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As soon as I agreed to write a column for Calle Ocho News, I told Rosi (la Jefa del periodico) that I was gonna write about mostly culture and history and stay away from the unsavory politics that sometimes consumes Little Havana and its residents. However, the recent clamor for true democracy in Venezuela and the measures announced by the Trump administration to allow Cuban-Americans to file suit against companies in the U.S. who are doing business on stolen property in Cuba prompted me to break my pledge and reflect on these matters of the heart and why they mean a bunch to me and many like-minded Miamians.
I will begin by stating that these issues should not be sullied or simplified by reducing them to some silly American partisan argument. I don’t give a hoot who you voted for in the past or are chomping at the bit to vote for in the next election cycle. My sentiments in this case spawn from the compassion I have for the freedom loving people of Venezuela and Cuba (like I also feel for Haiti and Nicaragua and Liberty City for that matter—the various communities that populate our diverse city and many times make foreign affairs local news here). I’m also a keen student of history and have been fortunate enough to learn about the political turmoil in regions like Cuba and Venezuela from primary sources, people who have firsthand experience of the sordid history that has plagued these places.
It was inspiring to watch President Juan Guaido and political prisoner, would be President, Leopoldo Lopez bravely stand up once again to Nicolas Maduro’s tyranny in Venezuela. From the footage one can clearly see that the masses are with them but sadly Maduro and his Havana steering committee still have control of the Venezuelan military. It prompts me to wonder how much it costs to keep those Venezuelan generals fat, happy and murderous?
I was also struck by the sheer angst, worry, hope and torment that my Venezuelan friends and neighbors were experiencing. As a Cuban-American I know all too well what that emotional maelstrom is like. My heart hurts for them and I pray that they find a peaceful and just resolution to the ills of Venezuela.
As for the administration’s new move to allow individuals in this country to file suit against companies in Cuba that are doing business on stolen, ill-gotten property, I’m frankly thrilled. Those that know me, know that I believe in freedom. I’m a true liberal and by true, I mean that I live what I preach, not like some that consider themselves left of Hubert Humphrey (the Bernie Sanders of his day) and yet live gated lives in gated communities. Asi cualquiera es liberal. It is precisely because I’m a liberal that I have great disdain for the Castro’s (and their cronies’) criminal reign in Cuba.
I’m still amazed at how far some will go (including some Cubans here in Miami) to defend the Cuban regime’s lying, cheating, stealing and killing. I guess it’s some odd twist on the Stockholm syndrome--kissing your oppressor’s ass.
During this past month, I’ve had the privilege of experiencing (a couple of times) the Amparo Experience an immersive theater production (funded by Bacardi—who have also been ripped off by the Cuban government) that portrays the plight of the Arechabala family, the rightful owners of Havana Club rum. The gut wrenching, majestic play (a creation of playwright, Vanessa Garcia; director, Vicky Collado; and an amazing cast que le sumba el mango) runs through June and I recommend you catch it because it poignantly gets to the jugular of this very issue of determining what is just and more importantly, how popular “isms” can make populations go bat shit crazy, and rape, pillage, steal and murder.
Amparo, Venezuelan protests and Cuba policy drug me into the rabbit hole that is politics and I’m thankful. Thankful because it’s precisely where my sentiments should be, with those that have gotten the short end of the stick time after time and yet continue to raise their voices against all odds, U.S. domestic politics and the vile apathy of mundane zombies who are immersed in numbing consumerism and more concerned with the flying dragons on Game of Thrones—although I too cheered as Arya stabbed that sinister Night King. Maybe there’s some Valyrian steel knives lying around somewhere in Caracas and Havana, just sayin’. Rosi, sorry again for writing about these turbulent, polarizing issues but to me, and many of us, these are matters of the heart.
Filmmaker, Radio Host, Community Activist and last, but not least, a café drinker