The Great Divide

Correspondence from our readers

On a collective level, thank you for working hard and paying your taxes. A good American would do nothing less. Thank you for answering the call to military service and sacrificing lives in the process. This is a tradition dating back 200 years. Every immigrant group fortunate enough to arrive here has felt honored to contribute.

I also want to thank you for transforming my home town into what it is today. We were bored with having one of the first nationally televised TV shows based here (Jackie Gleason), being ridiculed as the "world's playground," and being forced to suffer through such second-rate performers as Elvis, Frank Sinatra, and Count Basie. Why, if not for you we toothless bumpkins would have never known the wonders of indoor plumbing! I'm sure that of the thousands of people from around the world who have visited Miami, not one would have settled here without your civilizing influence.

I thank you for not being a burden on our social-welfare system (not like those lazy blacks). I'm sure the rush on the INS a few years ago when Congress required residents to become citizens in order to receive assistance was just an anomaly. Your overwhelming representation in subsidized elderly housing units must also be a mirage. Social Security? Never heard of it. I'm sure that Miami's Nicaraguan and Haitian communities were overwhelmed when, in sympathy for their cause, you held up traffic and burned Dumpsters.

I thank you for the many Cuban-American entertainers and scholars you have given us. They help to make this country a great place to live. Thanks for the Cuban food, too. Love everything but the coffee. I applaud you for loving your family. Anything less would be un-American. I especially appreciate your zeal for the political process. Not only do you travel long distances to vote, you're even willing to vote from the grave! You have helped bring a stability, professionalism, and honesty to the political process rarely seen in this country. Keep up the good work.

Lastly, I thank you for making me realize what an ethnically insensitive and fractured community I live in. But not for long.

Mark Corlazzoli
Miami

To Jorge Benitez Sagol: I forgive you for being so full of yourself.

Christine King
Miami Beach

If someone stages a strike and it doesn't affect the people it's supposed to, is it really a strike? That's what I'm asking myself after the underwhelming effects of the Cuban-exile-led "Martes Muerto" or "Dead Tuesday." The idea was to express displeasure with Janet Reno and the INS for snatching Elian and reuniting him with the father he hadn't seen in months.

In protest the Cuban-exile community leaders asked people to skip work, not open their stores, and basically stay home. Because Cubans make up most of Miami-Dade County's population, it was thought that if they all stayed home and got some help from other sectors of the population, they would be able to create a dead Miami and Greater Miami, where the emptiness of the streets of Little Havana and Hialeah would reflect the sadness and outrage the Cuban community felt over this "crime."

So they did just that. They shut down Little Havana and Hialeah.

And nowhere else.

Most news reports showed that the rest of Miami kept right on hustling and bustling. Yeah, traffic was a little less congested on I-95 and the Palmetto during rush hour. The school hallways were a little less jammed. But outside of the Cuban-exile communities, it was business as usual. Tourists didn't notice any strike. There were no staff shortages. The city was not paralyzed. The airport was still open.

In other words, if there was a strike, no one noticed.

Why? Because outside of the Cuban community, the attitude of blacks, the group referred to as Anglos, and a lot of other Latinos can be summed up in one word: Whatever.

It's a word the Cubans should be familiar with. It's the same attitude they've had toward the rest of the South Florida community. The same attitude as when they started treating black Americans as they had black Cubans in the days before Castro, as second-class citizens. The same attitude as when they snubbed Nelson Mandela and as when they began following blacks around stores. And when the Cubans were told in no uncertain terms how that was not appreciated, they said, "Whatever."

When Haitians were escaping the Duvalier regime and continued risking their lives to come to the United States yet were sent back to Port-au-Prince, the Cuban exiles said, "Whatever."

When Cubans began generalizing about whites and collectively referring to them as Anglos, regardless of their ethnicity, and when Cubans began requiring that others learn a foreign language in order to provide for their families and then began hearing complaints, the Cuban exiles said, "Whatever."

When the Nicaraguans were lobbying for a bill that would allow recent immigrants to remain in the U.S., the Cuban exiles largely said, "Whatever."

When other Miami Latins looked to forge Latin unity with their successful Cuban neighbors, the Cuban-exile community said, "Whatever."

Now a crisis has developed in the Cuban community. We hear comparisons to slavery and the Holocaust. Freedom! Liberty! These are their cries. You must understand us! You must support us in our struggle! Stand with us, Jews! Stand with us, black people! You Anglos who are about freedom and democracy, we want this too!

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