Haitians Are Not Cubans

Letters from the Issue of November 28, 2002

Their lives back home may be miserable, but misery isn't enough: In response to Francis Francois's letter titled "Hey People, It's Time to Call Out the Cavalry" (November 14), first and foremost is the fact that most Cubans do understand the plight of Haitians. We shed tears every time we see the people of that nation jumping ship to land here. We understand their pain and the discrimination they suffer. But to say that Haitians and Cubans are the same? Check the history.

Cuba is still communist. Haiti is a democracy (perhaps in name only but a democracy nonetheless) with leaders the Haitian people backed and the U.S. helped place in power. The Cubans have had 40-plus years of a leader the U.S. has never attempted to replace after the botched Bay of Pigs affair. Today the Russians couldn't care less if President Bush, citing past acts of terrorism, attacked and deposed Castro. But the U.S. does nothing.

The crux of the problem lies in the fact that Haitian people come here and take African-American jobs. But where are the Haitians' claims of torture inflicted by their government, claims that would make African Americans relate to them? All of us who have been oppressed could relate to that! But I hardly see that (though it may exist in some cases) and neither does the U.S. government.

Mr. Francois, before you say we Cubans don't care, don't have sympathy, and can't relate, remember that the only thing we can see is a people desperate to find a better life for their kids. Understandable but hardly admissible, as any American can agree. If this were to be the criteria for admission, forget the Texas border, and send out cruise ships to pick up the Afghans and Chinese and everyone else. If that happened, would the Haitians bother to come here? For that matter would anyone else? Why bother? The U.S. would be just like the countries they were leaving.

Carlos Navarro


Haitians Should Stop the Blame Game

If they did, Cubans might be more helpful: While I agree with the spirit of Francis Francois's letter, I believe he is being a little naive about getting Cuban Americans and African Americans involved in the plight of the Haitian community. His argument for such involvement goes against the grain of human nature, especially since there is absolutely no incentive for either community to do so. My suggestion to Mr. Francois and to the Haitian community in general would be to organize and begin greasing a few palms in Washington, like Cuban Americans and countless other groups do. As cynical as it sounds, that's really your only option. We all know the old saying: "Money talks."

My other suggestion would be to stop blaming other groups for the Haitian community's misfortunes. Although my heart breaks for your people and your suffering, the endless blame game Haitians play in the media makes me sick to my stomach. Cuban Americans are not responsible for Haiti's woes. Cuban migrants have been the lucky beneficiaries of some left-over Cold War policies, and understandably don't want to reverse a policy that benefits their people.

Even my ultra right-wing parents were shocked and moved by the desperation and courage of the Haitian migrants scrambling for a ride to freedom on the Rickenbacker Causeway. But the almost immediate attacks on U.S. Cuban-migrant policy and Cubans in general turned them off and left them deaf to Haitian pleas, as I am sure it did to countless others.

Unfortunately I suspect that if the shoe were on the other foot, Haitians would not be running out in droves to help their Cuban brothers. I also suspect that if Haitians toned down their anti-Cuban rhetoric, they might receive a little more help from the Cuban-American community.

I believe the reason Haitians don't organize and don't become involved is that they are too busy working hard trying to make ends meet. So don't be too harsh on your people, Mr. Francois. They are on the right track. Like you, I believe all of Miami's citizens should work together to help the Haitian community and the rest of South Florida. Unfortunately, unless our leaders -- Cuban Americans, African Americans, and Haitian Americans -- take the initiative and stop playing the blame game, which Cubans are just as adept at, things are not going to get better anytime soon.

José Martinez

Miami Shores

When Is a Spliff Not a Spliff?

When it's fired up in Miami-Dade County's number-one nightclub/restaurant known for its excellent food, great live music, and dancing in a beautiful tropical environment that creates an all-around entertaining experience -- that's when: When I opened New Times to read John Anderson's article about my great house band, 4:20 ("No Loss of Innasense," October 31), I was appalled to read in the first paragraph that a musician playing at my restaurant, Mango's Tropical Café, was seen smoking a "spliff" in front of families and other customers who were eating there that afternoon. In common terms, Mr. Anderson was saying the musician was smoking marijuana on the front patio of Mango's. I knew Mr. Anderson had to be mistaken and so I immediately checked with my management staff, other members of 4:20, as well as singer/keyboardist Jimi Dred. I found that indeed Mr. Anderson was wrong, and that Jimi Dred was absolutely not smoking a "spliff."

Mango's Tropical Café is a restaurant that promotes excellent food, great live music, and dancing in a beautiful tropical environment to create an all-around entertaining experience. My staff and I work very hard to ensure that everyone has a good time. We obey the law at every level and everyone I employ realizes they must behave responsibly or be terminated.

Upon speaking with Jimi, I learned he was smoking a large, hand-rolled cigarette and pretending to pass it to other members of the band. Mr. Anderson, it seems, assumed that he was smoking something other than tobacco. Reporting is not about "assuming," however, and Mr. Anderson should have made an inquiry with Jimi before making such an outrageous claim. My staff and I are extremely offended by this grossly negligent reporting.

The rest of the article was good, providing a great description of their fusion of reggae and dancehall music, which, coupled with their synergy, is what makes 4:20 such a great reggae band -- and Mango's Tropical Café the number-one restaurant/nightclub in all of Miami-Dade County.

David Wallack, president and CEO

Mango's Tropical Café

Miami Beach

John Anderson replies: Jimi was sitting on the side of the stage, pulled out a roach -- the butt end of a hand-rolled "cigarette" -- lit it, and took short, deep puffs he held for several moments. He then offered me a hit on the joint -- excuse me, the "cigarette." I declined. Even over odors from the kitchen, I caught a whiff of what smelled like marijuana. But Mr. Wallack is correct: I did not ask Jimi if it was marijuana and he didn't volunteer any information about his "cigarette."


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