the role of counselor. "[The boy] did not say many words," he admits, "but in the simplicity of what he said, he has opened new paths for us."

As the Christ child arrived to save humanity, Elian came to rescue the exiles: "A child was born unto us that God wanted to be for [the exile community] what Jesus Christ was for all the world. And this child's name is Elian."

When the program ends, the commercial for cat claw runs again.

Prerecorded shows on health air much of the morning. At 11:00 a.m. Marta Casañas opens her show, Songs of My Land.

Around noon a caller echoes Father Azcoita's messianic message and adds a classical twist. "I won't wish you happy Easter today," he says. "It's a sad day, but it's a sacred day. So first [here is] sacred music for all of us Cubans and for this child." Then, through the receiver of his telephone, he plays Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" from the Messiah.Feedback and static diminish the sound quality. Then the caller launches into a sermon about Elian. "Will he be delivered into the arms of Hell? No! We have to have faith in the sacred purpose for this child.... Oh, the troubles visited upon patriotic Cubans! The forces of evil will not defeat us!" He goes on interminably until Casañas cuts him off for a commercial.

Another man calls in, responding to an earlier suggestion that all the federal agents wore masks during the raid at the Gonzalez house. "We have to keep our facts straight," the man comments. "The only agent with the face covered was the driver. He wore a mask like the communists use."

"Yes," Casañas agrees.

"Now it's clear this man is a Latin," the caller begins.

"Yes."

"The way he positioned his arm [on the car door] when he was backing up proves it. He's Latin and he's very well-known in this community. He had to conceal his identity."

"Yes, obviously," Casañas replies.

"The whole raid was carried out just like a communist operation."

"Of course."

"Now, the photograph of Elian with Juan Miguel is clearly not the same child who was violently seized yesterday."

"No."

"You can see it in his eyes. And he's wearing a Batman shirt! Now everyone knows that children wore Batman clothes a few years ago, but not now. These are lies! There's a word for people [who do these manipulative things]. Miserable."

"Absolutely."

Halfway through her five-hour show, Casañas debuts a new salsa song written and recorded in the previous 24 hours by Elio Rodriguez. It's called "They Took Him Away."

Rodriguez opens with a spoken introduction that condenses the sentiments voiced on Mambí throughout the weekend: "I dedicate this song to the protest against the betrayal committed by a depraved and degenerate president who, in cahoots with the murderer [Castro], negotiated a betrayal of all the principles of liberty and democracy and exercised brutal force against a helpless little angel. Found sleeping in his humble room in Little Havana, [Elian] was violently snatched by the dogs of immigration, who were armed to the teeth."

In this slow salsa number, Rodriguez often stops singing to speak the most poignant verses.
They took our little Elian,
this little son whom God saved for us.
Assaulted his house in the night.
The immigration guerrillas,
like dogs strongly armed,
they assaulted the humble room,
and little Elian was taken from here
by force and without compassion.
...

And Janet Reno, ha,
with her tremors
and the depraved Clinton, too.
We will collect one day
for this betrayal.
...

And why don't they use these guns
against the tyrant in Cuba
who has killed so many children
and shot so many patriots?


By 7:00 p.m. Sunday Armando Perez-Roura is worn out. Jesus Garcia steps in to host the show Peña Mambísa (Mambí Forum) with guest Luis Gomez Dominguez, a Cuban writer and attorney who has a theory about the feds' motivation for nabbing Elian.

Dominguez speculates that Clinton and Castro secretly agreed to the following: The Americans will surrender the rafter boy and in exchange, the Cubans will accept repatriation of 2400 felons who have served their sentences but nonetheless are stranded in U.S. prisons because of their immigration status. This exchange would be just the first step. "Clinton wants to lift the embargo," Dominguez proclaims. "It will be a gift from Clinton's government to the Cuban tyrant."

Contributors: Celeste Fraser Delgado, Jose Luis Jiménez, Lissette Corsa, Jacob Bernstein, and Kathy Glasgow.


Chocolate

On the street they call him, in Spanish, Chocolate. He doesn't want New Times to use his real name. He is a black Cuban who came to the United States when he was just a baby; he's not sure of the date. Friendly yet excitable, he has a smooth, round, clean-shaven face. His walk is a ghetto strut -- shoulders back, head cocked to the side. A few years ago he belonged to a street gang called the Latin Disciples, but he gave up that life when his mother left the family. He now lives with his father. Two vertical scars, the result of a knife fight, crease his cheek beneath his right eye. A patch of hair is missing from his scalp where someone slashed him with a broken bottle. Police arrested him a couple of years ago when he was driving the getaway car during a purse-snatching, but the charges against him, he explains, were dropped.

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