Jiang Zemin Stuns World, Embraces Democracy

Letters from the issue of July 13, 2000

I grew up in southeastern Massachusetts, where many people feel that the local Portuguese immigrant community wields too much influence. This is usually exaggerated by non-Portuguese, but there is some truth to it. Still, the Portuguese do not behave with the level of isolationist resentment that Miami's Cubans do. And the political diversity among the Portuguese in southern New England is readily apparent. Among Cuban Americans in Miami, however, it seems as though only one viewpoint is allowed, and if you don't toe the line, you're a “communist whore” or a “communist stooge.”

As a freelance journalist, ESL teacher, and occasional researcher for human-rights groups, I have traveled all over Latin America several times, including four extended trips to Cuba. (I have visited Elian's hometown of Cardenas.) I recently visited Brazil, Argentina, Cuba, and Central America for three months. What was striking about the coverage of the Elian case in those regions was the near-unanimous belief among all political sides that the kid belonged with his father. That belief was a given throughout all the coverage and discussion of the case. People in the region were appalled that there was even a question about this. Even in highly conservative periodicals the coverage of the Miami Cuban-exile community was not in the least flattering, to put it kindly. The coverage in these periodicals focused on Miami's Cuban Americans as a powerful political group, not as an ethnic group per se. This entire case not only hurt Latin-American perceptions of Miami Cubans (even among their ideological friends) but also of the U.S. as a country whose Cold War sensibilities are so deeply retrograde that something so simple would become a national obsession.

But what struck me most about the coverage and discussion in the U.S. was the decided lack of interest in what Cuban dissidents on the island were saying. They weren't silent, and would talk to those who asked. These are folks who risk their lives every day resisting Castro, who have chosen to stay put in Cuba and oppose him. And they are not at all favorable toward the Miami Cubans. Having interviewed several people on the island who loathe Castro (some of them with jail terms for their trouble), it was hard for me to measure who they hated more, Castro or the Miami Cubans. Some of them even use Castro's term, “Miami mafia,” to refer to Miami's Cuban community; many of them use the pejorative term gusano. I also was impressed by how afraid they are that once Castro goes, it's the Miami exiles who'll come and take over. One young man (who'd been beaten by two security personnel for unfolding a protest banner at a Castro rally) felt it was a choice between chopping off one's right leg or one's left leg.

Finally, after reading your coverage and the coverage in the Herald, I was struck by how the reaction against the Miami Cuban-American community was so easily labeled as “racist” when much of the domestic response was toward the Miami Cuban Americans who invested so much in this case, not Cubans in general. I believe that most Americans who were appalled at the conduct of Elian's relatives and their supporters also were intelligent enough to limit their response to a certain powerful political group that just happens to be Cuban, rather than responding to the fact that they are Cuban.

Sandra Necchi
Brooklyn, New York

New Times
is bad, phony patriotism is bad, Third World stereotype is bad, printing this is good: Your publication's one-sided journalism against the Cuban exile community has accomplished nothing but further division within the community. Every issue it's like, which Cuban will be bashed this week? There was even an article devoted solely to listing acts of violence committed by the Cuban-American community. I would love to see the reaction if a Hispanic publication listed the acts of violence committed by African Americans in Miami, or the acts of hate committed by white Americans.

To this day I still see many of these jealous whites (and many blacks) with American flags on their cars. Is this out of patriotism? No! Is this to show resentment against Cubans and Hispanics? Yes! Do you actually think that blacks who attend rallies where Confederate flags are displayed are showing patriotism? Most of these people had never flown an American flag in their lives.

Would Miami be called a banana republic if the city's elected leaders were white Anglos? No! You can hate us all you want. If you feel Miami is “lost” and you live with your resentment and hate, my advice is to move to Broward. I personally love my city and my beautiful Latin people. And I doubt this letter will ever be published.

Jorge Dominguez

Free weekly cleverly gets the job done:
After reviewing several issues of New Times, I have come to the conclusion that your articles and stories are consistently leftist and anti-Hispanic, particularly anti-Cuban American. But then I thought to myself: These guys have done more to energize the Cuban-American base than any other local publication, although they have chosen to use agitation, allegation, and innuendo.

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