The real Cuba, the indie scene, the bombshell barfers, and how Cubans made Miami

Letters from the Issue of July 21, 2005

 Cuba: Perception vs. Reality

Trust me, it's more than drunkards and Jesus freaks: Kathy Glasgow's article "The Rum Chronicles" (July 7) reminded me of the old story about the blind men and the elephant: Each fellow has a very different description of what the animal looks like, depending on which part he is touching. During a short visit to Santiago Province in eastern Cuba, Glasgow saw chronic drunkenness and hopelessness, a slice of Cuban life that certainly exists. But her arrogant expansion of this experience into a metaphor for the entire island's condition rubbed me the wrong way. As an American who has lived in next-door Holguín Province for the past several years, I think her simplistic reduction of Cuba's very complex society into drunkards and Jesus freaks needed another perspective.

Alcoholism certainly is a problem in Cuba, as in every poor country in the Americas, but based on time spent with one particularly rum-addled family, to conclude that it is emblematic of this nation is a cheap shot. In our densely populated district of Alcides Pino in Holguín City (which, by the way, is only about 130 kilometers from Santiago, not the 180 miles Glasgow reported it to be), we have plenty of drunks and a smattering of fundamentalist Christians, but both of these are sideshows to life here rather than the main event. Most families where I live are so busy in la lucha, the daily struggle for food and water, that, were they the boozehounds Glasgow's kinfolk in Santiago seem to be, they and their children would quickly be hungry, thirsty, and unwashed. I assure you that is not the case.

Cuba certainly has a lot of unpleasant aspects to life, and abuse of alcohol is one of them, but why is it that visitors from Miami have a myopia that allows them to see only the negatives without noting anything positive? Every place I have lived has good things and bad things about it; Cuba is no exception. Obviously we suffer a lack of many luxury items and certain important individual civil rights that are standard equipment in the States, but we enjoy other "quality of life" benefits that are only distant memories up north. For example, while desperately poor, our Holguín neighborhood is safer by far than Detroit and Washington, D.C., the two large U.S. cities in which I've lived. Contrary to the Miami party line, this is not because Cuba is a police state with a cop on every corner, but rather owing to the fact that everyone in the barrio knows everyone else, and people aren't afraid to speak out to other folks' kids when they misbehave. (Telling neighborhood toughs in Detroit to knock it off can get you shot!) People here communicate with their neighbors on a daily basis in a way that has long since disappeared in U.S. cities.

We are in the midst of a terrible drought in Holguín, and every day I see teenagers carrying jugs of water for old people, families and neighbors pulling together to make sure no one goes without. Look, I don't want to make it all sound wonderful; like any tight-knit community, the downside is that everyone knows your business. Los chismosos, the neighborhood gossips, make sure of that. The anonymity that characterizes life in any big U.S. city doesn't exist here, which occasionally drives me crazy, but the endemic loneliness I acutely remember from my time in Detroit and D.C. are also practically nonexistent. There is a lot less privacy, a lot less crime, and a lot less loneliness. Is this better or worse? Each person must decide.

As for Glasgow's description of pigs and chickens living in the yard, another oft-repeated image used by Miami exiles to illustrate what a dirty hellhole Cuba is -- hey, our meat and eggs are a lot fresher and cleaner than what I scarfed down for decades up in Gringoland. Has she ever visited a factory meat-packing plant in the USA? I'll take the hassle of pigs grunting at night and roosters waking me in the morning over eating the hormone-packed, antibiotic-laced products of feed lots or chicken concentration camps that provide cheap meat back home.

I could go on about the good and bad of life here, but I'll conclude by saying Cuba is deep and complicated. There are 11 million Cubans on the island, and they are every bit as prone to differences of opinions regarding the ups and downs of their lives as are Americans or Canadians or Mexicans or any other people. When I begin hearing simplistic Miami shibboleths about how terrible everything is, or their opposite number in leftist tales of a tropical socialist paradise, I look for the exit. I know from firsthand experience it is neither.

A few quick cultural corrections to Glasgow's piece. The Cuban government did not "outlaw" dollars last fall, but rather devalued them against the local currency and stopped accepting them for goods and services. This difference is significant because before 1994, greenbacks were in fact outlawed and you could be jailed simply for having them in your pocket. This is not the situation now. You can walk into any bank and change dollars into "chavitos," the convertible peso, albeit at a lousy rate of exchange.

Also, in Cuban street slang la Yuma does not just refer to the USA, as Glasgow claimed, but rather to any foreign place outside the island. A Cuban woman with an Italian boyfriend has snagged a Yuma as surely as one with a North American hubby like me. And finally, the chorus in the Don Omar song Glasgow cited is not "Aay, a mi, me gusta la Yuma," which she jingoistically translated as "I like the USA," but rather "a mi, me gusta los Yumas." This little change makes a lot of difference in the interpretation.

The woman is not singing that she likes the U.S., or any other foreign land outside the island, but rather that she likes foreign men inside the island. Most Cuban women have never had the opportunity to leave their country, so how would they know whether they liked la Yuma or not? One thing they certainly do know is that latching onto a Yuma, a foreigner, is a sure ticket to upward economic mobility, unlike studying at school or working hard at a job. This is the social commentary that Omar's song is making, but Glasgow apparently didn't catch it. To give her the benefit of the doubt, perhaps her translation error occurred not owing to Miami arrogance that assumes every Cuban's obsession with American life, but rather because she is unaware of the very characteristic habit here of biting the s off of the end of a word. Hence los Yumas -- which in Cuba-speak is pronounced lo Yuma -- sounded like la Yuma to her.

José Castillo

Holguín, Cuba

Q: Why Do Cubans Stay Home and Drink Rum?

A: Because they can't afford to go out and drink rum: Having just returned from about a month-long trip to Cuba, I was deeply moved by Kathy Glasgow's poetic journey through that country's complex cultural and social landscape. This was my second visit, my first being a year ago, also for about a month. I am now a medical student in San Francisco who was born and raised (and currently writing this letter) in Miami, with a strong penchant for issues of social justice, public health, and the complexity of humans' relationships with plants, fungi, and synthetic molecules with psychoactive properties.

I have helped teach courses on these topics at Berkeley and was very fortunate to travel this last time to Cuba with a dear friend who was the principal professor of these courses. I traveled to Cuba officially for research purposes, to study its healthcare system (a marvel among nations today, but almost an entirely separate topic) and the unique development of various relationships between the Cuban people, economy, and plants like coffee, sugar cane, tobacco, and cacao.

While I think Ms. Glasgow captured one dimension of Cuban people very well, especially out in the Oriente, her article troubled me a bit. I have a few comments I hope might provide some insight. When in Cuba, I stayed mostly with friends and spent my evenings just hanging with folks, because Cubans generally don't have money to go out. This usually meant lots of rum, music, rum, and dancing. And lots of rum.

I am always moved by the resilience of the Cuban people despite what appear to be continually worsening circumstances. Yet even in only one year I have noticed more dampened spirits and a duller luster among my Cuban friends, findings that have been corroborated by many others, including Ms. Glasgow. I have begun to understand this downtrodden hope of a people sustained mostly by foreign money and who feel trapped in their own land, especially after fighting so hard and so long for independence. Match that with an underproductive economy (an understatement) that directly leads to boredom, especially among the youth, plus an abundance of cheap domestic alcohol (one of the few products that never really seems to be absent from the shelves), and voilà -- you have an incredibly high rate of alcoholism. With a dramatic drop in sugar exports, there are only a few things left to do with it: Feed it to the animals, the power plants, or the people. The use of alcohol can never be separated from its economic and social circumstances.

Here in the U.S., and especially in Miami, there is tendency to portray the plight of the Cuban people as a sort of internal mess, a diabolical plan of the evil mastermind Fidel Castro, who cares little for his people. To a certain extent this may be true now, in Fidel's old age, though I am always ready to argue in favor of the amazing improvements for Cuba's poor brought about by the revolution. And then there's the issue of the United States, without whose involvement Cuba can never be understood. I think it could even be argued that the U.S. has had a much stronger influence on Cuban history than el comandante en jefe himself.

While I applaud Ms. Glasgow's general avoidance of the politics surrounding the island and concentrating more on the day-to-day, she must know after being there that discussing Cuba independent of politics is essentially impossible. Every discussion about Cuba or Cubans is necessarily political. And so, to me, it becomes necessary to implicate both of the main players here, Fidel and his U.S. enemies. In this propaganda war, it is important for journalists to take a more moderate view, which is more true to the reality.

Oron Frenkel

Berkeley, California

Okay, So the Indie Scene Has Problems

But I didn't name names: Thank you for asking me to be the cover boy for Mosi Reeves's "Out of Step" (July 7). It was an honor, and I'm happy with how the photo turned out. Unfortunately there are portions of the story itself that raise some concerns. When I was interviewed by Mosi, we discussed, at length, the history of the independent (a.k.a. "indie") music scene in Miami, my history as a DJ, and my role in the indie scene. I was very fair in my answers to his questions. However, when speaking critically about certain aspects of the scene, I made sure not to mention the names of any specific DJs, promoters, clubs, or club nights. Therefore I was very surprised when I read the following: "[DJ Hottpants] says most of these clubs, which range from the established (Revolver, Spider-Pussy) to the recent (Vibrator Wednesdays), are öless about sharing new music and being interested in what's coming up. Instead the focus has shifted to just playing the hits.'"

I did say that some clubs are "less about sharing new music and being interested in what's coming up...," but I didn't name any club nights. I've spun at Spider-Pussy several times, and am both a friend and fan of DJ Saul D, who does a great job spinning at Vibrator. I actually stated that a number of newer club nights were doing a great job of renewing the spirit with which the scene was founded.

During my interview with Mosi, I spoke very highly of DJs in the scene who are doing a great job mixing "crowd pleasers" with fantastic lesser-known tracks (i.e., Matt Cash, Jimmy James), and spoke about the importance of bringing national and international live music acts to Miami -- singling out Poplife and Sweat Records as having done excellent jobs at that. I was disappointed that only my critical comments were included in the article, disregarding the people who contribute positively to the local independent-music community and help it continue to develop in a way that can benefit everyone.

As for this ambiguous statement -- "he never blends his records" -- my mouth is agape. I always follow the music format requested of me by promoters, and I have beat-matched songs since I began DJing.

Daniel Blair (DJ Hottpants)

Miami

We Remember Smitty's

No frills, lots of fun: Thanks so much to The Bitch for her piece about Smitty's ("Counter Terrorism," July 7). While I was just an occasional patron, deliveries here at the station were a daily occurrence.

Mira was hilarious with her comments when I would call in an order: "Hi, honey," or "What do you want, sweetheart," or "I love you, baby." She had pictures of all of us on-air types on her walls. It was just a good old-fashioned, no-frills breakfast from a family-owned place.

Yes, there are other places we can go, but Smitty's was Smitty's. It was nice to give them a send-off.

Mark Schumacher

WPLG-TV (Channel 10)

Miami

Out and About

Even North Miami is gay-friendly: Thanks to Brett Sokol for his insightful article "Is Pink the New Black?" (June 30). He touched upon several important points. Last year I became the first elected official in Miami-Dade County to come out while holding public office. I've found that the vast majority of residents with whom I interact are very tolerant, but I know there is still work to be done in allaying the fears of others.

Since my coming-out, North Miami has elected an openly gay mayor. I believe we are among the first in county history to have more than one "out" elected official at the same time. This is no small feat in a majority-minority city, where many might expect attitudes to be less tolerant. I am quite proud of my neighbors.

Scott Galvin

North Miami

Bombshells: How Bad Was It?

It was so bad I had to flush it: I picked up New Times at the grocery store and read Kirk Nielsen's article "Bombshell Blowback" (June 16) about the Miami Herald and the "Miami Bombshells." The excerpts the Herald published from Dish & Tell: Life, Love, and Secrets were so bad I read only two of them. And I was disgusted with the publicity generated by this crap.

I appreciate someone telling it like it is in Miami, and you guys at New Times are the only ones doing it.

Gladys Sforza

Miami

Bombshells: Upchuck

Yes, Tom Fiedler, we are in fact barfing on your paper: Message to Miami Herald executive editor Tom Fiedler: In case you didn't know, a lot of us are in fact barfing on the Sunday Herald! The "Bombshells" seven-part series represents a new low for the Herald. I won't even touch upon the paper's questionable journalistic ethics, but clearly something had to be afoot. It is unfathomable that a credible newspaper would give such exposure to this book.

It's also painfully evident that Mr. Fiedler is totally out of touch with his female readers. I am one of those well-educated career moms for whom Mr. Fiedler thinks this (aptly described) "drivel" will appeal. In fact these "Bombshell" women are an embarrassment and the very essence of superficiality. With their very limited writing ability, they have brazenly attempted to include us in their sisterhood of narcissism, self-absorption, and unbridled ambition.

Yes, we may want some light and fun reading at times, but the Miami Herald ought to give us enough credit to recognize real literature from the shallow ranting of six women trying to make a fast buck.

I know one of those ranting women and I don't want to cause her any more embarrassment than she is no doubt already suffering, so please withhold my name.

Name Withheld by Request

Miami

DJ Discord

So he thinks he's the king? King of what? My name is Sugar and I've been a South Beach DJ for the past thirteen years. I would like to set the record straight about Kevin James, the wannabe "king of rock" who wrote the letter "Best Self-Serving Screed" (June 16 ).

DJ Slip claims that in the Nineties he spun at Sinatra Bar and the Whiskey, but the truth is I was the one who was hired to work the weekends and all major events while he was just a loudmouth punk who spun for free on the nights no one else wanted. (It has been said he can't mix a glass of Kool-Aid.)

This King of Crap claims to have created some so-called "dance-rock DJ style" twenty years ago, but still hasn't mastered it. Why is he still working low-paying, middle-of-the-week gigs that no one else wants? He was only hired at Automatic Slim's because he is a friend of one of the owners. The guys at Slim's are big on charity (much to the dismay of the staff).

It was typical of him that he would hate DJ Mark Leventhal. I guess it's easy to hate someone who has everything you can't have. Although Mark may not be the friendliest person in the world, he does have the most impressive DJ resumé in town, and he was kind enough to give 90 percent of the DJs here their first gigs. It's funny how we all know Mark Leventhal's name, but who the hell knows DJ Strip?

DJ Strip Steak says he left South Beach to set the world on fire, yet his only claim to fame is DJing a few Ramones and Velvet Revolver concerts. Since when does anyone go to a rock concert to listen to a DJ? (Joey Ramone must be turning in his grave.)

The truth is that DJ Sh*t had to leave town eight years ago because no one liked his music and he couldn't get a job. Meanwhile, back in the real world, Mark and I have continued to DJ on South Beach, toured worldwide, and been in magazines, in movies, and on TV. But he still has the nerve to call himself the king. (King of what?) He was a fool when we ran him out of town the first time, and he remains a fool now.

Rene Milton Lecour (Fabulous DJ Sugar)

Miami

DJ's Last Chance

Can't spin? Try housekeeping: I got a call from a friend of mine saying, "Dude have you read the letters in New Times?" I said no because I was in Boston DJing a club. He read me the letter from Kevin James and I almost spit out my lunch. I haven't laughed so hard since I heard "the King" actually DJing.

I believe that to be a good DJ you need to be secure, even a little arrogant. But this guy is obviously delusional. Slamming Mark Leventhal the way he did, in an obviously envious manner, was weak. Mark gave me my first gig when I was seventeen. He was on top then as he is today -- three cars, a dope house, and residencies in the top clubs on the Beach, not to mention he is still very often flown all over the country for gigs.

It's clear the only DJ with a "rock star" ego is Strip! "I'm here to serve notice"? If his gigs continue to go as well as they are now, the only thing he'll be serving is coffee at Starbucks, which actually might pay him better. He couldn't mix a salad at the Olive Garden, let alone music that moves a crowd.

Good luck, brother. If you need another gig, Mark is looking for a housekeeper. You should be able to handle that. And before you even think of slamming me, know that I have been on countless North American tours with some artists you may know, like Ozzy, Korn, Megadeth, et cetera. I never refer to myself as a rock star, but I definitely have more cred than you.

Well, I'm off to do a bar mitzvah!

Joe Eshkenazi (DJ Joe Dert)

Miami Beach

The Case for Dumbing Down FIU

Why produce impoverished journalists when corporate America needs apologists? I would like to take a moment to respond to Kevin Hall's response (July 14) to Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver's response to Edmund Newton's article about FIU's journalism school ("Newsroom or Classroom?" June 9).

Hall says Kopenhaver is out to ruin the J-school. Big deal. Last thing we need in this country is more journalists with integrity, passion, and professionalism -- the kind of journalists Hall, former dean J. Arthur Heise, and the rest of their ilk spent years churning out -- running around writing stories that actually matter, with all the words spelled correctly and in the right order.

I'm proud to call Hall my mentor and my friend. But I think Kopenhaver is right about "revitalizing" the FIU J-school by censoring students, dumbing down the curriculum, and running off all the professors who actually care about quality journalism. Maybe if she had been in charge of things while I was a student at FIU, I wouldn't have had to waste all that time actually learning stuff.

If it weren't for Hall and his insistence on providing me with an education, I could be making the big bucks, firing off error-plagued press releases for some big company instead of being a real working journalist with integrity and passion. Damn you, Kevin Hall. Damn you to hell.

Brett O'Bourke

Miami

Saintly Scribes

My FIU experience was divine: I'm a senior at FIU's School of Journalism and I've witnessed the changes described in "Newsroom or Classroom?" I was lucky to have Kevin Hall and Mike McQueen as not only professors but also mentors during my first years at FIU. Kevin Hall is an extraordinary professor who genuinely cares about the students. Like McQueen, he inspired us to write. I remember leaving class feeling like I had just walked out of church on a Sunday morning. We will never be able to replace him.

Correction: Lyn Millner has taught on and off at FIU for years and she is an excellent writer and educator, one of the few we still have.

Sue Arrowsmith

Miami

Elvis Spotted on South Beach!

With a degree from FIU, you too can get the big scoop: I recently earned a degree in print journalism from FIU, and at a time when journalists are being thought of in the same way as used-car salesmen, ambulance-chasers, and columnists from supermarket tabloids reporting about UFO babies performing open-heart surgery -- well, it makes me wonder what my future will hold.

I personally learned a great deal from both professors Hall and McQueen during my time at FIU, and I lament the fact that future students will not get a glimpse of life through their eyes.

But regarding academic credentials and letter-writer David Walters's suggestion that the alternative press (or mainstream press, for that matter) should hire "good thinkers and writers regardless of their credentials," that would be like hiring an unlicensed, uninsured architect, plumber, or electrician. By the way, I have a neighbor who loves adding and subtracting and recently began doing tax returns. Maybe Mr. Walters should give him a call next year when it's time to prepare IRS returns.

Silvio Herrera

Miami

Lessons I've Learned

Sometimes restaurant critics are helpful, sometimes they're untimely: I appreciate you taking the time to send your dining critic, Lee Klein, to our restaurant. Although the review "Tasty Tequila and Bad Burritos" (June 9) was not favorable, we did take a few of his suggestions to make us better. We have updated our menu and feel we are now one of the top Mexican restaurants in South Florida.

The one thing I feel was unfair was to rate a restaurant within its first few weeks of opening. Like any business, it takes a few weeks to get things right. In our business, if things are not right, we always make sure the guest leaves happy.

We would really like the opportunity for your critic to come back and try some of our new menu items and let us know what he thinks.

Buzzy Sklar

Jalapeño Jax Cantina

Miami

Please Shop at My Store!

But what? You actually want the address? So Hinsul Lazo claims to The Bitch that he isn't getting enough people into his record store, Museo del Disco, to buy his music ("The Incredible Hinsul Lazo Interview," June 9). But his Website doesn't even list his street address! I had to contact the store personnel by e-mail to obtain it and permission to divulge it. People write to me all the time from all over the world asking where they can find good salsa music, or they tell me they will be visiting Miami soon and want to know where they can go. It seems to me that if you want more people to go to your store, you would list your address prominently on your Website -- for starters!

But truly, folks, if you want to find Cuban salsa in the U.S., this is one of the few places that carries it. So what I want to know is this: If Cuban music is exempt from the embargo (which it is), when will local radio stations get the cojones to start playing it? I saw in your letters section that one of the DJs from one of the local radio stations, Salsa 98.3, buys his music at Museo del Disco. We are sick of reggaeton and want to hear timba from Cuba!

Jacira Castro, president

SalsaPower.com

Davie

Boasting Can Prompt Roasting

Especially when a Cuban brags about creating modern Miami: This may be unusual, but my letter is not in response to one of your stories. It's in response to a letter published in response to Brett Sokol's column about Luis Posada Carriles ("Terror Alert, Miami Style," June 2). The letter was written by Alfredo Garcia.

What has always given me pause about some of the letters I read in New Times is how many people begin them with silly phrases like "I never read your publication" or "I don't read the New Times." In Mr. Garcia's case it was "I never read your ultraliberal little newspaper."

Excusing the obvious question of whether these mental giants see the irony of responding to an article that appeared in something they "never read," this reminds me of that old question about a tree falling in the forest and no one hearing it. Does it make a sound? Well, Mr. Garcia, if an article appears in a newspaper and there is no one there to read it, is a letter written in response to it?

But enough about that. The other issues with Mr. Garcia's letter are far more humorous. First, as most of us long-time readers know, New Times is neither liberal nor conservative. The paper has equally bashed people of all persuasions and political parties. If anything, I'd say New Times is anti-politics, no matter what flavor. But since you, Mr. Garcia, "never read" it, you wouldn't understand that.

Second, Mr. Garcia's boastful contention that Cubans made Miami what it is today is hilarious: "You [New Times] cannot forgive us for our help in turning this city of Miami from a small, sleepy town into the big, vibrant city it is now." This is the first time I've heard someone brag about turning a city into a crime-filled, self-absorbed cultural anti-mecca that is the educational laughing stock of the nation. Miami-Dade's public school system is ranked dead last in the U.S. Many of us have been searching for years to find who is responsible for these travesties. It seems if Mr. Garcia is correct, we now have the answer.

A word to the unwise, Mr. Garcia. How about holding off a few generations to see if Miami can crawl out of its current conditions before you start bragging about what you helped it become. Be careful what you take credit for -- it might just stick.

Last, Mr. Garcia, despite the narrow-minded voting habits of certain Miami-Dade residents, the last time I looked, the Republicans have done just as much to get Castro out of power as the Democrats have -- nothing! But don't take my word for it. Just check for yourself, because the last time I looked, he was still in power.

It would seem the Republican brainwashing machine has succeeded in accomplishing at least one goal: dividing the people of Miami-Dade County along ethnic lines. Or wait, didn't you say "we" turned Miami into what it is today? Forgive me. I guess that means you'll have to take credit for all of our ethnic problems as well. My, what big shoulders you now have.

Still feel like bragging? I didn't think you would. I told you, be careful what you brag about because you may end up as the answer to some very interesting questions, and nothing stings like the truth.

J.A. McClendon

Miami

Condemning Communism Can Be Hazardous to Hypocrites

Especially when a Cuban praises George Bush: Alfredo Garcia's letter is a classic example of the rhetorical garbage we've been hearing from the conservative right these past several years. You people can never argue the facts. The only response you can come up with to refute any issue is "liberal, liberal, liberal." You can't argue on substance, so you resort to name-calling and slogans, and the only reason it works is because those who agree with this line of thinking are just as ignorant and dumb.

Now, about the Cuban issue. I realize Miami is what it is because of the Cuban people, but that is not necessarily something to brag about. There is nothing great about being the most bankrupt city in the nation. Nothing great about having our elected city officials time and time again indicted for corruption, or the mayor showing up at your doorstep freaking out at odd hours of the night. Nothing great about being the city with the worst public transportation. Those are just some examples; there are many more. There is a reason why the rest of the nation views Miami as a banana republic.

As for Mr. Garcia's praise of President George W. Bush (the Cuban community's anti-Castro "friend"), other than a few tough-guy smack words, what has Bush done for the Cuban people? Oh yeah, right, he restricted people here from traveling to Cuba to see their own families. What good is that doing? I'll bet Castro is crying. It's sad to think that the only justification Miami Cubans like Mr. Garcia can offer for electing Bush is a custody battle between a boy's father and his alcoholic extended family. I would like to think Cubans have more brains than that.

Communism no doubt has a horrible human-rights track record. I'm sure that, aside from fleeing his country rather than fighting one tyrant, Mr. Garcia is also active in fighting communism by boycotting products made in China. And I'm sure he'll be speaking out against our dear president making a visit to Vietnam next year.

Pedro Gonzalez

Miami

Voting Republican Can Induce Delusions

Especially when a Cuban takes credit for Gore's defeat: I was born in Miami in the mid-Sixties (third generation), and it always irks me when some hyphenated American makes the claim that Miami would be nothing without his presence. As if our city would never have evolved beyond the Stone Age had it not been for his specific immigrant community.

In his letter, Alfredo Garcia writes that it was Cuban Americans who helped turn Miami into a vibrant, thriving city. If vibrant means overpopulated, then I agree. But Garcia wants to be divisive, so let me break it down.

He mentions politics: "[New Times] writers always like to take a shot at the Cuban community [they] hate so much mostly because of our great influence on politics." But it seems most local Cuban politicians are more concerned with a future run for office in a free Cuba than they are with their civic duty here in Miami. Their blatant sellout of local land to developers is a prime example.

Garcia states it was the Cuban community that helped defeat Al Gore in the 2000 presidential race by overwhelmingly voting for Bush. Well, what a big surprise. A Democrat is unlikely ever to claim the Cuban-American vote. The last three Republican presidential victories were supported by at least 80 percent of their vote. It was no different this time around. However, the Cuban-American voting bloc makes up just seven percent of registered voters in Florida. In the 2000 race, the U.S. Supreme Court was a much bigger factor in Bush's victory than any one voting bloc.

Garcia says Al Gore's defeat was revenge for the Elian Gonzalez incident, but that is illogical. Gore was the only Democratic candidate advocating that the child stay in the United States, when most Americans, including Republicans, felt it was simply a case of a father wanting his son back. (See? Family values.)

I will never understand the Cuban-exile loyalty to the Republican Party; I suppose it dates back to the hatred of Kennedy. However, if it weren't for Kennedy, both Cuba and South Florida would have been reduced to a smoldering radioactive ruin. Since that time there have been five Republican presidents. With the exception of Ford, all of them made campaign stops in Miami and repeated the same tiresome promise of bringing freedom to the communist island. So where are the results? Anyone can continue with the failed embargo policy, but how about something unconventional that might actually work?

Democrats have not been able to break the grip of Castro either. But at least they attempted different concepts. Clinton signed the Helms-Burton act, and although it still lacks the teeth required, it was an important first step that George W. Bush could have taken further. Carter allowed more than 125,000 Cuban refugees to enter the United States to escape Castro's dictatorship, and this decision became one of the factors in his 1980 defeat. Not too long ago Carter traveled to Cuba to throw his support behind Oswaldo Payá and the Varela Project, an attempt to peacefully plant the seeds of democracy. Has President Bush even acknowledged Payá and his efforts? If Cuban Americans were not voting Republican in large percentages, this party would not even pay them lip service, which is the case for most other refugee groups in this country.

Most Democrats have come to the realization that Cuban exiles will continue to blindly follow the GOP as they disregard any attempts from the other side to reach out. Democrats can only hope that someday a new generation of Cuban Americans will shed the biased outlook of the past and find the objective truth.

Ronnie Fox

Miami

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