Just look at the history of Cuba's white elite: Kudos to Celeste Fraser Delgado for her article on Celia Cruz ("Over Her Dead Body," July 24). I didn't intend to write but was motivated to do so by the negative responses she received from Angelo Figueras and Rebecca Diaz in last week's letters section (August 7). Her article accurately represented the question of race in Cuban society (and/or Cuban-American society). While it's true that Cuba did not have de jure segregation and racism like the U.S., there were tremendous problems. The status one could achieve could be negatively affected by one's complexion.
As individuals Cubans enjoyed a more open attitude about race -- friendships were colorblind and blacks did not have to sit in the back of the bus. But there were divisions between the races, and clearly there was a white elite that controlled business and politics nationwide. A bustling middle class made up of recent Spanish immigrants and their descendants was the lifeblood of the nation's economy. Blacks had little possibility of making it outside of entertainment or sports.
In her letter, Rebecca Diaz compared the slave trade to life in modern Cuba. It is reprehensible to belittle the horror, pain, and legacy of slavery by comparing it to a small-time dictatorship.
Pablo Gomez Rivas
Celia: I'll Tell You
It's the hypocrisy of racists pretending racism doesn't exist: Unlike the two misguided individuals whose letters were published last week, I was not offended by Celeste Fraser Delgado's "Over Her Dead Body." It was well written and a great tribute to Celia Cruz, who was proud to say she was black as well as Cuban. So I say to Angelo Figueras and Rebecca Diaz: Leave Celia to rest in peace.
What I find offensive is to hear cries of racism, and once backs are turned, hearing racist remarks blurted out. If anyone were to observe the reactions of the majority of Cubans when they see a black person on the street, they would hear: "Ugh ... negro de mierda." Or try bringing home a black man or woman for mami and papi to meet.
There are many different Cubans out there. You have black, white, young, old, gay. If we truly are "one Cuba, one blood," then we should act like it!
Bigotry knows no national boundaries: Apparently letter-writers Mr. Figueras and Ms. Diaz are not familiar with the term "ethnicity," as opposed to "nationality." Celia Cruz, while being both Cuban (a nationality) and black (an ethnic characteristic), was also a great musical artist.
I know from firsthand experience that white Cubans are just as bigoted as their American counterparts, so they can try that rhetoric on other Cubans because we Americans know better.
Celia: A Citizen
of the World
But a resident of the U.S.A.: In the two letters about Celia Cruz and her skin color, both authors reiterated the same idea: Celia was not black or white, she was Cuban!
From my point of view, Celia Cruz lived in the United States for 40 years. Wouldn't that make her American?
Performing around the globe -- with the exception of Miami: Now that the great Celia Cruz is gone from the U.S. salsa scene, our local politicians need to realize they are hurting the Miami economy by preventing musicians who are Cuban nationals from working and recording here. Many far-away cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, and San Francisco get to see live acts from Cuba on a regular basis. But Miami -- so close to Cuba, and the natural port of entry for Cuban culture into the U.S. -- is not being allowed to reap significant benefits from the international salsa music industry.
Proud to be
Let's reward our civic leaders for their bold vision: Regarding Kirk Nielsen's article about illegal billboards in the City of Miami ("Billboard Industry 'Rapes' Miami and Beats the Rap," July 31), Miami commissioners who have supported the proliferation of these illegal billboards are a disgrace. This November these same commissioners will be asking their constituents to vote for an increase in their salaries. They should be rewarded for dotting Miami's skyline with these classless monstrosities by a "no" vote.
If billboards are outlawed, will only outlaws have billboards? If it is illegal to use an illegal substance (drugs, for example), why not make it illegal to advertise via any illegal means of communication, such as illegal billboards? It certainly wouldn't be a violation of First Amendment rights as it only applies to illegality.
The True Cost of
A city that sells itself cheap should expect to be treated the same way: Kirk Nielsen's article is a reminder that there is no end to the City of Miami funding public projects through the sale of advertising. The latest effort to clean up Miami's polluted waterways will be funded through the sale of advertising to corporate sponsors. While the funds may help create educational programs and public awareness, the signs to be posted throughout Miami will read: "Cleaner Cities, Cleaner Waterways." But that will be the small print you can't read while whizzing by at 40 miles per hour. The large corporate logo on the signs, however, you will not be able to avoid.
In addition to the city's ubiquitous (and illegal) billboards, we now have bus benches and shelters funded through the sale of large, back-lit poster ads that protrude from the sidewalk. New newspaper racks are also funded by large poster advertising that faces the street. Our buses are "wrapped" in advertising, creating rolling billboards. We have advertisements on light poles and banners strung across the roadways. No doubt we'll soon see a sponsorship banner hung behind the dais at Miami City Hall to offset the cost of renovations.
Cities like to fund needed public projects through the sale of advertising because it relieves them of their responsibility to adequately budget and tax their residents and to plan and maintain public areas for maximum beauty and benefit. As an example, you can expect the mayor and commissioners to proclaim that the current effort to clean up Miami's waterways will be achieved at "no additional cost to the taxpayer." By selling ads for $300 per month, the city says it will raise $250,000 for waterway cleanup each year. Simple math shows that roughly 70 new advertisements will be placed in the public right-of-way every year. No cost to the taxpayer, you say?
Of course, this cost to the taxpayer comes in the form of increased commercialization of our public property (an inappropriate use of public investment) and an increasingly cluttered field of vision for pedestrians and motorists alike -- for locals as well as tourists. As a community that relies upon its stunning tropical scenery to attract tourists, residents, and commerce, aesthetic considerations assume an economic value. Billboards and outdoor advertising block lines of sight, the sky, and the surrounding landscape. Unlike television, radio, or print media, outdoor advertising in all its ugly forms cannot be tuned out or turned off. It is always there, in your face.
Forget for a moment the constitutional legality of selling the eyeballs of its citizens for advertising revenue. The proliferation of public advertising sold by the City of Miami is in direct opposition to the most important recent efforts undertaken by the mayor and commission to clean up Miami and invest in quality of life, public spaces, and neighborhoods. By selling advertising in the public right-of-way, the city is littering -- defacing our public space and the character of our neighborhoods. If you doubt that, just drive down Calle Ocho and ask yourself how the bus-bench ad panels have contributed positively to the character of Little Havana. Or ride along the Rickenbacker Causeway and ask yourself how the bus-bench ads have added positively to the charming views of Biscayne Bay. Yes, there is a bench there that three people can sit on while waiting for the bus. But that is the only positive effect, and one that ought to be funded through the collection of bus fares and the overall county transportation budget.
Many experts believe that the defacement of public space in the form of advertising invites the public to treat that public space in the same way. Studies have shown that litter and graffiti increase in cities with heavy public advertising and inadequate signage codes. The analogy known as "broken windows" applies: A neighborhood with broken windows is perceived as dangerous. Likewise "the no-man's land within public rights-of-way where private and public interests meet is where one can read the character of a community" (Daniel R. Mandelker and William R. Ewald, Street Graphics and the Law).
In the case of Miami, our character can be read this way: "Notice to Advertisers: City for Sale."
And should they consult a dictionary for the word "partner"? Despite his denials of partnership, Dr. Bernard Stern's name appears before Dr. Sam Gershenbaum's own in their joint corrective-surgery ads in Miami New Times -- at least in those ads published before I left town at the end of June. Furthermore, Gershenbaum referred to Stern as "my partner" on two occasions when I interviewed him for my column "Designa Vagina" (July 10). In addition, I called the offices the two share in Aventura repeatedly in an attempt to speak with Stern. When that failed, I left word about what I wanted. Alas, Dr. Stern never saw fit to answer my messages. Thus my assumption that Stern was indeed Gershenbaum's partner.
John Lombardi, editor
Salt Lake City Magazine
Salt Lake City, Utah