Letters from the Issue of February 27, 2003
The subject may be Cuba, but the object is self-promotion: After reading Kirk Nielsen's article about Jorge Mas Santos and the Cuban American National Foundation ("Dialogue: The Final Frontier," February 20) I had to cry me a river over the transformation of those low-life Cuban extremists at CANF.
So now the foundation is willing to talk with representatives of Castro's government, something other Americans have proposed repeatedly over the years, but to no avail. Three words best describe the reason for this remarkable transformation: Payá's Varela Project, a movement within Cuba to bring about positive change for the Cuban people. The CANF found itself being left behind, the media spotlight no longer on them, but shined instead upon Cubans in Cuba working for reform. They couldn't get their hands on the Varela Project to subvert it, as they have done in undermining efforts to lift the repressive U.S. embargo of Cuba. They lost face, their egos were bruised, and the world was moving on without them.
The greatest absurdity and telling sign of an ego war being played out is that CANF chairman Jorge Mas Santos this past weekend received a free-speech award from the People for the American Way. His counterpart in Cuba, Oswaldo Payá, has already received his award, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, Europe's most prestigious human-rights award.
Jorge Mas Santos and company shouldn't be looked upon as if they were noblemen from King Arthur's court. Rather they should be seen as hot-air balloons waiting to burst.
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Yes, the subject is Cuba, but the goal is profit: Jorge Mas Canosa was an able lobbyist who utilized ample funds from wealthy Cuban Americans to create influence in the U.S. Congress. He was also an astute businessman who used his political influence to create a huge economic empire for himself.
His son, Jorge Mas Santos, is following closely in his father's steps. The wealth of the exiled Cuban icons is slowly being transferred to their offspring. This younger, business-oriented generation is already looking at future opportunities to do business in Cuba after Fidel Castro disappears. Jorge Mas Santos is definitely attempting to position himself accordingly. We must remember that in our capitalist society, business is business -- no matter what.
"Time to cap Iraq, jack, cuz Hussein be insane and Dubya be down, y'all hear me?" Judy Cantor's article "Miami & Havana & Hip-Hop" (February 13) poses the question: Can rap bridge the gap? Sure it can, only if it is stripped of all its cultural value, homogenized, and repackaged with the Castro regime's seal of approval.
As a young hip-hop fan and a person with a social conscience, I found it laughable to see the "rapaganda" that was being "sampled" in the article. Imagine if the Bush administration "officially recognized" rap and began "harnessing" it to create its very own "Republican Rap Agency." (Who would get signed? Only ultra-right-wing patriots who oppose any form of social criticism.) This is why it was nauseating to hear how the Castro regime officially recognized rap and called for its nationalization.
The Cuban agency will only sign rappers like Doble Filo, who rap about things the government approves -- for example, the wonders of the revolution or that damned ley asesina that forces thousands of rafters to risk death in the Florida Straits. Now try to imagine 50 Cent rapping about the need for war in Iraq and about how all Democrats are really pro-Saddam.
Another interesting observation is that these Cuban rappers see themselves filling the same role as the musicians of la nueva trova in the early Sixties. Is this the same nueva trova that sang to Fidel and his henchmen while innocent people were being tried in kangaroo courts and sentenced to indefinite jail terms or execution by firing squad? I guess this new nueva trova will fill the same role. They'll rap about the revolution and Yankee imperialism, and live in plush government homes while truly free rappers like the Free Hole Negro collective will continue to be harassed and subjugated by a system that wants to silence them. If only they'd just stop rapping about the absurd concept of freedom, they'd be able to collect a government check and be flown to Miami for a cultural exchange.
It appears we're willing to patronize Castro's approved/censored rappers and just as willing to ignore the ones who have a free conscience. I don't think anyone with a brain would have supported pro-apartheid rap in South Africa. But Castro rap is the bomb!
But what the hell do I know? I'm one of those who are grossly misinformed about what's going on in Cuba, particularly because I live in Miami. So I guess that means the people living in Cuba are informed. I'm sure they're picking up their copy of New Times and are commenting on it right now. (Yeah, right.)
As long as they are marketable and have phat beats, who cares if they're censored? In my humble opinion, this was the essence of Judy Cantor's article. Talk about a false conscience.
Gustavo M. Yanes
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.
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
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