Politics and Parents
Mom and Dad, just want to thank you for blowing our chance at the big time: It is more than bitterly ironic that we've lost the Latin Grammys, as Celeste Fraser Delgado wrote last week ("Shake," August 23). It is also a shame. Why? Because of the lost opportunity for so many Miami musicians to shine for so many industry personnel. Miami artists had a chance at an audience of record-company executives, managers, and producers that doesn't come around very often. And now, because of our reactionary politics, we've lost that opportunity for all our native talent.
I am a member of The Voz, a musical group of young Cuban-American men who lost such an opportunity. We had an invitation to play a Latin Grammy-sponsored show, where we stood a chance of getting the attention we have fought so hard for. Now that chance is gone. We're talented musicians with a good repertoire. This might not have been our only opportunity to get such exposure, but it's so frustrating that the community we try to represent has practically scared off our chance.
Our music is very sympathetic to anti-communist causes while still representing our generational view of a lost homeland and the life we, as Cuban Americans, are trying to build. In layman's terms: We're a Cuban rock band. We were going to play an awesome show that might have helped us out a lot and put our generation in the limelight, but now we can't because of politics. Damn! So now our generation is suffering the consequences of our parents' reactionary politics.
Protest is our democratic right and duty, and The Voz encourages and applauds peaceful protest. But protest should not be a vehicle used to bend a society to a way of thinking. Protest should not invoke feelings of danger, of violence. Protest should apply in the classical sense: a voicing of concerns that pertain to given situations or government policies. Yet here in Miami we have elevated (or degenerated) the act of political protest to mob rule.
Thanks to the Cuban moms and dads. Thanks for bringing us here to the land of opportunity and then taking away those opportunities. Are you sure the lessons you're trying to teach us are having the desired effect?
Commies, Salsa, and Hackers
As the world swoons over Cuban music, Miami pulls the trigger -- on itself: I strongly object to the caption used with my photograph in Kathy Glasgow's article "The Salsa Wars" (August 16). The caption read, "Jacira Castro says she's a salsa lover, not a commie lover." I never said anything of the sort. I would never refer to myself as a "salsa lover," because I would not want to be associated with the dance school with a similar name. Also I neither love nor hate "commies," which is a word I would never use. I believe in respect for all political and religious affiliations, whether I agree with them or not.
My organization, SalsaPower (and its Website, salsapower.com), is bigger than all of Miami's petty backstabbing and infighting. The anti-Castro (Fidel, not Jacira) faction in Miami seems not to realize that the world at large adores Cuban music and is crazy about Cuban-style dance. Miami is one of the few places where you can't hear Cuban artists without fear of being pelted and jeered by throngs of right-wing reactionaries. The rest of the country looks at the radical exile community as an anomaly.
The Cuban American National Foundation hired some of the best public-relations firms in the nation to change its image after the Elian debacle, but the local community doesn't help matters when they continue to shoot themselves in the proverbial foot by running the Latin Grammys out of town. The Website-hacking incident described in "The Salsa Wars" is just more of the same tactics these folks use.
We fully understand exiles' motives in leaving Cuba, but that doesn't give them the right to run roughshod over the country that has so generously taken them in and given them the opportunity for a new start. Respect for a difference of opinion and the right to express it go hand in hand. I would say Miami's exiles need to add tolerance to their vocabulary. That would go a long way toward building a bridge across those 90 miles that separate them from their homeland.
Kissinger and Me: A Love Song
"Kulchur" should stick to culture and leave history to the big boys: While perusing what I considered to be quite an enjoyable article about Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs by Brett Sokol ("Mo' Money, Mo' Trouble," August 2), I was suddenly paralyzed by a line that was either the ends of a sardonic mind or the spawn of unfettered ignorance: the sudden attacks on Henry Kissinger found in the last paragraph of this now infamous piece of journalism.
Placing blame on Kissinger for the pain and suffering of Southeast Asians is absurd, sheer folly, and based on a false premise. The suffering of the citizens of Indochina began in the Thirties with Japanese expansion, was furthered by French imperialism until 1954, and continued with American intervention.
Little noted are the thousands who perished when Vietnam was united at the hands of the communist north, and the purging in Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge regime. Kissinger did not have a significant hand in these events until 1970, when the "Kissinger Connection" was established with North Vietnam's Le Duc Tho. By that time 95 percent of the damage had been done. The other five percent can be attributed to the Khmer Rouge and the Hanoi unification scheme. Even trying to equate a fraction of the blame with Kissinger is neuralgic, since any deal or breakthrough had to be finalized by Richard Nixon and his administration.
I felt this crash course of Indochinese history was seriously needed for Mr. Sokol, and incumbent upon me to provide it. Blame Japanese expansion, French imperialism, American "containment" theory. Blame the Khmer Rouge, blame Hanoi intransigence, blame the five American presidents who prolonged the war. But do not blame Henry Kissinger, who sits at the zenith as being one of the most prominent foreign-policy strategists of this past century.
Mr. Sokol, you'll thank me later for this. Ignorance isn't necessarily bliss.
Christian Gary Wilson
Not with Our Money She Doesn't
Fat salaries subsidized by United Way? No way: Regarding your story "Queen of the Oldies" (July 26), written by Jacob Bernstein, I want to set the record straight about our funding of the Little Havana Activities and Nutrition Center. For each of the past two years the center has received an annual allocation of $326,218 from United Way of Miami-Dade.
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Contrary to Mr. Bernstein's story, our funding does not pay the salary of the agency's executive director. The majority of our funding is used by the agency to draw down matching state and federal dollars for congregate and home-delivered meal programs at the agency's sixteen centers. This year more than $291,000 of United Way funds will enable the agency to generate an additional $2.5 million in government funding. The balance of our funding supports health, transportation, and other social services for the agency's elderly clients.
All United Way agencies must submit audited financial statements on an annual basis. These audits are reviewed by a volunteer team of accounting and finance professionals to ensure that United Way dollars are being spent efficiently, effectively, and for the programs and services they were intended.
Harve A. Mogul, president and CEO
United Way of Miami-Dade
Jacob Bernstein replies: I did not intend to imply that the salary of executive director Josefina Carbonell was drawn from United Way funds. Faced with state-imposed limits on money allotted for salaries, the center sought additional funding for that purpose from nonprofit organizations similar to United Way.