Letters from the Issue of February 27, 2003

Cuba after Castro? Don't be left out!

Gustavo M. Yanes

Miami

Miami: America's Cultural Quilt

Diversity is our strength, so enjoy it, celebrate it, embrace it: I had to write in after seeing the responses to Javier Andrade's article about the U.S.-Argentina soccer match ("Argentina 1; U.S. 0," February 13). I didn't respond to the initial article as it seems the story revealed more about Mr. Andrade's personal biases than the events at the actual game. But now that there are folks who read the article and condemned the Argentineans, I feel a responsibility to add some balance.

My friend and I attended the game, both of us Americans, both decked out in U.S.A. shirts and hats. We sat in the middle of a sea of blue-and-white flag-waving, cheering Argentineans. Not once throughout the game did anyone say a bad word to us, and not once did we feel uncomfortable or insulted. The Argentineans at the game could not have been more polite or friendly. I was even truly moved when, at the conclusion of America's national anthem, the Argentineans applauded loudly for their adopted country.

I have attended a number of soccer matches at the Orange Bowl and have come to expect that whoever is playing, the stadium will be filled with fans from that particular country. Not only do I not mind that fans root for their "home" team, I celebrate the diversity we have in our town that allows us the privilege of seeing so many world-class athletes. We've had Brazilians, Nigerians, Colombians, Hondurans, Peruvians, Germans, and many more. Each new game is a chance to spend an afternoon seeing Miami transformed into Buenos Aires, Bogotá, or Berlin.

But some readers complain: "This is the U.S.A. You should Americanize yourself and root for the United States." Okay, time for Civics 101.

The true beauty of America -- its shining grace, its strength, its heart -- is its fundamental ideal of inclusion. When we ask you to send us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, it is to welcome them into our house with open arms. We don't ask them to forget their homelands, to abandon all that has made them who they are. All we ask is that they respect us and lend us their talent, their intelligence, their creativity, and hard work so as to make us all greater than the sum of our individual contributions.

Loving America is not a zero-sum game in which you must forget your roots. Just ask Pablo Mastroeni, midfielder on the U.S. team, whose father is a die-hard Argentinean but whose son is part of a new generation of American soccer stars who are making an impression on the world scene. If all of us in Miami learned to accept and celebrate our diversity as the true strength of this town, instead of seeing our differences as walls between us, we could be a city for the world to admire and emulate.

Errol Portman

Coral Gables

Fight Poverty with a Single Word: Jobs

Just don't look to flip-flopping politicians for help: I was very interested to go back and reread the New Times special report on poverty titled "We're Number One!" (September 26 and October 3, 2002). In the article "What Did You Do in the War on Poverty?" Miami Commissioner Arthur Teele responded, "I've focused on three things: jobs, jobs, and more jobs. It's not that complicated, really. The problem in Liberty City and Little Haiti is that we don't have ... businesses that hire from within the community."

Recently Miami Today ran a story titled, "112 Businesses that Little Haiti Park Would Displace Cry Foul." Little Haiti is one of the poorest communities in the poorest city in America. Apparently if this proposed park goes through, 112 businesses and up to 800 employees will be evicted. I was very interested in Commissioner Teele's comments: "Job loss," he said, referring to the fate of the businesses, "has no merit to me in the broader context, for the role of the City of Miami. It is not the role [of the city] to provide jobs ... [the city's] role is to provide streets, sidewalks, parks, police, and fire protection."

Commissioner Teele's comments seemed to be in contradiction to his comments in New Times just five months ago. I represent the Lemon City Taxpayers Association, a group of business and property owners in Little Haiti, and I happen to know the majority of jobs that would be evicted do in fact come from within the community. Has something happened in the last five months to change Commissioner Teele's focus from jobs, jobs, and more jobs? Why is Commissioner Teele trying to evict the economic heart and soul of Little Haiti when far better sites for a proposed park are available?

Peter R. Ehrlich, Jr., president

Lemon City Taxpayers Association

Miami

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