Editor's note: Last week's letters section comprised a sampling of unpublished correspondence saved from the past year. Included was a letter from Miami resident Maria Gonzalez, which first appeared April 12, 2001. It was supposed to be followed by several replies it elicited. Owing to an editing error those replies did not appear. Below we reprint Ms. Gonzalez's letter (headlined, "Surely They're Not All Nut Cases, Right?") along with a number of responses.
Strolling Along, Arm in Arm, Just Me and My Bazooka
Giving new meaning to the term "street scene": Kirk Nielsen's article "Terrorists, but Our Terrorists" (December 20) was great. At last we seem to have a reporter who is not afraid to write the truth about a group of people that has enjoyed a kind of special protection. We cannot tolerate that while we are saying to the world: Do not help terrorists. We have our own terrorists walking down the streets right here in South Florida.
Calling All Stout-Hearted Journalists
A grateful nation awaits your work: As an honest Cuban American I would like to congratulate Kirk Nielsen for having the cojones to write an article such as "Terrorists, but Our Terrorists." I hope more honest journalists will come forward and tell the American public what's been going on in this city for such a long time.
I don't mind giving my name but my wife is afraid, so please don't print it.
Name Withheld by Request
Cityhood by the Numbers
More people and fewer cities than you might think: Regarding Jacob Bernstein's article on the formation of the proposed new City of West Dade under the sponsorship of Commissioner Miriam Alonso ("Now Entering Miriamville," December 6), I want to point out what I believe is serious misinformation given to Mr. Bernstein by Miami-Dade County staff regarding the number of potential new municipalities that may be formed in the ongoing incorporation process.
Mr. Bernstein has given his readers the most accurate information to date on the history of recent municipal incorporation efforts and the county's reactions to these efforts. In fact he has attended several meetings of my organization, LINC (Let's Incorporate Now Coalition), in the past, so he is certainly no stranger to the incorporation movement. But his statement that, according to county staff, "were the trend to continue, the county would end up with an additional 40 cities if all areas incorporated" is just not credible.
For instance, LINC is composed of eleven member communities at present, which represents about 720,000 residents or 60 percent of the 1.2 million residents in the Unincorporated Municipal Service Area (UMSA). The smallest population of these proposed new cities (16,000) belongs to the Redland, but it has the largest land area. The largest in terms of population is the proposed new city of West Kendall with a population of around 200,000. Kendall's population would be 98,000 and Westchester's is close to that. Most average 40,000 and above in population. With the exception of the Redland, none of these proposed new cities has a population of less than 20,000.
If you subtract the 720,000 UMSA residents wishing to form a total of eleven new cities from the 1.2 million UMSA total residents, you end up with only 480,000 residents left in the UMSA to form 29 new cities in order to reach the county's estimated total of 40 additional cities. These new cities would then average less than 17,000 each in population, contrasted with the average population of at least 40,000 or more in most of the proposed new incorporations now moving through the process.
Beverly Gerald, president
Surely They're Not All Nut Cases, Right?
Diabolical free weekly screens correspondence, distorts reality: Please tell me that all those ignorant and biased letters from Anglo-American readers are not representative of the letters New Times receives from that segment of the community. I cannot believe those letters, full of hate and envy directed at the Cuban community, are representative of South Florida Anglos. I am Cuban, and a significant number of my friends are Anglos. They do not share those paranoid and ignorant views. So please tell me you're publishing just the outrageous ones.
To all those ignorant people out there, I say please come to grips with the Cuban community. I know you have been accustomed to feeling superior to Hispanics, and I know that because the Cuban community outperforms all other Hispanic groups, and even Anglo Americans, that you are threatened by our success and prosperity. I know you have traditionally been accustomed to Hispanics of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Central American, and South American descent underachieving in society, economics, and the classroom. Apparently before the Cubans arrived, you liked your Hispanics somewhat dumb and docile, inferior to you economically, educationally, and culturally. For the most part, you were correct. Hispanics underachieved in every way. We Cubans haven't, however. Second-generation Cubans have prospered with higher levels of education, income, business ownership, and home ownership than any other minority group -- even Anglo Americans.
If reading this offends you, then again, please get a grip. We will continue to prosper and help others to prosper as well. It's no secret why today there are more non-Cuban Hispanics in Miami than Cubans. They want to achieve the same success we have. I hope that in the near future Cubans begin to invest in the black community as well, and help them achieve the prosperity that has eluded them long before there was ever a Cuban in Miami.
We do not have to apologize for our success, for our heritage, or for our language. We have proven that one can retain a great deal of heritage and still succeed here. There is nothing wrong with that and nothing wrong with speaking Spanish. Accept that we are successful and will maintain our heritage and still be productive members of this country.
And please accept our right to protest. Sure we blocked a couple of streets. But that disruption was minor compared to most protests that take place in this nation and involve millions of dollars in destruction. Check out Seattle and Washington recently. In fact check out every time a college or professional sports team wins a championship. There is more property destruction and violence at these events than when the Cubans protested and blocked a couple of streets -- or worse, set fire to a couple of Dumpsters. Wow. Big deal.
Remember, it is not a crime to speak Spanish. It's not a crime to get ahead. It's not a crime to have protested the Clinton administration. It's not a crime to be a Republican. And it's not a crime to be proud of who you are and where you come from.
Nut Case #1
Excuse me for saying so, but there's a big blind spot out there: At the risk of being labeled a nut, I would like to respond to Maria Gonzalez's letter. I live in a city (Miami) and county (Miami-Dade) where the social climate is oppressive and fraught with conflict. Where the ruling exile elite, through their minions the Cuban American National Foundation, the Latin Builders Association, et cetera, choose the politicians deemed acceptable to run for office.
Where organizations and business establishments are threatened and harassed if they express an opinion contrary to exile orthodoxy.
Where upper- and middle-class exiles ignore and accept the widening schism between rich and poor. (Did I mention that Miami has sunk to the fourth-poorest city of its size in America under exile Cuban "rule"?)
Where the lower class's attention is kept focused on Cuban nationalism by Spanish-language talk radio and El Nuevo Herald while the same families who supported Batista (Ros, Diaz de la Portilla, Diaz-Balart) are running things here just like the old days in Cuba.
Did Cuba ever have a true democracy for longer than a few months? I could go on but, Ms. Gonzalez, you know all this already and, sadly, you accept it.
Most Cubans I know are hard-working good people, but they seem to have a blind spot when it comes to their leaders. They admire strong leaders, and as long as those leaders spout anti-Castro propaganda and talk about returning to the good old days in Cuba, they turn a blind eye to corruption. No, Ms. Gonzalez, it's not a crime to be proud of where you came from, but do you have to be so superior and arrogant given Cuba's history of government?
What brings out the "nuts" is the fact that you brought your failed systems with you to a country and to a people who welcomed you. And now you want to tell us how wonderful you are.
Nut Case #2
If you're so prosperous, why is Miami so poor? I just read Maria Gonzalez's letter chastising Anglos for not being nice to Cubans because we are jealous of all the prosperity they have and we don't. What a load of crap. I have absolutely nothing against Cubans, but I am real tired of professional Cubans like Gonzalez bragging about the "wealth, prosperity, and opportunity" they have brought to Miami. The fact is Miami is the fourth-poorest city in the nation! That's a disgrace and surely nothing to brag about. And you don't need U.S. Census statistics to reveal how poor Miami is. Just drive around. There are vast swaths of poverty-stricken areas across the city (and the county), lots of them Latin areas too.
When I see prosperity, I'll begin to believe Gonzalez's argument. In the meantime I'll stick to the facts: fourth-poorest city in the nation.
Editor's note: According to recent Census Bureau surveys, Miami now ranks number one in poverty among American cities with populations in excess of 250,000.
Nut Case #3
Is there no limit to your arrogance? Dear Maria: It certainly is not a crime to speak Spanish or to get ahead or even to be a Republican, but it should be a crime to be as arrogant and elitist and -- yes -- ignorant as you are. Nothing turns my stomach more than hearing people of any nationality put themselves above the rest of humanity based on their heritage, passport, skin or hair color (remember those perfect Aryans?), or whatever it may be that makes them superior in their own eyes.
You mention other Hispanics, such as those lowly Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Central Americans, South Americans -- wait! You actually managed to put down every single Hispanic nationality except your own glorious Cuban one! And you wonder what irritates people about you. I have a lot more respect for pretty much all those "dumb, docile, and inferior" Hispanics, as you so kindly put it, than any arrogant Cuban such as yourself.
Oh, by the way, I am of Spanish and Anglo descent, speak Spanish, and do not envy you in any way. I do not feel superior to Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, South or Central Americans. In fact I rather prefer their company, food, culture, graciousness, and class to that of arrogant idiots such as yourself. So why don't you get off your self-erected pedestal and realize that arrogance and megalomanical claims of superiority will not gain you any goodwill among Anglos, not to mention among all your Hispanic brethren or anyone else outside your small, exclusive circle. Then again, you probably don't care.
Nut Case #4
Thanks for the rhetorical spitball: Maria Gonzalez ends her letter to New Times by saying it is not a crime to be proud of who you are or where you come from. But her tolerance of pride appears to exclude any group but Cubans. It especially excludes the Americans who invited her to live in our country. For example if English-speaking American writers fail to flatter Ms. Gonzalez's racist vanity, well, they are "ignorant and biased" and "full of hate and envy." She does have Anglo friends and no doubt believes there are some good ones. Their views are presumably not "paranoid and ignorant" because, of course, they complement her own.
Cultured as she is, Ms. Gonzalez must know she cannot excuse the crimes of her own group by citing the crimes of others. But she does this anyway. She seems to confuse the right to speak freely and assemble peacefully with crimes like falsely imprisoning others by blocking traffic. They are not the same. She has to know that the rights of one person end where the rights of another begin. Exiles' rights of political expression do not include forcefully obstructing another person from going to and from work, the grocery, the doctor, or anywhere else. And no person has the right to deny a caring father the custody of his own son because of the man's nationality or political beliefs. Despite the intensity of our loathing for Castro, we do not have that right. And thanks to the wisdom and sacrifice of our forefathers, the government of the United States does not have that power.
If Latinos from other nations really wished to follow the Cuban achievement, as Ms. Gonzalez claims, then they would go to Havana, not Miami. But they do not go to Havana. For all their struggle, Cubans are a people who never knew real freedom until they came to America. The freedom they enjoy here is a culture bestowed upon them by the American people. The Cubans themselves never succeeded in gaining and sustaining fundamental human liberties.
But Cubans have done well here, and I personally believe that most Americans admire Cubans for their economic prosperity. We want people to be successful. And a new sense of caring speaks well of any community, as does active opposition to the tyrant. But our culture does not condone child-snatching, even from our enemies. Yes, there is resentment of the exiles' politically blighted leadership. The politicos seem to view American freedom as an inexhaustible gift to be bombed and assaulted in manic, self-righteous frenzies whenever their personal desires and interests conflict with democratic principles and institutions.
No number of bombings or protests can alter the fact that the exiles did choose to run from Cuba rather than fight and die for their own nation. Without fault, that is history. But their children are not exiles; they are Americans. And like others before them, they will eventually turn from the dictates of the old guard and embrace the freedom of Anglo-American heritage. And unlike Ms. Gonzalez, their gratitude will not take the form of labored, one-dimensional verbal saliva in our faces.
John D. Smith
Nut Case #5
And thanks for reminding me why I left Miami: As an Anglo American who resided in Miami-Dade County for 22 years, I find Ms. Gonzalez's letter most educational. Her attitude epitomizes the very reasons I picked up and left Miami-Dade last year. She writes, "Please come to grips with the Cuban community." Her arrogance astounds me. I didn't move to Florida and ask the people of Miami-Dade County to "come to grips" with me and mine.
The Cuban community came to this country and was welcomed to our shores and given every advantage, in some cases more so than any other group of immigrants. Yes, they certainly have the constitutional right to assemble and bear arms, as do all Americans. But Ms. Gonzalez's statement about helping the downtrodden black citizens of our city is a joke. The Cubans have stepped on the black community at every turn.
When I moved here more than two decades ago, I had every intention of learning the Spanish language, but the longer I stayed the more adamant I became that the national language is English and immigrants should be expected to assimilate.
The problem in this community is this: The political leadership survives on and the media thrives on our divisions, and those divisions were exacerbated by the Elian Gonzalez issue. We Anglos were embarrassed by the behavior of the Cuban-American leadership -- Alex Penelas, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Joe Carollo, et al. Doesn't Ms. Gonzalez recognize that Miami-Dade County became the laughingstock of the country? There has been no meaningful dialogue about this.
Nut Case #6
Is it just me or are all these people horribly rude? What is wrong with Miami's Latin culture? I am compelled to find some answers. Let me be more clear: Why are Latin immigrants the rudest people on the planet?
I support a multicultural society. That's why I love living in Miami. But I hate dealing with business owners and employees who ignore, overcharge, and even give me dirty looks because I am a gringa. Today I went to an auto mechanic (Midas, a national chain!), and no one spoke English. Then later I went to the store and patiently waited in line. Everyone around me was speaking Spanish and I watched people walk in and buy things ahead of me. I didn't understand what they were saying, but I knew they were all ignoring me and I couldn't get any service. Irate, I walked out.
In an earlier experience, I ordered coffee at one of those walk-up counters. (I am sure there is a Spanish name for them, but I am unaware.) I was waited on only after everyone else left. I understand enough Spanish to know that I was being charged more for my coffee, but didn't know enough to complain. So I learned how to order my coffee in Spanish (with the proper accent) and now I am charged the same as Spanish-speaking people.
I am constantly shoved in crowded places with no apologies. People cut in line in front of me. I sat through a movie where the Spanish-speaking people next to me were louder than the movie itself. I've opened doors for elderly people who then shoved me on their way through. I understand we live in "northern Cuba," but I am offended by the racism I am subjected to just because I am not Latin. At my worst moments I find myself wishing that all the Spanish-speaking people in Miami would get on a sinking ship!
Can you explain how this has happened and try to give me some insight? I am not one to say, "Well, this is Miami and maybe it's just not for me." I will fight and stay in this paradise, but I am growing an extreme hatred for the Latin community. Help! I am not a racist but feel as if I may become one if I am treated this way much longer.
Nut Case #7
No, Michele, it's not just you: What causes rudeness in Miami? I think we need a sociologist to answer that question. But I like living in a multicultural community. I do not want to live in an all-Anglo community any more than I would want to live in an all African-American or all-Latin community.
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A few years ago, when Tropic magazine was part of the Miami Herald Sunday edition, there was a tongue-in-cheek slogan contest that started with: "You know you're from Miami when..." The winning slogan was: "You know you're from Miami when you go to New York and you can't get over how friendly everyone is."
Well, you may be from Cuba, Haiti, England, France, Brazil, or whatever country, but you're in America now, and Americans take pride in being known the world over for their friendliness. Get with the program, folks, or the economy here is going to end up just like that in Latin America, and then where will you go?
Also -- and this goes for any immigrant from any country -- learn how to speak the predominant language of the country where you live. It will open employment doors for you, help to break down cultural barriers, and help you to make friends.
Richard K. Claycomb