BLACK LIVES MATTER AND CUBAN PEACEFUL PROTESTERS

In the middle of the recent peaceful protests in Communist Cuba and the repression of protesters at the hands of the Cuban security apparatus, Black Lives Matter (BLM) issued a statement on its official Instagram account on July 14, 2021, in support of the Cuban Government.  I will analyze and rebut the different parts of the BLM statement in the following paragraphs.

It merits our attention that while BLM professes a Marxist ideology, its willingness to betray it evinces its opportunistic demeanor.  According to Marx, society was divided into two categories that were in dialectical conflict constantly: the oppressors or bourgeoisie, and the oppressed or the proletariat.  Let it be known that when the bells of freedom tolled in Cuba, BLM stood with the oppressors rather than with the oppressed – in direct contradiction of the Marxist ideology. BLM apologists only invoke Marx when he is useful to their leftist propaganda. 

BLM wrote that “Cuba has historically demonstrated solidarity with oppressed peoples of African descent,” praising it for “protecting black revolutionaries” like Assata Shakur. 

Assata Shakur – also known as Joanne Chesimard – is an African American woman who was convicted of being an accomplice in the 1973 slaying of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster.  She later escaped prison and fled to Cuba, where Fidel Castro granted her asylum.  Considering that BLM has sided with the oppressors in the Cuban debacle, you think that they would have sided with State Trooper Foerster – a White male and in eyes of the BLM doctrine, another oppressor.  But the fact that they supported Assata Shakur (the “alleged” victim in BLM’s eyes) shows the inconsistency of their actions to fit the needs of the moment.   

Through its support of “critical race theory,” BLM looks at white as the color of discrimination.  But the majority of the security forces of the Cuban Government are white, while many of the protestors are Afro-Cubans. BLM sided with the oppressors this time around.  Afro-Cubans have played important roles in the liberation of Cuba from tyranny – dating back to the War of Independence against Spain to the present human-rights dissidents. By its actions, BLM stands with the forces that deny the Cuban population its freedom.

BLM writes “The people of Cuba are being punished by the U.S. Government because the country has maintained its commitment to sovereignty and self-determination.”

Freedom House, a nonpartisan organization in Washington, DC, ranked Cuba as one of the least free countries in the world by scoring 13 – out of a possible score of 100.  When it comes to political rights, Cuba got a 1 out of a top score of 40.  And regarding civil liberties, Cuba got a 12 out of possible score of 60.  One thing is for sure, Cubans of all colors, races, ethnicities, and genders are deprived of most of their liberties by the Cuban Government.  The only “sovereignty and self-determination” that exists in Cuba is controlled by the communist despots who have ruined the country since 1959.

But BLM argues that the U.S. embargo is “at the heart of Cuba’s current crisis,” and urges the U.S. Federal Government to lift it immediately. 

On October 19, 1960, President Eisenhower imposed an embargo on exports to Cuba except for food and medicines after Cuba nationalized U.S. businesses without compensating its owners for their losses.  On February 7, 1962, President Kennedy extended the embargo to include all exports.  In 1996, the U.S. Congress codified the embargo by passing the Libertad Act (Helms-Burton Act) – after Cuban fighters shot down two privately-owned planes by U.S. citizens over international waters. So, the embargo can only be changed by an act of the U.S. Congress.  Its key requirement is that Cuba must pay for U.S. exports with cash only – not credit. The main responsibility of the U.S. Government is to protect its own citizens – not the Cuban Government – and this is precisely what the U.S. embargo tries to enforce.

And, let’s clarify some other important details about the U.S. embargo.  Although the Cuban Government and its Marxist acolytes at the United Nations and other leftist organizations are in the habit of calling it a “blockade” for propagandistic purposes to impugn the United States, it is only a trade embargo, not a naval blockade.  It is also unilateral in nature.  The Cuban Government has traded extensively with other countries in past decades.  In fact, Cuba received a generous subsidy from the Soviet Union prior to its dissolution in 1991, and subsidized oil shipments of crude oil from Venezuela. And despite all of these subsidies from communist countries and despite a myriad of empty promises for sixty-two years, the Cuban people have to endure the daily indignities of standing in long lines to buy food and medicines, suffer repeated electricity outages, and earn a monthly salary of $30. 

It is obvious that BLM is supporting the wrong side in this uprising!

You don’t see many Americans fleeing to live in Cuba. But there are more than 2 million Cuban Americans who left Cuba, or whose families left Cuba, to come to live in the U.S.  And they have been very successful in our country.  Even former President Obama acknowledged the obvious when he said in a speech in Havana: “In the United States, there is a clear monument to what the Cuban people can build.  It’s called Miami.” In fact, I think that most Americans would support legislation to allow BLM members to immigrate to Communist Cuba and allow freedom-loving Cubans to come live in the United States.

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel used the same line of reasoning for assigning blame for the anti-government protests: the United States Government, the U.S. embargo, and the alleged Cuban-American mafia/mercenaries paid by the U.S. Government.  He urged his supporters to take to the streets and fight the peaceful protestors in “a decisive, firm, and courageous way.” The Cuban Government security forces have resorted to arbitrary detentions and torture of its own citizens for criticizing their government and protesting peacefully.  It is the Cuban people who must be yelling “No Justice, No Peace!” – and rightfully so.

The government of Cuba denies the most basic human rights and civil liberties to the Cuban people.  It has been acting in this manner for over sixty-two years.  It has been making excuses for the lack of freedoms by invoking slogans like “Patria or Muerte” or “Homeland or Death.”  Deprived and oppressed Cubans have reached their boiling point this month, and have revolted against their oppressors.  They are demanding an end to the communist rule and its replacement with liberty, freedom, and democracy.  Their new slogan is “Patria y Vida” or “Homeland and Life.” 

You don’t hear the Cuban protesters crying for an end to the U.S. embargo, or blaming the United States Government for the poor living conditions in the Caribbean Island, or calling Cuban-Americans pejoratives. None of that! Instead, protesters are crying “Abajo la dictadura” (“Down with the dictatorship) and “Libertad!” (“Freedom!) – while waving American flags. 

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) had the right thing in mind when he commented; “The extortionist ring known as the Black Lives Matter organization took a break today from shaking down corporations for millions & buying themselves mansions to share their support for the Communist regime in Cuba.”

These protests are the beginning of the end for the Communist dictatorship in Cuba.  Cuba will be free again.  Cubans will never forget who stood with them at the moment of utmost challenge and controversy.  It was not Black Lives Matter!!!

THE CASTRO BROTHERS, ENEMIES OF THEIR OWN PEOPLE AND THE UNITED STATES

Great heads of state are remembered for the good that they’ve done for their people while in office.  Fidel Castro ruled Communist Cuba with an iron fist for forty-nine years (1959-2008).  History will remember him not for the good that he did for his countrymen, but for the bad decisions that he took to deprive them of a better life.  Fidel was an egomaniac whose sole purpose in life was to promote and enrich himself.  He had a double standard when it came to women.  He was not an equal-opportunity magnate.  Moreover, he displayed extreme hatred and disdain for Americans.  His brother Raul is not any better.

Fidel blamed the U.S. embargo for the hardships that Cubans suffered.  But, the U.S. embargo was unilateral.  In other words, Cuba was free to trade with other countries, and it did.  In fact, Cuba received a subsidy from the Soviet Union until its disintegration in 1991, which ranged between $3.5 billion to $4.5 billion annually.    With the ascension to power of strongman Hugo Chávez, Venezuela subsidized the Castro regime with 100,000 barrels of oil daily, at an estimated value of over $5 billion annually – which Venezuela will be unable to honor much longer due to the recent drop in oil prices in world markets.  Between 1990 and 2000, more than $3.5 billion were invested in the tourist industry by Canada and Europe.  Thus, Fidel is not being truthful when he claims that the U.S. embargo has triggered all this misery on the Cuban population of approximately 11 million inhabitants.

It is truly appalling that after all these years of the revolution’s failed promises, the average monthly salary for a Cuban worker is $20.  After all these years, the only accomplishments of this communist state are oppression, hunger, and repression of any kind of dissent.  Fidel’s socialist, economic policies eliminated the powerful upper and middle classes that existed prior to 1959, while impoverishing most of the population.  Employees involved in the military and the Communist Party became the new privileged group. After 1959, Cubans rose to the top based solely on their blind allegiance to Fidel.  It was Fidel, and now Raul, who have caused Cuba’s economic straits — not the U.S. embargo.

Despite all the angry diatribes against capitalism, Fidel was a capitalist at heart.  For those seeking a better explanation for the extreme poverty of the Cuban population, you have to look no further than Fidel.  In 2006, Forbes magazine placed Fidel among the top richest men in the world.  His financial worth was set at $900 million, which exceeded even the fortune of British Queen Elizabeth.  Naturally, this enraged Fidel to no end, and he claimed that his fortune was limited to a $38 monthly salary – a laughable assertion given that Fidel is the undisputed latifundista (rich landowner) of Cuba.  Nothing gets done without Fidel’s approval.  According to Juan Reinaldo Sánchez’ book “The Double Life of Fidel Castro: My 17 Years as Personal Bodyguard to El Máximo Líder,” Fidel had a special account that was maintained by transferring funds from the national coffers.  Moreover, Fidel was not content with owning one house.  In a country suffering from a severe housing shortage, Sánchez indicated that Fidel had twenty residences reserved for his exclusive use.  Obviously, Fidel was not a man of the people.

While proclaiming that rampant discrimination was abolished after the Cuban Revolution, Fidel practiced a double standard when dealing with women’s rights.  According to Sánchez, Fidel cheated on his first wife (Mirta Díaz-Balart) with Natalia Revuelta.  He cheated on his second wife (the teacher Dalia Soto del Valle) with Celia Sánchez and his English interpreter Juana Vera.  You would think that he would have been more tolerant after finding out that his wife Dalia was having an affair with Jorge, a member of his security detail.  But this was not to be.  Upon discovering his wife’s infidelity, Fidel did not set foot in his house for a month.  This was his way of punishing her. Clearly, Latin-American machismo was more congruent with Fidel’s behavior. 

Members of Fidel’s security detail were trained to take a bullet, if necessary, to protect his safety.  They were the eyes and ears of El Comandante.  They traveled ahead of Fidel’s overseas trips to make all necessary security arrangements.  You would think that Fidel would be sensitive and appreciative of the twenty-six years that Sánchez spent in the service of El Comandante — seventeen of them serving within his escort. In his book, Sánchez explained how Fidel fired him from his job after his daughter married a Venezuelan and went to live in Venezuela, and his brother left on a raft and settled in Florida. After considering and rejecting less prestigious offers, he decided to retire from the military.  But, he was in for the biggest surprise of his life.  He got thrown into prison, declared a “traitor to the homeland,” tortured to get him to sign a statement admitting his culpability, and served a 2-year prison sentence.  Similarly, Sánchez indicated how after Paco Cabrera, the head of Fidel’s Escort, got his skull cracked by a spinning propeller during a trip to Venezuela, all that Fidel uttered was “What an imbecile!” And just minutes after expressing his condolences to the widow of Captain Armín Pompa Álvarez, who died of a sudden illness, Sánchez indicated that Fidel left to have sex with his mistress Juanita Vera. The latter incident led one of the members of Fidel’s escort to say “So, the last thing you should do here is die – if you die, you’ll be forgotten in a flash.” In Communist Cuba, the chant of “No Justice, No Peace” has less resonance than “No Justice, Keep Your Mouth Shut.”

Despite his many statements to the contrary, Fidel has never ceased being an enemy of the United States.  He shared a belief with Iranian ayatollahs that America was the “Great Satan,” and, as such, could not be trusted.  Sánchez revealed in his book how several drug traffickers arrested in Florida in the 1980’s indicated that the Cuban government was linked to Pablo Escobar and the Medellín Cartel.  In fact, Sánchez eavesdropped on a conversation where Fidel approved a cocaine shipment to the United States.  According to Sánchez, Fidel opined that drug trafficking to the United States brought in cash to bankroll subversion, in addition to corrupting and destabilizing American society. 

When Americans became suspicious of Cuba’s involvement in drug trafficking in the 1980’s, Fidel jumped into action to clear his name.  Sánchez stated that he arrested General Arnaldo Ochoa (the hero of the Angola War and the most decorated soldier with the title of “hero of the Republic of Cuba), Tony de la Guardia of the MC Department (which was part of the Ministry of the Interior), and José Abrantes (Minister of the Interior).  After being charged with spurious charges by a kangaroo court – where Fidel and Raul interrupted the trial to give direct instructions to the judge, prosecuting attorney, and jurors about the desired outcome – Ochoa and de la Guardia received the death sentence which was carried out by a firing squad, while Abrantes received a 20-year sentence.  Sánchez stated that despite being in perfect health, Abrantes died two years later of an alleged fatal heart attack — just like Laura Pollán (co-founder of the protest group Ladies in White) and Oswaldo Pallá (one of the most powerful voices of dissent against the Castro brothers) died under similar mysterious circumstances. Fidel made the members of his security detail watch a film of the execution of Ochoa and de la Guardia as a training exercise.  To many, it had the opposite effect as they began to question their loyalty to El Jefe.

Some people try to differentiate Raul from Fidel by indicating that the latter is different, that Raul is more empathetic than his brother.  This is not the case.  First, let’s deal with the allegations of Raul’s involvement in the drug trade.  According to a 2009 post in the Capitol Hill Cubans blog, federal prosecutors were ready to indict Raul Castro in 1993 as the head of a major cocaine smuggling conspiracy to the United States, but the Clinton Administration’s Justice Department overruled them.  Justice Department officials indicated that Raul, who was then serving as Defense Minister, allowed Colombian drug lords to pay for the use of Cuban waters and airstrips as staging grounds to smuggle drugs into the United States in the 1980s and early 1990s. In fact, convicted Colombian drug boss Carlos Lehder of the Medellin Cartel testified in a 1991 federal trial that he met twice in Havana with Raul Castro to arrange safe passage for cocaine flights over Cuban airspace.

Raul and his wife, Vilma Espín, were close friends of General Ochoa and his wife.  Sánchez revealed that after Ochoa received the ultimate sentence, Espín showed no mercy for her friend and stated to the Council of State: “Let the sentence [death by a firing squad] be confirmed and carried out.”  I think that the nickname “The Iron Lady” better suited Espín than former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

After Ochoa’s death, Raul went on a vodka-drinking binge that impaired the execution of his duties as Defense Minister.  But his depression was not triggered by a sense of guilt at his inability to prevent the execution of his friend.  Sánchez stated that he was preoccupied that Fidel would get rid of him, too. His logic being that if Tony de la Guardia reported to José Abrantes and the latter received a 20-year prison sentence, a similar fate would befall him as the former supervisor of General Ochoa.  It was only after Fidel reassured Raul that his life would be spared because of his Castro surname that Raul went back to his normal life.

As long as a Castro is in power, nothing will change for the betterment of the Cuban people.  As long as a Castro remains in power, Cuba will be an enemy of the United States.  As long as a Castro is in power, the world will not be safe. 

THE MEANING OF LIFE

During the holidays, I’ve gone back to asking myself a question that I used to wonder about when I was an adolescent. While celebrating the festive season and enjoying the company of my family and friends, I also thought about all the turmoil that is prevalent in the world today.

The question is one that I’m sure that you have heard of before – Why do bad things happen to good people?

My problem is that the answers that I’ve received when I’ve asked this question in the past have been unsatisfactory. Thus, I have been searching for a good answer for a very long time.

When I was younger, my mother used to tell me that there were things that were incomprehensible to mankind. Thus, I had to rely on my faith and accept that God had a master plan for all of us. While I loved my mother immensely, her answer did not satisfy my curiosity.

I was not seeking a religious answer to my question, but one that was logical. I soon found out that the best answer that I could come up with was one that had elements of both.

On my way to solve this puzzle, I accepted several truths: 1) that we were all sinners; 2) that to redeem ourselves, we had to do penance; 3) that since we had the ability to choose, we would make some good and bad decisions; 4) and, most importantly, that we were not divine. Therefore, we could not enjoy everlasting happiness during our stay in this planet.

After dwelling on our flawed character, I concluded that God had a master plan to ensure that we had an equal share of the good and bad times.

Thus, someone might be a brilliant scholar, graduate with honors, and earn a top salary from a prestigious corporation. Nevertheless, this same individual may have an unhappy marriage, die young from a terminal disease, get a long jail sentence in a totalitarian country, or be in the Twin Towers when the two planes crashed into them on 9/11.

On the other hand, there are other individuals that while lacking the intellectual and scholastic achievements and the earning power of the first group, might have a happy, healthy, and long life with a wonderful marriage partner.

Some of us have the bad habit of analyzing the now, what’s in front of us. So, when we see someone having a terrific streak of good luck, we conclude that this is the way that it’s always been with this person. These individuals don’t realize that just a couple of years ago, when they themselves were at their peaks of good fortune, these other individuals led miserable lives. So, the tables have turned now. Now, it’s their turn to find happiness. They deserve it.

And is it fair to think, for those who are practicing Catholics, that the punishment that priests render during confessions would be limited to saying a couple of “Our Father’s” and “Hail Mary’s? Who is kidding who? It is more logical and fair to think that bad things happen to good people because of their need to atone for their bad deeds throughout their lives. The prayers are a way to place our fate in the hands of God, but they are not a free pass to escape our well-deserved punishment. 

We need to be reminded of the words of Exodus 20:5-6, regarding the Lord “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations …” This means that in order to escape living under a curse of our ancestors, Christians have to live completely obedient lives, never disobeying the laws of the Lord. 

In fact, it is not sufficient to ask for forgiveness for the sins of our ancestors to rid ourselves of their curse.  It is mandatory to address the issues that brought about the Lord’s curse on them. 

You can reason that the Lord brought a curse to the United States in the past for the sins of slavery by triggering a Civil War that resulted in approximately 620,000 casualties.  It took the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution to erase this stain from the Nation’s soul.

Similarly, you can argue that the Communist Cuban Revolution led by Fidel Castro in 1959 was payback by the Lord for the betrayal in the early years of the Republic in 1902 for the lack of rewards offered to the bulk of the soldiers who fought in the War of Independence.   Many of these war heroes (the manbises) wondered what had the War of Independence been all about? Cuba suffered many ills because corrupt politicians replaced these men of honor who liberated the homeland from Spanish rule.

And let’s not forget the number of babies that are killed in the United States by abortions.  According to the latest statistics compiled by the American Life League, over 61.8 million abortions were performed in the United States between 1973 through 2018. And Beijing Biden brags about his Catholic faith, despite the fact that he embraces a pro-choice posture.  While there are some valiant priests like Father William Kosko of Buckeye Arizona and Father Altman of La Crosse, Wisconsin who have given wonderful homilies stating that you can’t be a Catholic and be pro-choice and that you can’t be a Catholic and vote for a Democrat, the majority of priests and bishops stay silent on this issue because they don’t want to rock the boat! America will continue to suffer the wrath of God as long as Roe v. Wade is the law of the land.

But, in the end, the good and bad times are all cyclical. Everyone will go through winters of solitude, before attaining the rebirth of spring – until the cycle starts all over. Remember, one’s trajectory is cyclical until the end.

While my problem was that I wanted to be God and always enjoy the good times during my stay in the planet, I was able to come to grip with the fact that God’s plan was fair. After all, if we were all children of God and He was all good, then I could not see Him playing favorites.

THE DAY THAT I DIE

The passing of a dear friend in Virginia recently has gotten me thinking about the fragility of life, and about what would happen on the day that I die. 

To begin with, we all have a very high and dysfunctional opinion of our importance and about how much we matter to those around us.  We forget that kings and queens, presidents and dictators, billionaires and millionaires, chief executive officers and members of the senior executive service all have a final date on the calendar. 

When one of us receives a medical diagnosis of a terminal condition, our first reaction is to place our hopes on a medical breakthrough that is just around the corner.  Because of the inflated opinion of ourselves, we think that we’ll pay whatever amount of money is needed to prolong our life indefinitely.  In our delusion, we think that the world cannot function without us being a part of it.  But medical breakthroughs are more dependent on research than on profit margins or our immediacy. 

When our time comes, it’s time to say goodbye.  While this may sound harsh to some, there is no way to make it more palatable.  It is what it is.

So, here is what will happen on the day that I die.

All those important appointments that I marked on my calendar will result in “no shows,” and I will not be charged any penalty fees for them.

The calendar that ruled every minute of my life will become irrelevant.

All the time that I wasted surfing the Internet will be replaced by communication via mental telepathy.

The obnoxious e-mails and texts of those who objected to my conservative transformation will no longer be of concern to me.  I’ll become impervious to such nonsense. They don’t realize that life is a journey, and not a destination — and, as such, people evolve after acquiring new knowledge and exposure to new situations.

The friends who stopped being my friends because of my recent political views will fade away from my consciousness.  They were the ones who took the unwarranted decision to unfriend me, not I.

All robocalls, telemarketers, spam texts, and phone scammers will stop annoying me.

My regrets about the different paths that I could have taken will remain in the past forever – where they should have always stayed.

My perennial concern and that of my late mother with the birthmark on my forehead will dissipate.

My carefully crafted reputation that I worked so assiduously to maintain will be left to others to preserve.

All the deep anxieties that robbed so much of my sleep will be rendered powerless.

The big questions that I had about life and death, about damnation and salvation will be answered once and for all when I come face-to-face with my Creator.

Yes, all the things that I listed above will certainly happen on the day that I die – even some that I’ve left out.

But there is one more thing that will happen on that day – one that is so crucial that I’ve left it for last.

On the day that I die, the few people who really knew me for what I stood for and who loved me unconditionally will grieve me deeply.

They will feel cheated when I leave them.

They will feel a void that is unfillable.

They will feel that they are not ready to cope with my loss.

They will feel as part of their being has died as well, and they will never be able to grasp happiness again.

And on this day, they will cherish more than anything in the world to be able to spend more time with me — one more year, one more month, one more week, one more minute.

How do I know these things? Because I’ve seen close friends and relatives grieve in this manner.

And while taking the time to digest these truths, I will make it a point to recognize that my time with my family and friends is limited, and I will try not to waste a second of it.

I will stop worrying about the things that will happen on the day that I die, because the majority of these things are not of my concern or I have no control over them.

Those other things that I listed above have an insidious way of monopolizing your attention span and competing for your affections.

They have a way of robbing you from enjoying those precious “momentos” – those that Julio Iglesias and Andrea Bocelli croon about — with those who love you and want to share them with you.

Don’t waste the time to waltz with these false priorities while you can.  

Don’t let others rob you of the life that they made you believe matters because on the day that you die, much of it won’t matter.

Of course, I realize that my fire-infused Aries personality has led me to live a life full of energy, passion, creativity, and optimism.  I’ve embraced always the golden rule of treating others as I want to be treated.  Awards, titles, degrees mean less to me than good character and values.  The Man from Nazareth, the Man who had an overwhelming influence on the subsequent history and cultures of the world did not have a college degree, nor fancy awards or royal pedigree.

I also realize that the fire in my Aries personality causes me to have quite a temper at times.  I do need some extra time to climb down from the mountain top, but the temper fizzles out quickly after I touch ground. 

But I can be sure of one thing.  And this something, I will always take with me as a badge of honor: I have lived a virtuous life, and I have no regrets. 

I’ve made some mistakes during my journey, but I learned from them and became a better man. 

And with the constant reminder of the Biblical passage in Genesis 3:19 that all of us are dust, and to dust we will return, I don’t want my family to spend one cent on purchasing a cemetery plot, or a coffin, or a mausoleum for the enjoyment of trillions of hungry bacteria and maggots. I want to be cremated.    

So, yes, you and I will leave this planet one day.

But before we embark to the afterlife, let us live each day to the fullest!

And before it’s time to say goodbye to my loved ones, I hope that I have the foresight to tell them — more often than I’ve done in the past — the wise words of a life well-lived: I’m sorry; I forgive you; Thank you; and, most importantly, I love you.

Think of the famous Italian saying of “Eat well, laugh often, love much” and travel the world!

NOSTALGIA FOR CUBA’S PAST AND GENERATIONAL DIFFERENCES

A Cuban-American friend of mine recently e-mailed me a PowerPoint presentation containing slides of pre-1959 Cuba. To put you in the right frame of mind, it came with a soundtrack from that era. I had just finished a book that another friend gave me, Don Miguel Ruiz’s “The Four Agreements.” This is not the first time that I have received these e-mails. In fact, there is vibrant cottage industry that generates similar presentations ad nauseam.

Considering that Don Miguel’s book provides a formula to live a happy life by adjusting our reactions to outside stimuli, I thought it was appropriate to assess the state of mind that the Cuban slide presentation tried to recreate.

The slide presentation attempted to take us back to an era when Cuban-Americans were in full control of their destinies and their lives were idyllic in pre-1959 Havana. In fact, it lent itself to a period where virtuoso American vocalist and conductor Bobby McFerrin would be in his element singing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” This was a time when the mambo kings sung songs of love at the Tropicana and Capri nightclubs.

But, I’m sure my reaction was not the one that most people expected. It was pretty negative. You see, I prefer to live in the present – as I can’t resurrect the past and I have no leach on what the future might bring. Consequently, I thought that viewing photos of the Cuba of my youth would make me sad. Moreover, it could lead me to avoid my current responsibilities by finding escape and solace in those years past.

But this got me thinking as to why my parents’ generation enjoyed these presentations so much. The fact that I keep getting them signifies that there is a high demand for them. It was then that I realized that there were generational differences in our reactions.

I left Cuba when I was 11 years old. While I had to learn the English language and the Anglo culture, I did not see these as insurmountable challenges. I saw them as temporary setbacks to be overcome with hard work. After succeeding in mastering a few, my confidence grew. Soon, I realized that the opportunities that this country offered were limitless to those willing to pay their dues through hard work. Nowadays, home for me is good ole USA.

It was a different story for my parents’ generation. Most of them emigrated to the USA in their late forties and had to start their lives all over again. Their worries were much greater than those of their children. Most had to find jobs that were inferior to the ones that they left in Cuba, and that paid much less. Their main responsibility was to find jobs to feed their families. And they could not afford to be picky with the jobs offered to them.

They suffered many indignities along the way. Some Americans, the Ugly-American types, laughed at their heavy accents when speaking English and at their customs – from the way they dressed to their family structures. Because these Cuban exiles were so preoccupied with bringing order to their lives, they personalized the put-downs. They became their own worst enemies. To them, speaking with an accent became the equivalent of thinking with an accent. They despaired about the impossibility of not mastering the English language. They became irrational and nostalgic for the way of life back in Cuba.

What happened next was sad, but it was the only way to cope with their despair. Rather than integrating into the American way of life, they segregated themselves by hanging out with other Cuban-Americans of their generation. They felt at ease speaking the language of when they were on top of the world in pre-1959 Cuba. The turned their hostility against anything that didn’t resurrect traces of that idyllic Cuba BC — Before Castro. So the beaches in exiles were only beautiful when you waved them good-bye. To them, no singer of popular music in New York City could match the ones on their heyday in La Habana – like Beny Moré or Tito Gómez of Riverside Orchestra fame.

And with old age came a desire to live in a geographic location with a warmer climate – like the one they enjoyed in Cuba. And to be surrounded by other Cuban-Americans in their age brackets who shared the same jokes, the same culinary preferences, and the same conservative values. Ergo, the explosion of Cuban Mecca Miami.

Ah, history! Such an important word that we need to take great care to define it properly. According to New Yorker author and historian John Jacob Anderson, “history is a narration of the events which have happened among mankind, including an account of the rise and fall of nations, as well as of other great changes which have affected the political and social condition of the human race.” History to Anderson relates to the politics of government that impact the fate of nations. To him, history deals with laws, regulations, executive orders, declarations of war, decisions that impact nation’s economies, etc. Spanish philosopher George Santayana would agree with Anderson when he stated his famous quote “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” But neither Anderson nor Santayana would equate history with nostalgic ruminations about a lost and distant personal past life. Repeated dwelling on memories of pre-1959 Cuba are unhelpful because that Cuba does not exist anymore and will not exist again. It’s gone – forever.  Constant going back to these pre-1959 days would doom people into an inability to forge a better future for themselves and their families. Why? The present would never measure up to the idyllic days of the past. 

I penned this op-ed because I wanted to understand the motivation behind my parents’ generation to hang on to this past. And what I found out is that this was an attempt to stay connected to their lost paradise because they found it impossible to assimilate into an Anglo-Saxon world.  Language and cultural barriers played important roles in their behavior.  I did not want to criticize their demeanor; only to understand it. 

But to Cuban-Americans of my generation and subsequent generations, these barriers were small inconveniences that could and should have been overcome to get on with our lives and to achieve our American dreams. To reach those dreams, we had to deal in the now and love the country that sheltered us from the ravages of a Communist Gulag. We had to move on and get on with our lives.  

I know that I would not have become the man that I am today without the sacrifices that my parents made so that I and my sister could live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Thus, I am now grateful to the people who continue to put together these slide presentations. While they may not to my liking, I do enjoy the void that they fill in my parents’ hearts.

A MOTHER LIKE NO OTHER

November 25, 2016 is a day that I will always remember. We buried my 94-year old Mom, Hilda Maria Ponce Mencía Bravo on this day.

Hilda was a woman who was ahead of her times. She earned two master’s degrees – one in Philosophy, and the other in Library Science. She was in charge of the Philosophy Department at the University of Havana. On those occasions that she took me to work with her, I was amazed at the way that she interacted on a one-to-one basis with the male professors. I gained enormous respect for my Mom as a 4 year-old boy and later realized that she had been one of the early pioneers to break the glass ceiling. 

Among the core values that played an important role in Hilda’s personality were a strong love for her family and close friends, as well as a deep appreciation for a good education. While she distinguished between friends and acquaintances, she was always compassionate with all and lent them a helping hand when they needed her assistance.

When the Cuban Government authorities closed all private schools in 1961 (many of them run by the Catholic Church) and forced parents to send their children to government-run schools where they would be indoctrinated in the Marxist-Leninist ideology, Hilda told my father that it was time to leave for the United States. This was a very difficult decision that Hilda made, as she realized that she would be leaving her homeland, her dear mother and sister, and her way of life — with no definite timeframe when she would return again. But she laid out a requirement for her departure: she would leave only by following the legal process and not on a raft. This decision delayed our departure until 1966, and made life difficult for Hilda and my father – as they were both fired from their jobs for opting to leave for the United States. In a socialist country like Cuba, the state is the sole employer – which made it impossible for them to get a job through legal means. With two young kids to feed, my father had to come up with a plan to get a salary. And, he did. He became quite a successful entrepreneur in the black market, and made more money here than when he worked as an accountant for the Treasury Department. But, it was Hilda who gave the family hope that a better way of life awaited them in the United States. She reminded us that all the inconveniences were temporary, and that we should tolerate them with a stiff upper lip.

Hilda often found comfort in her strong Catholic faith. Her family were distant relatives of St. Teresa of Avila. When faced with adversity, she always resorted to St. Teresa’s prayer:

“Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing frighten you, All things are passing away: God never changes. Patience obtains all things, Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices.”

She also had a knack for reciting Saint Anthony’s prayer when she was desperate to find a lost item.  I don’t know if it was her faith or pure luck, but she had an impressive batting average for finding lost items.

Hilda always instilled in my sister Teresita and me the value of a good education. She indicated that the Castro regime had taken my father’s and her bank accounts, her cars, her clothes, and her jewelry in exchange for letting us out of the country, but they could never take away her university degrees and her job experience. 

But make no mistake about it, Hilda liked to have a good time, too. Dancing was one of her passions. You often found her on the dance floor dancing to the Cuban beat of cha-cha’s, mambos, and rumbas. She passed on the dancing genes to my sister and me. 

Like me, Hilda had a weakness for anything that had chocolate. And, let’s not forget that Hilda’s sweet tooth made her favor all the Cuban treats. I remember that during her last days, I asked her whether she wanted to drink a chocolate-flavored drink or a Malta Hatuey. Without hesitating a bit, she opted for the latter.

Hilda was highly opinionated about the right way of doing things. At least, she thought so. For example, eating French fries without ketchup was unheard of. When I visited her in Miami and hung around barefooted, she insisted that I wear a pair of chinelas (sandals). Even if I had slept for eight hours, she always suggested that I take a siesta. And, she would frequently tell me that my sister Teresita had such a sweet personality when she was young that everyone thought that she was going to become a nun when she grew up.  In her mind, she should have. I always thought that this business about Teresita becoming a nun was wishful thinking on her part.

Learning by rote repetition was second-nature to Hilda. If you ignored her suggestions for the best course of action, she would remind you a thousand times. This served her well when she worked as a Spanish teacher to the Green Berets at the U.S. Department of Defense. Her familiar phrase to her students from the U.S. Army Special Forces — “vamos a ver” — was a transformation of her constant admonitions to Teresita and me of “do as I say.”

Cuban mothers have a history of raising their sons in a way that mirrors the ways of Jewish and Italian mothers. They aim for us to become princes who deserve everything and can do no wrong. This is the way that Hilda raised me in a household where I became the darling of the female members – aunt, grandmother, and nanny. When I got married, I expected my wife to give me the same regal treatment. Needless to say, I had to get a PhD in marriage relations, and, what ultimately saved me was that my wife was also Cuban-American. 

Hilda believed in the duality of life. After enduring hardships, good times were just around the corner. As it turned out, on the same day that we buried her, we got the news that Cuban-Americans had been waiting for fifty-seven years: Fidel Castro passed away. Euphoria replaced sadness – at least, for a short time.  

I will always remember my Mom Hilda with great love. She played an important role in molding me into the man that I am today. For this and for much more, I will always be grateful to her. She will always “vivirá” in my heart.

APRIL 17, 1961 — A DAY OF INFAMY!

Tomorrow marks the 60th anniversary since the U.S. launched the ill-fated invasion at the Bay of Pigs, Cuba, on April 17, 1961.

Rather than preparing a long discourse on this incident, I’ve decided to proceed on a different and more personal track. History books are available for those interested in reading the finer details of what really happened. But history books are static. I, on the other hand, am interested in recounting what the invasion meant to me, and the life lessons that it taught me.

On April 17, 1961, I was seven years old, and I was living in Cuba. April 17 was very special to me, as it was my birthday. Birthdays symbolize gifts, money, and a party where one got to be the center of attention. I was the darling of the crowd, and, at least for one day, I could do no wrong. So, when my parents informed me that I would have a scaled down celebration in 1961, I was not a happy camper. While my parents explained the danger that we were in, they promised me to host a much larger fiesta in a post-Castro Cuba Libre. Since the latter never materialized, my memory of April 17, 1961 is one of broken promises – both from my parents and from the U.S. Government.

For the United States, the Bay of Pigs represented a public embarrassment in the eyes of the world community. After it was over, former President Eisenhower told Kennedy that “the failure of the Bay of Pigs will embolden the Soviets to do something that they would otherwise not do.” Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev concluded that Kennedy was indecisive, and one Soviet adviser wrote that the President was “too young, intellectual, not prepared well for decision making in crisis situations … too intelligent and too weak.”

Soon after, Kennedy got another chance to handle a 3:00 AM crisis call. In the fall of 1962, the Soviet leadership believed, based on an analysis of Kennedy’s lack of confidence during the Bay of Pigs Invasion, that he would avoid confrontation and accept the placement of nuclear missiles in Cuba as a fact of life. In October 1962, the United States and the Soviet Union came as close as they’ve ever been to nuclear war over the missiles stationed in Cuba.

Mistakes always trigger consequences. Some historians have treated Kennedy lightly over his handling of the Bay of Pigs Invasion. They claim that it happened just three month after he got elected, and that he was still learning the ropes of governing. While they are right, their arguments are not convincing. The job of President of the U.S. has no room for on-the-job training. It requires a rigorous screening process during the campaign season, and the winner is expected to hit the ground running. Thus, there is simply no excuse for Kennedy’s lack of leadership on that fateful day in 1961. It became a day of infamy for Cubans, for Cuban-Americans, for Americans, and for all freedom-loving people around the globe.

President Kennedy promised those Cubans who participated in the invasion that he would provide them with air support – a promise that he reneged on.

If he had changed his mind before launching the invasion, some people may have disliked his decision, but they would have accepted it in the long run.

However, for him to have changed his plans after members of the U.S.-backed Brigade 2506 had landed on Cuban soil, and, thus, were in harm’s way, was unconscionable. There were many unnecessary casualties as a result.

This was a monumental betrayal that Cubans and Cuban-Americans will never forget, nor forgive. Let it be known that the 2506 troops fought valiantly. They were driven by a desire to restore freedom and democracy to their homeland. They had placed all their hopes in the United States. They fervently believed that with U.S. backing, victory was a sure thing. They failed because of the lack of the promised air support, and because they fell short of ammunition.

They, the members of the 2506 Brigade, answered the question posed by most enemies of a Free Cuba that rather than fighting in their homeland, Cubans vote with their feet by emigrating to the United States. On April 17, 1961, a bunch of over 1,400 Cuban exiles fought bravely an enemy made up of 51,000 Castro troops. And yet, they inflicted losses of 20 to 1 against a Soviet-trained army. They restored the manhood to the Cuban cause, and they silenced those who questioned it.

Despite being let down by a U.S. Administration, some Bay of Pigs veterans never lost faith in the exceptionalism of the United States. Some became officers in the US Army in Vietnam – including 6 colonels, 19 lieutenant colonels, 9 majors, and 29 captains. They have paid back many times over the debt that they owed this country for taking them out of the Cuban Gulag.

Cuban-Americans learned an important lesson on April 17, 1961. They learned that to succeed in the future, they could only rely on themselves. Fidel took away all their personal belongings when many emigrated to the United States. He declared them enemies of the Cuban Revolution, and punished them by letting them carry only the clothes on their back. They were not allowed to bring even a cent to the U.S. Nevertheless, Fidel was not able to take away the family cohesiveness, work ethic, and core values that allowed these Cubans to overcome all odds in the land of freedom and opportunities.

One thing that Fidel was never able to take away from these Cubans was the college degrees that they had earned at the University of Havana. The Cubans considered the hard times in the beginning as a temporary nuisance. Through hard work, most looked adversity straight in the eyes and came out winners.

Nowadays, Cuban-Americans hold the majority of crucial positions in Miami, Florida. Some have served as secretaries of cabinet-level federal agencies, others as U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators, one was the CEO of Coca-Cola, one received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and another for Drama, and most have sent their kids to top-ranked universities. They have learned to be self-reliant and to be in control of their own destinies.

Many asked whether the United States would support a future insurrection in Cuba. My answer is that it depends on many factors, and no one can be sure of what the final outcome would be.

Cuban-Americans were again let down during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 after President Kennedy promised the Soviet Union that the United States would never invade Cuba in the future. They were again disappointed when the U.S. Government returned Elian Gonzalez to the Cuban Gulag – unwilling to understand that the real power-brokers of Elian’s fate would be the Cuban authorities, and not his biological father.

There is an opportunity currently for the United States to support an invasion to topple the Cuban regime. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, Fidel Castro refused to repay Russia the approximate $28 billion lent to Cuba by the former Soviet Union. Fidel’s reasoning was that the money was owed to a country that no longer existed. Similarly, the agreement not to invade Cuba was agreed to by President Kennedy and Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev. By using Fidel’s logic, this agreement is no longer binding on the United States as it was made with a country that no longer exists and by two world leaders who are dead.

For Cuba to be free again, Cubans in Cuba will have to be their own agents of change. If the United States Government opts to help them out, let it come as a surprise, but not an expectation. For Cuban-Americans, the lesson was that they can only control the now, the present. Educational achievements, on-the-job experience, and the well-being of their immediate family are the tools to a rewarding life. On April 17, 2020, let us give thanks in our own ways to the fallen and the living members of the 2506 Brigade. I will wear a Cuba lapel pin, drink a Cuba Libre with authentic Cuban Bacardi rum and Pepsi, and say a prayer to my God for giving us such titans.

THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED

American singer and songwriter Lionel Richie reminds us in his song “Easy” about a universal truth that, unfortunately, too many talented people ignore to their detriment. Lionel croons “Why in the world would anybody put chains on me? I’ve paid my dues to make it. Everybody wants me to be, what they want me to be. I’m not happy when I try to fake it!”

From the time that we are toddlers, our parents start making grandiose plans for us. They try to project their unfulfilled dreams onto us. According to them, we have to pursue careers that remunerate us handsomely if we want to be successful in this world. Careers as physicians, doctors, or engineers are paramount on their lists.

But missing from their well-intentioned recommendations is the lack of consideration given for what we truly want, what we are good at, what move us to be passionate and feel alive in this world. Whereas money is important to some individuals, different drives motivate others. For example, some individuals are happy pursuing degrees in the humanities and music because these are the areas that they are gifted at. Others are interested in making a difference with the less fortunate. And some have leadership talents that lead them to fight injustices and organize the less talented into a fighting force.

One must exercise extreme caution by not telling those who seek our advice what they should or should not become professionally. Those giving advice are usually wrong in assessing the talents or lack of them in others. And if followed, their wrongful advice usually turns these individuals into failures, or unfulfilled and very unhappy individuals.

For example, how often have you seen parents who are physicians force their kids into careers in the medical profession? They assume that their children must have inherited an aptitude for science. But, this assumption flies in the face of the laws of inheritance of Gregor Mendel. One of the key precepts of Mendel’s theories is “that a trait may not show up in an individual but can still be passed on to the next generation.” Therefore, an aptitude in science may be inherited by a grandson. To steer a son or a daughter into a career in the sciences in which he/she has zero aptitude would be a disaster. It would also be unfair to the individual.

And, yet, there are others who want us to be what they want us to be for their own selfish reasons.

During my high-school years, I worked innumerable jobs to pay for my college education – from paperboy, to dishwasher, to office cleaner of federal buildings. One of the jobs that I least liked was that of short-order cook at a fast-food joint. My reason for not liking this job was that cooking has never been one of my assets. And, yet, when I approached my supervisor to tell her that I would not be coming back because I would be starting college in the fall, I was surprised by her response. In a very serious tone, she indicated that not everyone was suited to go to college; that there were many individuals who had very successful careers without having a college degree. In other words, she was telling me that I should have remained a short-order cook for the rest of my life.

But, to be fair, what the manager at the fast-food joint told me was partially true. Bill Gates, of Microsoft fame, dropped out from Harvard University and did not graduate from college. Michael Dell, the founder and CEO of Dell, Inc., dropped out of college at 19. Andrew Jackson, is most-known for being the 6th president of the United States, but was also a military governor, Army commander, an attorney, and a congressman – all without ever going to college. Steven Spielberg, the famous movie director and producer, was denied acceptance to film school and dropped out of California State University in Long Beach. But, I am not as talented as any of these individuals, and I never wavered from going to college and graduate school. This manager was willing to ruin my dreams and aspirations simply because there was a labor shortage that year, and I was the solution to her dilemma. Thank, God, that I ignored her advice!

And, then, there are the stories of Hispanic luminaries. Upon receiving a postcard from Princeton University with an X in a square indicating that admission was likely, Sonia Sotomayor shared the great news with others whom she thought would share her excitement. And she found out an important lesson in life that not everyone has your best interest at heart. Her high school guidance counselor had suggested previously some Catholic colleges that she thought suited Sonia best, but she had replied “I want(ed) to apply to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia and Stanford.” Shortly after, the school nurse approached her about the notice from Princeton, with this question: “Well, can you explain to me how you got a ‘likely’ and the two top-ranking girls in the school only got a ‘possible’?” Sonia responded to the insolent question by citing her accomplishments on the school’s forensic team and her working part-time during the school year and full-time during the summer. “I may be ranked below them, but I’m still in the top ten, and I do more than the others.” Obviously, the high school and guidance counselor did not think that this “wise Latina” would succeed in an Ivy League university, or worse, that minority students were unworthy of these educational institutions. And, yet, Sonia proved that she was ready to attend the best universities in the Nation. She graduated summa cum laude from Princeton, was selected to Phi Beta Kappa, earned the University’s Pyne Honor Prize — a singular honor awarded to a senior who has most clearly manifested excellent scholarship, strength of character and effective leadership — graduated from Yale Law School, and became the first Hispanic to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

And there are other stories of unfulfilled dreams that could have had a happier ending. Malcolm X graduated at the top of his junior high school class. When he confided to one of his favorite teachers that his dream was to become a lawyer, she advised him against it. She indicated that pursuing a legal career was “no realistic goal for a  n…..” Malcolm lost interest in school and dropped out. And the world lost a potential brilliant mind and a legal scholar. And Malcolm may still be alive today if he had ignored his teacher’s suggestion. We should all listen to the advice given by American poet Robert Frost, “Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” We should all listen to our inner selves when pursuing careers that make us feel alive in a world surrounded by mediocrity! The road less traveled is the one that will enable us to make a positive difference in others.

MILLENNIALS, BOOMERS – HISPANICS, CUBANS

Oh, the millennials (those born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s), the “me” generation, those who think that the planet earth revolves around them, those who demand an on-the-spot award for brushing their hair are coming of age.  Do they have what it takes to solve today’s challenges?  There are many managers who do not think so. 

Here is a wonderful saying by 19th century English novelist Mary Ann Evans (known by her pen name George Eliot) that describes wonderfully these millennials: “When we are young we think our troubles a mighty business – that the world is spread out expressly as a stage for the particular drama of our lives and that we have a right to rant and foam at the mouth if we are crossed.  I have done enough of that in my time.  But we begin at last to understand that these things are important only to one’s own consciousness, which is but a globule of dew on a rose-leaf that at midday there will be no trace of.”  Indeed, these 19th century millennials do not look much different than our 21st century types. 

As the baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) retire from federal service in record numbers lately, millennials are and will remain overrepresented in the federal workforce.  And with them in charge, it is nearly impossible to tackle the big challenges of the day. 

Take for example the Hispanic underrepresentation.  While this has been a challenge since 1970, the anemic progress made since that time has been the result of the self-sacrifice of baby boomers and their doing the right thing for the benefit of all Hispanics.  Boomers know that when Hispanics are better represented in all pay grades in the Federal Government, they will be able to mentor more Hispanic applicants to rise through the ranks.  Moreover, boomers realize that a greater Hispanic representation will allow the Federal Government to better address the challenges faced by Hispanic communities throughout the Nation.  They are very much aware that to achieve these goals, they have to embrace the wisdom of the famous saying that “in unity, there is strength.” In other words, to succeed, they have to support each other, they have to submit affidavits in civil rights complaints to expose discriminatory practices when they have personal knowledge of them, and they have to make financial contributions to the legal-defense funds to litigate discrimination complaints in the administrative process and in federal courts.  This is how progress is attained.

But this is not the credo that millennials live by. They believe that the “I” comes before the “we.”  They judge their fellow employees by how useful they can be to propel them to the next promotion.  They treat work assignments as mere tools to enhance their résumés and/or get awards.  They are ignorant of the key tenet by management and leadership expert John Maxwell that “one is too small a number to achieve greatness.” With their narcissistic mindset, they will not succeed in getting the federal bureaucracy to extend a helping hand to Hispanic applicants.  With them in charge, Hispanics will remain underrepresented for the next fifty years. 

And, let me pause for a moment to clarify that when I argue in favor of a better Hispanic representation in the federal workforce, I am not arguing for the hiring of unqualified Hispanics.  To do so would do more harm than good – both for the federal workforce and for the Hispanic agenda.  This is nothing more that the wrong type of affirmative action. 

What I am talking about is the right type of affirmative action – the one that takes into consideration the qualifications of applicants.  I worked for the Federal Government for thirty-nine and a half years, and I saw with my own eyes how Hispanic applicants with top job experience and educational credentials got passed over because they were Hispanics, because they spoke with an accent, because of a false perception that they could not be trusted or that they could not become good team players.

These are all false stereotypes, but they are lethal to Hispanics who don’t get selected or promoted for these vacancies.  I saw selecting officials from other minority groups not select Hispanic applicants because they preferred to help members of their own minority groups.  This is simply unbelievable that members of other minority groups who have seen and suffered discrimination up-close would choose to discriminate against Hispanics.  They obviously had not learned that you cannot fight racism with more racism.   But this happens too often for comfort.  And, as long as millennials keep thinking only about themselves, these horrific practices will persist. And the paradigm of anemic gains for Hispanics will soon be reversed to significant losses as a result of shrinking budgets.  And no one will care and no one will notice because they think that Hispanics are not united enough to challenge these inequities. When they think of Hispanics, they think of toothless tigers.

And the majority group in the federal workforce, the white males, usually – not always — want to hire applicants who look like them, who went to the same schools, who travelled to the same places, and who practice the same past-times that they do – like playing golf.  (Like in everything else, there are exceptional white males who do the right thing by hiring qualified Hispanics).  And when outside pressures force them to change their behavior, they only hire a few token Hispanics to silence their detractors.  Rest assured that these Hispanics will never be the Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz (both, U.S. Senators) of the world!  And they expect Hispanics to be grateful for the crumbs that they offer them.  And millennials, with their “me “mentality, are powerless to fight against these unfair practices.

And, I wonder whether the same maladies that afflict millennials are not the same ones that afflict Cubans from Communist Cuba.  What Fidel and Raul Castro, the Communist dictators who have ruled Cuba with an iron fist over the last sixty years, fear the most is the group-think.  They reluctantly tolerate human-rights dissidents as long as they are small in number, but they are well aware that group-think by the Cuban population would lead to mass revolt and the toppling of the old order. 

And, yet, the majority of the Cuban population – especially the Cuban millennials – only think of solving their own problems, instead of acting in unison to bring about a Cuban spring that would abrogate all the suffering that they’ve endured under the Castro brothers. 

When they meet another Cuban at work or in social functions, what goes through their minds is what they can get out of them, how useful they can be to them.  The mere thought of helping other Cubans is foreign to them.  The example of self-sacrifice set by Cuban Founding Father José Martí of fighting against oppression to bring about a democratic government “con todos y para el bien de todos” (an all-inclusive type) does not register in the minds and hearts of these Cubans. 

In fact, they rather make the harrowing journey on homemade rafts across the shark-infested waters of the Florida Straits than joining hands with like-minded Cubans to topple the totalitarian regime.  As long as they keep looking up to Miami and not to La Habana to secure freedom and a better tomorrow, Cuba will never be free. 

In order for millennials and Cubans to succeed in achieving the lofty goals that would culminate in long-lasting change for the good of their communities, to be better represented in the federal workforce, to live in a Cuba Libre, they will have to suppress parts of themselves to fight for a larger cause.  They’ll have to evolve from a culture of self-indulgent decadence to one of noble restraint.  They’ll have to put “character” and “authenticity” on a pedestal. They’ll have to put the “we” before the “I.”

JORGE RAMOS – THE ALLEGED PRINCE OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS

On March 8, 2017, Tucker Carlson of Fox News interviewed Senior News Anchor for Univision Jorge Ramos on the topic of immigration.   It was not a pleasant sight to see. Ramos’ bogus claim to be a subject-matter expert on matters dealing with Hispanics came back to haunt him, while Tucker’s attempt to give the impression that he had all the answers pertaining to race and ethnicity did not help him at all. Rather than being better informed at the end of the interview, the TV viewers were left more confused and angry. 

My purpose for picking up my pen and writing this op-ed is to clarify the matters that this interview should have elucidated.

Tucker started the interview by referencing comments that Ramos made back in February of 2017: “I am a proud Latino immigrant in the United States.” “There are many people who do not want us to be here, and they want to create a wall in order to separate us. But you know what, this is also our country. Let me repeat this, our country, not theirs. It’s our country.”

Ramos was obviously disingenuous by claiming that he was still a Latino immigrant, as he became a U.S. citizen in 2008. The wall that Ramos invoked was the one that President Trump wants to build along the U.S.-Mexican border to keep “illegal” immigrants from entering our country.  The President has never indicated a willingness to interfere with legal immigrants who can be fully vetted before they are allowed to resettle in the United States. By failing to distinguish between legal v. illegal immigrants, Ramos lost the same credibility that some national Hispanic organizations and liberal media outlets have lost when arguing this issue. 

Ramos continued the attack by saying “… the interesting thing is that with the Trump administration and many people who support Donald Trump, they think it is their country, that it is a white country, and they are absolutely wrong. This is not a white country, it is not their country.” As of July of 2015, the U.S. Census Bureau showed that whites made up 77.1% of the U.S. population. It is misguided, as Ramos claimed, to think that the United States is not a white country. It still is. 

Ramos would not give up. He cited a U.S. Census Bureau projection that showed that the white population will become less than 50% of the U.S. population and become a majority-minority nation in 2044. While the Hispanic population is projected to increase from 55 million in 2014 to 119 million in 2060 (an increase of 115%), the white population will still remain the largest single population group and its needs cannot be ignored – as Ramos implied. Moreover, as with all projections, there are a lot of variables that could drastically change the 2044 prediction – like a change in the 1965 immigration policy favoring family reunification to one that favors sought-after skill sets.

By mixing up the term Hispanic with race, Ramos opened himself up to a frontal attack by Tucker who pointed out that Ramos was whiter than he was and had blue eyes [while Tucker had brown eyes]. 

Tucker continued by pointing out that “Latino” seems to include Afro-Cubans, German Guatemalans, people who speak Portuguese, and non-Spanish-speaking Peruvians. The best that Ramos could do to defend himself was to define the term Hispanic/Latino as one pertaining to people who come from a region in the world (Latin America) who speak more Spanish at home than others, and who listen to Spanish-language TV networks.  This, of course, was Ramos’ own definition – not the one accepted by federal agencies or by the majority of Hispanics living in the U.S. 

Ramos ignores the fact that the longer that Hispanics live in this country, the less Spanish that is spoken at home and the less Spanish-speaking TV programs that they watch. Hispanics quickly learn that the best and quickest way to move up the opportunity ladder is to obtain fluency in the English language. And they realize that listening to Spanish-speaking TV programs hinders, rather than helps them to achieve that American dream. Perhaps, as a senior news anchor of a Spanish-speaking TV network like Univision, Ramos hopes that there will be more Spanish-speaking Hispanics in the U.S. population than non-Spanish-speaking ones. After all, this represent a matter of job security to him. 

Both Ramos and Tucker were out of their league when discussing the term Hispanic/Latino. The ethnic and racial categories included in the census questionnaire generally reflect a social definition of ethnicity and race, and not an attempt to define these categories biologically, anthropologically, or genetically. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau and the 2010 census, Hispanic origin can be viewed as the heritage, nationality group, lineage, or country of birth of the person or the person’s parents or ancestors before their arrival in the United States. According to this definition which is derived from the one developed by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Hispanic/Latino refers to a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race. 

This is the way that Ramos should have answered Tucker’s questions regarding the definition of the term Hispanic/Latino. Afro-Cubans would be considered to be Hispanics/Latinos who could check any of the six racial categories listed on the 2010 census form (white; black or African American; American Indian or Alaska native; Asian; Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander; or, Some Other Race). Going on to German-Guatemalans, if the persons were born in Guatemala, they would be considered Hispanics. People who speak Portuguese would not be considered to be Hispanic/Latino, as you do not speak Portuguese in countries who trace their history and heritage to the Spanish culture. White and blue-eyed individuals are not traits that are pertinent to whether one is Hispanic/Latino. 

And, finally, non-Spanish-speaking Peruvians would be considered to be Hispanics/Latinos who most likely would indicate their racial preference to be American Indian/Alaska Native or Some Other Race. As defined by OMB, the term American Indian/Alaska Native “refers to a person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America) and who maintains tribal affiliation or community attachment.”

Having made the previous analysis, let me say that the U.S. Census Bureau collects ethnic and race data that is based on self-identification. It has been conducting decennial censuses since 1790 as required by Article 1, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution. Besides apportioning state representation, the 2010 census data is used to make decisions regarding legislation and spending on housing, highways, hospitals, schools, assistance programs, and multiple projects and programs that are key to the health and welfare of the U.S. population and economy. Therefore, any group misreporting information to the U.S. Census Bureau ends up harming the well-being of its own group, and it is for this very reason that there is such high compliance. 

Ramos moved on with a different argument by claiming that 97% of “undocumented” immigrants were good people. No one is denying that to be a fact. But as Tucker indicated, their mere presence in the U.S. illegally is a crime and ours is a nation of laws. 

Then, Tucker invoked a set of statistics that the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) – an agency of the U.S. Department of Justice – compiled as of January 28, 2017, and that showed that 14.2% of all federal inmates in the U.S. were Mexican citizens. [This figure has been updated in 2021, to 9.3%]. Ramos, in an unbelievable fashion, rebutted the BOP statistics by arguing that since 3% of illegal immigrants – compared to 6% of American citizens – committed felonies, the more immigrants that you allowed, the less crime that you would have. Ramos ignored the fact that the BOP statistics are generated by career federal employees who cannot have any political bias. By failing to address the BOP statistics, Ramos not only lost this argument, but he lost any credibility that he had left.

Tucker ended the interview by moving beyond arguments that were based on race to one that was centered on just simple fairness to American citizens. He indicated that it didn’t help an American citizen making $40,000 annually to have a bunch of illegal immigrants willing to work for $20,000 annually.  At the end of the day, it was the American citizen who was left without a job. 

It’s not surprising that civil rights champion Barbara Jordan, a Democrat from Texas and the first Southern African American woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, made the argument that “illegal immigrants” hurt the employment chances of unemployed or under-employed African Americans.

When it comes to doing an interview that will serve to illuminate a contentious issue for TV viewers, it helps to have the facts on your side. Ramos and Tucker did not do a thorough job in researching the facts, and, as a results, the TV viewers were left begging for answers to their questions. Jorge Ramos has not stopped making outrageous pronouncements on illegal immigration to the U.S.  In 2021, he stated that Americans cannot stop migration and must instead open their homeland’s borders to a huge and endless inflow of migrants. It is illogical and ungrateful individuals like Ramos that Americans must protect themselves against. See: 2021.