Thursday, May 31, 2007

And From the Peanut Gallery...

Tallachea can't take it ... he is on a suicide watch
Posted [on Babalú] by: Abajofidel at May 31, 2007 10:17 PM

Suicide watch? Because Henry cajoled EFE, after a thousand entreaties and God knows how many enclosed stickers, into writing a "Ripley's Believe It or Not" story about the bumptious BUCL's bootless campaign against Spanish "explosion" of Cuba, which is certain to rival in popularity even the story about the cat with two heads? Oh, please, deluded one, if I were a Spanish journalist I would have a field day with BUCL just quoting its communiqués.

Since He Was 7

"[I]'ve been following presidential politics since I was 7 years old, that's 30 years now, and in order to win the presidency you have to win your party's nomination and, mark my words, Rudy will NEVER be the Republican candidate. First of all he's not a conservative. The Republican base wants someone it can be energized about and [a] liberal NY Republican isn't it. Besides, I think you overestimate Rudy's appeal and ability to beat Hillary. There's only 2 Republicans that I could see as destroying Hillary in a debate and they are Fred Thompson and Newt Gingrich. I think Thompson brings a lot of the qualities of Gingrich without a lot of the baggage. None of the other candidates in the Republican field is worth a warm bucket of spit."
Posted [on Babalú] by: Henry "Conductor" Gomez at May 30, 2007 10:49 PM

It was John Nance Garner, the first of FDR's three vice-presidents and the last American politician born in a log cabin, who first used "warm bucket of spit" to describe the office of vice-president. Some claim that what he actually said was that it wasn't worth a warm bucket of shit, but reporters, in order to publish his remark, were obliged to substitute "shit" for "spit." There is some logic to this assumption, since back then Americans used spitoons not buckets to dispose of excess salivation but did employ buckets, especially in the Deep South whence Garner hailed, as portable outhouses. Whether shit or spit, I don't think, however, that Garner would have had any objection to Henry using that expression to describe a bunch of Republicans.

In fact, one Republican whom Henry exempts from this description Garner would have found much to his liking, fellow southside Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. You see, Garner was the product of his age and place, as apologists for racism once used to say. Never had a more rabid racist ever been one heartbeat away from the presidency since Andrew Johnson. The Democrats chose Garner because he balanced the ticket and was much older than Roosevelt and actually made FDR look young and vigorous in comparison (though Garner was to outlive FDR by nearly 25 years). Still, it shows perhaps a little too much tolerance on FDR's part to have twice chosen as his vice president a man who was not only an enemy of blacks but of all legislation meant to improve the lot of working-class Americans. AFL-CIO head John L. Lewis, speaking to a congressional committee in 1939, called Garner a "labor-baiting, cigar-smoking, poker-playing, whiskey-drinking, evil old man." [Ah, for the days when public figures actually spoke their minds publicly!]

Garner was an equal opportunity racist and as a congressman had opposed the immigration of "inferior stocks" from Southern Europe, Russia and Asia while "championing" Mexican migrant labor, which he considered a suitable substitute for black slavery with the additional "advantage" that these slaves were "temporary, powerless and easily expelled." Yes, old "Cactus Jack," as Garner was known back home in Texas, is responsible for embracing as a "solution" to high wages and good benefits what is now denounced as a crisis in illegal immigration.

Of course, I am sure that Henry didn't know the source of his quotation, nor, indeed, had ever heard of Garner despite all his precious precociousness at 7 (prodigies usually never fulfill their promise). Yet it is ironic that he appropriates Garner's phrase in a post where he settles for Fred Thompson as his candidate for president only because his real choice Newt Gingrich carries too much "baggage." What he doesn't say is that this baggage consists of a lifetime of nativism and an inveterate hatred for all Hispanics, whom he was the first to demonize nationally as the greatest menace to this Republic since polio. Even old "Cactus Jack" Garner had more sense than that. He knew that they were here to be exploited and approved of their exploitation. Gingrich also knows that it is Americans who exploit the Mexican migrants and not the other way around, but being less honest and more evil than Garner, he makes the beasts of burden his scapegoats. With Gingrich, of course, it is not the fact that they entered this country illegally that offends him. He hates all Hispanics, illegal or legal. That's why he applied all the punitive measures of the "Contract on America" to both alike. So to him it doesn't matter if Hispanics play by the rules or not; they are all a pestilence in his eyes and should be booted from this country.

This is the man that Henry Gómez, who has been following presidential politics since he was 7, desperately wishes he could support for president except for all that "baggage" (which also includes venality and moral turpitude). So poor Henry has to settle for Fred Thompson. We all knew already that Henry considers himself an "American-Cuban," not a "Cuban-American." That is, we all knew already that Cuba comes second with him. What we didn't know is that other Hispanics come last with him.

Also read:

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Rain in Spain Still Falls Mainly on the Plain

It's easy to declare victory even though BUCL's Campaign Against Spanish "Explosion" of Cubans fired nary a sticker there.

Regardless of the real results of their ill-conceived and executed campaign, and even if the "Battle of the Three Stickers" is its bootless culmination, Val & Henry are just shameless enough to claim, and their acolytes gullible enough to believe, that they were the decisive factor in Zapatero's recent electoral setback and future and inevitable defeat in the next elections.

Our prescient friend Charlie Bravo predicted that they would claim credit for it, and I am sure he is going to be proven right.

So, go ahead, Val & Henry, declare victory in your war against Spain and announce BUCL's next campaign (I shudder to think what that will be). From the wells of such immemorial ignorance, we can expect anything.

When all is said and done, the rain in Spain still falls mainly on the plain.


Val Prieto has just taken credit for the pot calling the kettle black:

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

RCAB's "Campaign to Liberate Spain from Socialist Explosion"

We are proud to announce the launch today of the Review of Cuban-American Blogs's "Campaign to Liberate Spain from Socialist Explosion." We ask no induction fees or dues. No secret communications or blood oaths. In fact, we are not even soliciting members although you are free to lend your support to our campaign (or not). All we ask you is to lend us your ears and we promise to return them immediately after we have had our say.

Since Spain is a democracy it is much easier to liberate than Cuba. We don't need arms or men to wield them, or U.S. assent for the men to wield the arms. We just need votes. And we have them.

Spain has passed a law which awards Spanish citizenship, with all rights accruing thereto, including the right to vote, to the grandchildren of Spanish nationals born abroad. The individual who acquires Spanish citizenship by virtue of a Spanish parent and now grandparent can then pass it to his own children and so forth forever and ever.

Since more than one-million Spaniards immigrated to Cuba from 1902-1958, absorbed by a Cuban population which numbered between 3-6 million in those years, practically every living Cuban has a parent or grandparent who can stake a claim to Spanish citizenship based on his own parent's or grandparent's birth in Spain. All you would have to do is take grandma to the local Spanish consulate with her birth certificate which identifies her as the daughter or granddaughter of at least one Spaniard. That's all. Grandma (or grandpa) is now a Spanish citizen and so are you and your children and grandchildren to the last generation.

Naturally, as newly-minted Spanish citizens you have the right to vote and you can even exercise that right by absentee ballot at the local Spanish consulate (just follow the BUCL posters to it; they'll take you within .6 miles [that is, 13 blocks]).

So, in the next Spanish elections, you can cast your vote against the Socialist Zapatero government and restore the pro-American and anti-Castro Aznar to office.

One million Cuban exile votes can throw any election in Spain. Then Cuban exiles will not only control the future of the U.S. through our bloc voting (and hopefully we will avoid mistakes like Bush in the future) but we will also control and to a much greater extent since Spain's population is smaller, the political destinies of Spain as well.

A new, ironic and unforeseen conclusion to the misnamed Spanish-American War: Cubans end up controlling the U.S. and Spain, but not Cuba.

FLASH! The Socialists lost Spain's regional elections yesterday, setting the stage for an upcoming election to unseat them from the national government. Brook no delay in claiming your Spanish citizenship: the liberation of the mother country is at hand!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Black Sheep of Exile: A Review

This blog is older by one day than the Black Sheep of Exile. Our seniority allows us not only to review but to welcome to the Cuban blogosphere this latest and most interesting addition to it. Those familiar with the incisiveness and brazen originality of Killcastro, which is really sui generis among Cuban-American blogs for maintaining active contacts in Cuba and reporting firsthand on the quehacer cubano, will find the same and more at the Black Sheep of Exile, which draws with even a more personal and nostalgic brush the realities of life in Cuba as seen from the unique perspective of Killcastro and Charlie Bravo, who actually lived there for most of their lives and experienced in the only way they can be experienced the horrors that they report. That fact also has made them more understanding and compassionate towards those left behind, though not to the extreme of justifying conduct which should be censored here or there.

They are both formidable writers and both use English in the new and innovative ways pioneered by Cabrera Infante but taking him up a few notches. Their cubanization of English does not usually sacrifice correctness, but does make it do things that one would have thought impossible in this staid and emotionally-constrained tongue. This, of course, is a very different approach from my own, which is to out-English the English (I don't even think about the Americans). Two different approaches to English but both informed by the same Cuban spirit of rebellion which can manifest itself either by expanding the original (their case) or restoring it (mine).

Really, as most of you know, because you come in droves from Killcastro, Charlie and Killcastro are a joy to read, both for content and delivery, but, above all, for that in-your-face originality that both captivates and instructs. After a visit to killcastro or the Black Sheep of Exile one feels as if one has partaken of a hearty and substantial meal, a sensation altogether different from the lighheadedness that follows after sampling the fluffy and watery fare at other Cuban-American blogs. The difference, of course, is genuineness: the fact that one is and does not merely aspire to be. But let me stop here before this turns into another review of Babalú.

Those familiar with Killcastro know that I have differed with its editors on several issues in the past, but it has always been possible for us to reach consensus. When I think that there must be millions of Killcastros and Charlie Bravos in Cuba, it greatly consoles me. Without them, I would have no such consolation.

I urge you to read the following recent posts on the Black Sheep of Exile:

El hebreo (memories of an elderly Jew in Havana who taught Charlie Bravo the meaning of fascism and communism and how Castro was the fusion of both sides of the same totalitarian coin).

Momias Gallegas (On Charlie Bravo's boyhood excursions to Colón Cemetery, the Chinese Cemetery and the Protestant Cemetery).

Sí, España (a touching tribute to the mother country and a necessary tonic for those who think that one can possibly affirm one's Cuban identity by hating her).

A Voluntary Buzzcut (which Charlie and his friends got in Cuba to show their solidarity with U.S. troops in Kuwait during the First Iraq War).

I know you don't need an invitation or further inducement, so go there:

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Springtime at Babaloo: Love Is In the Air...

Rocinante & Sancho Panza

What is happening at Babalú now? Marc Másferrer's uncommon sense praises Michael Moore's Sicko and Robert Molleda parallels parks alongside Ana Menéndez for some casual flirting. A better couple would be Menéndez and Moore, the Rocinante and Sancho Panza of Cuban-bashing.

BUCL and The Black Legend: Using Racism to "Liberate" Cuba

Quiero a la tierra amarilla
Que baña el Ebro lodoso:
Quiero el Pilar azuloso
De Lanuza y de Padilla.

José Martí (1853-1895)
Versos sencillos

I am going to do something now which I am sure nobody has ever done before and nobody will ever do again — I am going to compare Henry Gómez and Val Prieto to Thomas Jefferson. When he was drafting the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson included a paragraph attacking the English king for forcing slavery on the Thirteen Colonies. The hypocrisy of such a statement would have invalidated every truth in that document and Jefferson was prevailed upon to remove it. Of course, it was not the British Crown that compelled men like Jefferson and Washington to own thousands of slaves. And, indeed, the British abolished slavery in their territories a generation before the Americans did and without the necessity of a Civil War. Just like Jefferson overextended his hand in his criticism of Great Britain, so too have Val Prieto and Henry Gómez in their their campaign against Spanish "explosion" (i.e. exploitation) of Cubans. It is Cubans, not the Spaniards, who exploit other Cubans. Spanish exploitation would not exist in any guise if Cubans did not facilitate and encourage it. It is not Spain that handed Cuba to Castro on a silver platter. It was the U.S. government and media which installed Castro in power in 1959 and have maintained him there for 48 years, not Spain. If Val & Henry knew anything at all about Cuban history they would know that. Spain's relations with Cuba over the last 48 years have hardly been exemplary and there must be a settling of accounts when Cuba is free which will deprive Castro's entrepreneurial partners of all their ill-gotten gains, but the actions of individual Spaniards or even Spain's Socialists are nothing compared to the Bay of Pigs or the Kennedy-Khrushchev Pact, the Elián affaire or the "Dry Foot/Wet Foot" policy (to choose among hundreds of betrayals).

It was especially troubling to see Val Prieto raise the specter of The Black Legend in BUCL's Campaign Against Spain, accusing Spaniards of "forcing religion" on Cubans. The Black Legend, created in the 16th century by the English, purports that Spaniards are more cruel, barbarous and bloodthirsty than any other European people. No matter that Spaniards were the greatest agents of civilization and Christianity in history. No matter that the English Inquisition (yes, there was such a thing) burned more "witches" at the stake than did the Spanish Inquisition. No matter that Spaniards actually married the indigenous peoples they conquered and raised their "half-breeds" as their sons and heirs, unlike the English who, when they mixed at all with the natives, enslaved their own progeny. No matter that Americans murdered more Indians over 40 years in the enlightened 19th century than Spaniards ever did in 500 years of colonialism. Their language, their history, their culture, their customs and their religion, their pride and sense of honor, their courage and their indominable spirit, all these things the Spaniards bequeathed to us. Their faults are also our faults, and even their faults are more ennobling than the virtues of their detractors.

The "Black Legend" is not just an affront to Spain, but to all her descendents, including and particularly Cubans, who carry the largest quantity of Spanish blood of any Latin Americans, because we all have Spanish parents, grandparents or great-grandparents whereas others must go back 3 or 4 centuries to find any Spanish forebears, if, indeed, they have any. If we who are their closest relatives by blood will not defend the Spaniards against the "Black Legend," then who shall? Whatever the predations of Spanish capitalists in Cuba, or the shameless conduct of Spain's Socialist government towards Cuba, no honest Cuban can condemn his own relatives for it, no more than any honest Spaniard could condemn their Cuban relatives for Castro's wholescale robbery of 100 years of Spanish work and achievement in Republican Cuba prior to the Revolution.

The indigenous population added to our folklore but nothing else. Africans contributed greatly to our culture and indeed transformed it in immeasurable ways, enriching everything they touched, but, above all, they had the greatest share in forging Cuban independence, since they made up the majority of our Army of Liberation. All this said and duly acknowledged, the root of Cuban culture is still Spanish. To that tree many nations and cultures have been grafted over 500 years, but the root which nourishes it and us is Spanish. To deny that fact is to deny our history, indeed, to deny everything we are as Cubans. Spain is our motherland; we have no other and should want no other. Even the roots of our independence have their origin in Spain, in the Spain of Padilla and Lanuza, as Martí acknowledged in his famous verses; and, of course, Martí himself, the architect of our nationhood, was the son of Spaniards.

The greatest enemy of Spanish power in Cuba, Martí nonetheless wrote: "I love Spain as only those who have felt her whip across their backs can love her." Stop a moment to reflect on the spiritual greatness of that statement (so eminently Spanish in character). This is the reason that a Spanish historian called Marti "El Cristo de Cuba." For Martí did not only die to redeem his countrymen but the Spaniards who persecuted them as well. The Spain that Martí loved, a democratic and modern Spain, free of dogmaticism and provincialism, is the Spain that honors Martí over and above all the men who opposed him. That is why on the centenary of Spain's defeat in the misnamed Spanish-American War, in 1998, Spain did not issue postage stamps commemorating its 19th century politicians and generals who had pledged to fight "to the last soldier and peseta" to keep Cuba as a colony, but honored instead José Martí, who represents the highest expression of the Spanish character in Spain or the Americas, as Spaniards now realize and proclaim, for Martí was the liberator that liberated both oppressed and oppressor.

This Spanish spirit also lived in Maceo, who refused to be called black because he embraced both his African and Spanish origins. In fact, Maceo said that if the Americans ever invaded Cuba, he would fight alongside the Spaniards to repel them, and would then continue the war against Spain.

Shameless in conception and ridiculous in execution, BUCL's "Campaign Against Spain" should be abandoned immediately, not that it ever amounted to much. The only purpose which it has served is to demean those who conceived it and their sponsors and sow gratuitous confusion and division among our fellow Cuban bloggers, who should now demand the end of this cannibalistic exercise.

Friday, May 25, 2007

From the Tellechea Digital Archives: An Exchange On Property Claims in Cuba

(The whimsically-titled PropertyProf Blog, edited by Professors Benjamin Barros of Widener University Law School (Hawaii) and Alfred L. Brophy of the University of Alabama Law School, appears to be more concerned with justifying the arbitrary confiscation of private property than with upholding property rights. It was the perfect venue for Professor Eduardo Peñalver, of Cornell University Law School, to showcase his unconditional support of the Hemisphere's oldest piñata and discount the property rights of Cuban exiles while championing the fanthom property "rights" of African-Americans who seek "reparations" for ancestral wrongs as well as those of Native Americans who want their ancient tribal lands returned to them which their ancestors were forced to quit under duress. We have removed the less than decorous swooning of Prof. Brophy over Peñalver's rather lite analysis of the question of property reclamations in post-Castro Cuba, but you can read that as well by visiting the website at the URL at the bottom of this post).

Professor Eduardo Peñalver: I participated in a conference yesterday at Yale on the political future of Cuba. Panels covered the situation in Cuba today as well as the likely future of US policy towards Cuba after Castro's death. I spoke on the property disputes that might surface in a transitional Cuban society and the possible responses of a post-Castro government.

About 6000 people who were US citizens at the time of Castro's ascension to power in 1959 have registered claims with the U.S. government for property they lost during the first years of the Cuban revolution. Their claims have an estimated value of $8 billion. In addition, there are hundreds of thousands of Cubans who lost property under the Castro government. Large agricultural land-owners had their properties nationalized under a series of agrarian reforms. Landlords lost property occupied by tenants, who were given the right to purchase the properties at low, fixed prices. Mortgages were canceled. And anyone who fled the island had their property confiscated and redistributed. By the end of 1968, virtually all private enterprise on the island had been confiscated, including 57,000 small and medium-sized, and mostly Cuban-owned, businesses. Estimates of the possible property claims by Cuban-Americans range from $25 billion up to nearly $100 billion, although the latter figure strikes me as wildly inflated (it's several times larger than the Cuban GDP).

Many Cuban-Americans are waiting for full property restitution, a hope that has only been encouraged by the experience of some of the former Communist states of Eastern Europe. Germany, for example, embarked on an ambitious program of property restitution (that is, the actual restoration of possession of expropriated properties — not simply compensation) upon its reunification. Restitution was also implemented in Bulgaria, the Baltics and the Czech Republic. With news of Fidel's illness, some Cubans in Miami are dusting off their files and getting ready to press their claims with the hope of reclaiming ownership of property they lost.

While I can sympathize with the desire to reclaim lost property — my family lost a modest but wonderful home in Centro Habana and a small weekend farm outside Havana when they fled Cuba in the early 1960s after my father did a stint in a Cuban jail for supposedly possessing anti-Castro propaganda — but the attempt to actually press these claims would seem to me to be sheer folly. The fact is, nearly 50 years have passed since my family last lived in that home in Havana. The people in whose care we left the home traded it with another family about a decade ago, and who knows how many times it's changed hands since then. It's someone else's home now, and in the meantime, my family — although they arrived with nothing (one hand in front and one hand behind, as the Cuban saying goes) has done pretty well in the United States. It's not at all clear to me how justice would be done by my dispossessing someone who has suffered fifty years of tyranny and diminished economic opportunity under a one-party Communist state. And, of course, there's the question of the propriety of using the 1959 allocation of property as a baseline for restitution, since that allocation was itself influenced by the Batista government — no model of democracy and respect for human rights — years of North American intervention in the Cuban economy and political system, and centuries of slavery.

More pragmatically, if even half of all the Cuban-Americans who lost property return to Cuba and file claims to have property restored, virtually all the property on the island will be locked up in litigation for years to come, with predictable consequences for the ability of a post-Castro government to attract foreign investment and grow the economy. After all, adjudicating these claims will be no small administrative task, particularly since the Cuban government has failed to update the property records for the last 50 years.

So far-fetched is the idea of full property restitution (or even compensation) in a post-Castro Cuba, it strikes me that any attempt to implement such a scheme is either hopelessly foolish or outright dishonest. The resources simply don't exist to accomplish the task.

The question of how to heal the wounds between Cuba and the exile community is a real one. Restitution of property, however, is not the answer. It will just create new wounds and leave a post-Castro Cuba on a dubious footing for future development.

This is not to say that restitution for long past property harms is never appropriate. I have some sympathy with Native American land claims and with claims by African Americans for reparations for slavery. But I think that sympathy is due in large part to the fact that those communities continue to suffer the consequences of their losses in a way that is less true of Cuban-Americans, who are generally much better off than the people currently occupying the property they formerly owned [...]

[In response to the feedback that Peñalver solicited from Prof. Brophy]: Another wrinkle, which I did not mention in the initial post, was the corruption of the pre-Castro Batista government and, of course, Cuba's own history of slavery, racism, and extremely unevenly distributed wealth. All of this points, in my view, to the dubious status of the property distribution on the eve of the 1959 revolution as the proper baseline for any restitution program.

I'm not sure which groups remain worse off as a result of the expropriations. My guess is that those who are the most recent arrivals from Cuba fit that bill better than those of us whose families left in the early 1960s. But [Prof. Brophy's] idea of means-testing seems to me to be a good one.

Manuel A. Tellechea: So Professor Peñalver doesn't want his family's property back, or so he says, and that's alright with me, although I wonder whether his relatives share his point of view. Perhaps he holds this point of view precisely because his relatives don't share it.

The professor also states that while he does not support the restitution of confiscated properties to their legitimate owners in Cuba, he does support "somewhat" reparations to the victims of U.S. slavery. I do too. If you can find any living former slaves, let us by all means compensate them. But, of course, there are no living former slaves and what the professor supports is another welfare program, not reparations. And what other historical injustices does he want Americans to "repair?" Of course, he supports "somewhat" compensation for American Indians dispossessed from their lands. I thought that was what the casino monopoly was all about. In short, he wants to compensate everyone for their stolen property and their stolen labor except Cuban exiles.

The professor refers to "the corruption of the pre-Castro Batista government and, of course, Cuba's own history of slavery, racism, and extremely unevenly distributed wealth" to oppose the return of confiscated properties to their legal owners in Cuba. However "corrupt" the Batista regime may have been, it never confiscated or expropriated anyone's property. Even Castro's family enjoyed their vast landholdings without any arbitrary measures being taken against their properties by Batista. As for wealth in pre-Castro Cuba, it was never as "extremely unevenly distributed" as wealth is in the U.S. today. And the U.S. also has its history of slavery and racism, far worse than ours, because institutionalized racism, Jim Crow and segregation were never practiced in pre-Castro Cuba.

So, I suppose, since contemporary America more than meets the criteria for expropriations set forth by Professor Peñalver, that he must also favor such violations of the Rule of Law here.

Professor Peñalver honored us — I suppose that is the word — with a visit on June 6, 2007 between the hours of 9:50:03 AM and 10:05:59 AM; for a total of 15.56 minutes. He found us by googling his own name, a practice which we would be the last to censure. What amazes us is that he spent his entire stay here reading this one post and its corresponding thread, which can easily be read under 2 minutes by a slow reader. I should like to think that the professor spent the surfeit time contemplating the truth of what is said here. It should certainly be rather embarrassing if it took him nearly 16 minutes to read this 800-word post, of which more than half consists of his own words. Yet, despite his intensive reading of it, he left no comment here, proving that discretion is, indeed, the better part of valor.

The Real Val Prieto Exposes Himself As Ana Menéndez's Pimp

What [Ana] Menéndez needs - and truly for poetic justice's sake - is to become an "Hermana al Rescate." Where she finds un buen Cubanazo balsero recently arrived and ... well... you get the picture.
Posted [on Babalú] by: Val Prieto at May 25, 2007 09:32 AM

As if days under the scorching sun transversing the Bermuda Triangle without a compass and maybe even without a paddle, dodging both cartilaginous sharks and those known as the Coast Guard, the Cuban kind trying to prevent him from escaping from Cuba and the U.S. kind from reaching American shores and asylum — if this most horrible and heroic ordeal ever undertaken for freedom's sake were not enough — the heartless Val Prieto proposes that some poor cubanazo balsero bury his oar in Ana Menéndez's well of loneliness in order to free her mind of its accumulated debris. The poor man would be better off jumping the shark. For those of you who ever wondered what Val Prieto's real intentions towards the Cuban people were, now you know. He is a very cruel and dangerous man.

A Brief History of the Cuban Republic (1902-1958)

Part I (1902-1940)

The Cuban Republic came into being after a War of Independence that resulted in the death of nearly a quarter of Cuba's population and the destruction of most of the island's infrastructure and economy. In addition to such internal problems, Cuba also had to deal with the intervention and occupation of the island by the U.S. after the conclusion of the Spanish-American War (1898), a minor but calamitous episode within the context of the greater Cuban War of Independence begun by José Martí (1895-1898).

The Cuban Republic succeeded despite the great obstacles placed in its way by U.S. imperialism at its birth. These obtacles Cubans never ceased to fight and eventually defeated long before Castro came on the stage to renew a conflict that had already been resolved largely in Cuba's favor.

Cuba's first democratically-elected president (1902-1906), Tomás Estrada Palma, defeated an American attempt to acquire not one but ten military bases on the island as well as the Isle of Pines (Cuban ownership of which was confirmed in the Hay-Quesada Treaty). He also insisted that the one base that was granted to the Americans be leased rather than ceded, which meant that Cuba still retained sovereignty over Guantánamo thereby setting the stage for its return some day to Cuban jurisdiction. In fact, Guantánamo Naval Base would have been returned decades ago if it had not been for Castro, as the Panama Canal was returned to Panamanian jurisdiction. President Estrada Palma was known as the "Honest President" because he broke with the tradition of graft and corruption introduced to Cuban political life by the Americans.

Estrada Palma was succeeded in the presidency, after an armed uprising quelled by the U.S. at his request and another brief U.S. occupation (1906-1909), by his democratically-elected rival José Gómez, whose administration (1909-1913) was characterized by both its corruption and the full recovery of Cuba's economy from the ravages of the recent war.

Gómez was succeeded in turn, also as a result of democratic elections, by Mario García Menocal, the first and only Cuban president to serve two consecutive terms (1913-1921). The major event of his administration was the First World War, which brought unprecedented prosperity to Cuba as the price of sugar climbed to astronomical levels never to be seen again. Although Menocal joined the Allied side in the War and even instituted a draft, he refused repeatedly U.S. requests to send Cuba's sons overseas to fight in Europe under the American flag. The war ended without a single Cuban casualty. Cuba also joined the League of Nations, which the U.S. did not. A Cuban, in fact, served as its president, which proved that the world as a whole accepted Cuba's sovereignty despite American intrusions on it.

Menocal was succeeded in democratic elections by Alfredo Zayas (1921-1925), a nationalist who also defied U.S. interests in Cuba. Zayas' administration was corrupt; but when the even more corrupt administration of Warren G. Harding sought to impose on him an "honest cabinet" of its own choosing, Zayas at first assented (to get the U.S. war ships threatening intervention to go home) and then immediately fired the U.S. puppets and appointed his own men. This was the first time that the U.S. had been openly defied in Cuba and the U.S. did nothing. This lesson would not be lost on the Cuban people.

Zayas was succeeded, yet again in democratic elections, by Geraldo Machado (1925-1933), the most popular Cuban president as well as the most unpopular. His public works programme transformed Cuba into a modern nation. He built the Capitol as well as the Central Highway, which ran the whole length of the island, among hundreds of other civil works projects. He was so popular that at one time all the Cuban political parties supported him. Machado had made a pledge when he was elected not to seek re-election. He kept this pledge by convincing Congress to prolong his presidential term, which it did gladly. The Cuban people did not receive this violation of Cuban democracy as gladly, however. This "prolongation of powers" led to Cuba's first popular revolution, which succeeded in ousting the democrat turned dictator. Machado believed that this revolution was abetted by the U.S. and before resigning made anti-American declarations for the first time in Cuban political history. The Machado opposition was even more nationalistic and anti-American in its rhetoric.

The Revolution of 1933, with its succession of provisional presidents, juntas and even a counter-revolution, nevertheless succeeded in abrogating in 1934 the Platt Amendment, which had been imposed in 1902 and gave Americans the right to intervene at will in Cuba to protect "our" (read their) interests. With the scrapping of the Platt Amendment Cubans exercised for the first time full national sovereignty. There would be no more American interventions in Cuba. Martí's dream and the dream of all Cuban patriots was finally realized thanks to Cuban resolve and another Roosevelt's "Good Neighbor" policy, which was itself the product of American experiences in Cuba.

If there is a revolution that Cubans should celebrate it is the Revolution of 1933, which was everything that a future revolution was not — nationalistic, progressive and brief. The 1933 Revolution endowed the Cuban people with social rights that no other people on earth enjoyed or would enjoy for decades, including paid maternity leave and a 35-hour work week (for which the employee was entitled to 40 hours compensation). It avoided, moreover, the fashionable extremes of the age, shifting neither to the right and fascism, nor to the left and communism.

Although the Generation of 1933 hated Machado and his cohorts no less than the Generation of 1953 despised Batista and his, the death penalty was not imposed on any of the collaborators of the regime: capital punishment for political crimes was then unknown in Cuba and the firing squad had not been used on the island since colonial times.

The greatest virtue of the 1933 Revolution — the reason for its success, if you will — was its exemplary brevity. In just three years (1933-1936) it had run its course and normality was restored to the island. The final act of the 1933 Revolution was the Amnesty Law of 1936 which freed all Machado officials held in detention (very few) and restored to them their full civil rights. In the elections also held that year many of them were returned to office, one even became Speaker of the House of Representatives.

In the 1936 presidential elections Josê Mariano Gómez, son of Cuba's second president, was elected its sixth constitutional president. In a further test of Cuba's reborn democracy Gómez was impeached for supposedly obstructing the functions of Congress and replaced with his vice-president Col. Fedérico Laredu Bru, the last veteran of Cuba's wars of independence to occupy the presidency. It was during this period that Cuba received nearly a half-million refugees from fascism and communism in Europe, the largest number per capita of any country in the world.

The Revolution of 1933 saw the rise to power of two men who would dominate Cuban politics for the next quarter century — Ramón Grau San Martín and Fulgencio Batista. The first was a professor at the University of Havana and the latter an army sergeant. On the same side in the wake of the 1933 Revolution both men would become bitter political rivals in its aftermath.

All parties and ideologies would coalesce, however, in 1939-1940 to create the greatest monument of the Cuban Republic, the Constitution of 1940, which became the model of France's Fundamental Law (1958) and other progressive constitutions.

Cuba was then about to embark on the most glorious period in its history, which saw it become the most democratic and prosperous country in Latin American with a standard of living which was comparable to Europe's.

In Part II we will discuss the the rise and fall of the Cuban Republic, which is all the more remarkable because Cuba reached its zenith and nadir at the same time.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Babaloo's Waterloos: Public Vandalism in NYC Caps BUCL's Spanish Boycott

Has it really come to this? The grand strategies and grander promises? Is this the culmination and fruit of their labors? BUCL stickers stuck to a Brooklyn street lamp, a MetroCard vending machine and a column at the 28th Street subway station (not even Times Square or Herald Square)? Is this all? Is this the end? Or can we expect BUCL stickers on the walls of subway stations throughout the country and the world? Is the Madrid Metro next or is that the pièce de résistance? Perhaps they could order a customized rubber stamp (price: $6.95) and stamp the BUCL logo on all the contributors' dollar bills?

They also serve who only cut and paste, or in this case, paste and cut (as in run).

So far Bloggers United for Cuban Liberty's Campaign Against Spain has astonished everyone by its minimalism. Is there a surprise in their bag of (cheap) tricks?

Amazing, but Kilroy did the same thing during World War II which now costs BUCL $2000-$3000 to accomplish for nary one cent. The historical allusion, I know, is lost on them.

Here, learn:


The BUCLers (pronounced "bucklers") are actually celebrating on Babalú their "victory" in the Battle of the Three Stickers. One is suggesting that their campaigns be henceforth carried out solely through the instrumentality of stickers. Another is ready to pit the BUCL stickers against the Five Cuban Spies stickers in what promises to be a battle royal. They are intent on sticking it to everybody (the BUCL stickers, that is) and I do believe they will.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

BUCL Leader Henry Gómez to Vanquish the Real Academia Today

Please note it on your schedules: Henry Gómez will speak Spanish today over the airwaves and it is sure to be a memorable experience. No doubt he will give the Spanish language a drubbing from which it will not soon recover. Wish I could listen. But you can.

Babalú blog — well, actually, Henry Gómez himself — announces that Henry Gómez will appear tonight as himself on GENTV's Ultima Palabra (Miami, Channel 8) at 7:00 PM to discuss the Bloggers United for Cuban Freedom from Spain Campaign (109 years too late and one universal brain too few).

The only advice I have for Henry is what I have said to him before:

The greatest patriotic duty which a Cuban raised in this country or born here to Cuban parent(s) can perform is to learn Spanish.


Ok, guess what? Or do you have to? Henry got it wrong. The show was taped today but will air tomorrow. Wednesday, same time, same channel, and, presumably, same Henry.


The show did not air on Wednesday either. Henry promises to really, really find out when it will air. For my part, I think it is perhaps time to consider the possibility that it will never air for reasons that will be lost to history (to put it kindly).


Well, it's been one week now since Henry regaled us with the hope of hearing him speak for an hour in Spanish. We were quite sure that would finish off BUCL for good. But the powers-that-be are apparently not returning Henry's calls (perhaps they don't understand what he's saying, or perhaps they understand it all too well). Keep checking from time to time and we will continue to keep you apprised of any developments in Henry's "Campaign Against the Royal Spanish Academy of Language (yes, Henry, that's what the "Real Academia" is).

"BUCL Up, It's Gonna be a Bumpy Ride"

No, things are not going well for Bloggers United for Cuban Liberty (BUCL, pronounced "Buckle"). The readers of its mother blog Babalú have dealt BUCL a considerable rebuke when they refused to support its "Manifesto" as posted on some Spanish version of DIGG called Menéame. I had pointed out to them earlier the necessity of bringing their campaign to Spain itself, which apparently had never occurred to them, and being little acquainted with Spanish blogs, or, indeed, Spanish anything (quite an omission when you are embarking on such a mission as BUCL's), they chose this humble (and free) Spanish venue to launch their campaign in Spain. Apparently, the Spaniards were not paying much attention to their endeavors, and so Henry was compelled to beg Babalu's readers to visit the Spanish website and register their support for BUCL's boycott against Spain. At last count only 52 of Babalu's 2,000-3,000 daily visitors complied and 9 of the votes were negative, and this despite Henry's desperate attempt to stuff the ballot box with absentee U.S. voters. Maybe Val can offer tee-shirts for voting in the popularity poll or Henry write tributes to each of the 52 Menéame voters. The simple truth is that no one here much less there is paying attention to them or wants anything to do with this re-play of Cuba's War of Independence. Someone should really tell Val and Henry that we won and don't have to undertake any more "campaigns" against Spain. I recommend to them once again that they desist with this farce and concentrate their attention on something that they could actually hope to impact, such as the upcoming U.S. elections or the "Wet Foot/ Dry Foot Policy."

This whole campaign against Spanish re-conquest reminds me of Ignatius Reilly's "Crusade for Moorish Dignity" in A Confederacy of Dunces. And who shall hold the stained blanket?

Not Just White Roses

This is the Cattleya Jose Marti, popularly known as "Mother's Favorite."
And why not orchids, too?
And why not today?

Monday, May 21, 2007

48 Years Ago Today Fidel Castro Said:

In Leovigildo Ruiz's classic Diario de una traicion, 1959, which is a day to day account of everything that transpired in Cuba in that ominous year, we find Fidel Castro's words spoken during an appearance on television on May 21, 1959:

"La Revolución no es roja sino verde olivo. Entiendo que nuestra revolución no es capitalista ni comunista. Nuestra revolución es única en el mundo. A nuestra revolución llamamos humanista por sus métodos humanos, por los métodos democráticos y se diferencia del capitalismo porque no mata al hombre de hambre y al comunismo porque éste priva de sus libertades. En nuestra revolución no se a establecido ningún régimen de terror, ni se ha usado de guillotina contra nadie, como se hizo en la Revolución Francesa, donde se guillotinaron a los nobles y acabó guillotinando a todo el mundo allí." — Fidel Castro, 21 de mayo 1959

"Our Revolution is not red but olive green. As I understand it our revolution is neither capitalist nor communist. Our revolution is unique in the world. We call our revolution humanist because of its humane methods, its democratic methods, and because it differs from capitalism because it doesn't starve anyone and from communism because it doesn't deprive anyone of his freedom. Our revolution has not established a regime of terror, nor used the guillotine against anyone, as in the case of the French Revolution, where they started by guillotining the nobles and ended up guillotining everybody there." — Fidel Castro, May 21, 1959

Note first how Fidel Castro reduces the question of political ideology to a mere contrast of colors, which is the only distinction that even then existed between Communism and Castroism. Castro at that moment was not yet ready to wave the red flag in front of the Cuban people though the old Communists were already donning the olive green. Nor were the Cuban people themselves blind to Castro's forensic games. A popular joke of the day was that Castro's revolution was just like a watermelon — green on the outside and red on the inside. Indeed, with all the blood that he had shed in the first few months of his regime, dripping, literally, with blood as many of his henchmen were, fresh from wading through the pools of blood of the firing squads, it would have been difficult to ignore olive green's affinity for red. Whether the blood was being shed in the name of Communism or not, it was being shed in rivers. That should have been enough, but it was not.

Note also the cynicism of his "I understand" that the Revolution is neither capitalist nor Communist. His intention is to suggest that he is a mere instrument of the revolution who follows some pre-ordained course which has been laid out for it by historical forces and cannot be altered by him. This is yet another manifestation of his messianism, for Christ, too, followed a course which had been pre-ordained and could not be altered.

His megalomania is also on exhibit in his proclamation that his revolution was "unique in the world." There was nothing "unique" about Castro's revolution. It followed the pattern of all Communist revolutions and its historical antecedent, as with all Communist revolutions, was the French Revolution, the mother of all totalitarianisms of the left. That's what Castro was himself taught by the Spanish Jesuits who little knew that their lessons were taken to heart by their star pupil but not in the way that they intended.

In light of what has happened in the last 48 years, Castro's assertions about the "humane methods" and "democratic methods" of the revolution almost make one gag. Of course, on May 21, 1959, when Castro uttered these words, it was already evident to all (or should have been) that humane and democratic methods were never going to prevail in Cuba while Castro was in power.

A big alarm should have sounded — perhaps it did, but no one heeded it — when Castro equated capitalism to "starving people." This is a classic instance of displacement, because it is Communism, not capitalism, that purposefully and logistically starved more than one billion people in the 20th century. Even today, in fact, Communist China is in the throes of the greatest famine in its history, though the 70-floor buildings that its cities have been spouting lately like lotus blossoms conceal from view the terrible misery of the countryside.

Castro counterbalances the "starvation" of capitalism with Communism's denial of freedom. What he didn't say, however, and what, again, should have been obvious to all Cubans then, is that the denial of freedom was, from his perspective, a good thing if it infringed on his freedom to reign supreme. In fact, it was Communism's apparatus of repression which must first have attracted Castro to it.

He concludes with the statement that his revolution has not implemented a "regime of terror" on the island. Well, Castro has always had a penchant for denying the obvious and doubling his denials if he is challenged with the truth. But, of course, Castro knows that his "regime of terror" is comparable to the French Revolution's Reign of Terror. And he hastens, again, to make the only distinction that could be made between them. Cuba, you see, doesn't use the guillotine. The more important similitude that it also kills political prisoners by the thousands is ignored. The guillotine is obviously a vile instrument for killing but the paredón is not. He ends with the assertion that the French Revolution started by killing the nobles and ended by killing everybody, which is exactly what his Revolution did once it had disposed of the batistianos and those it accused of being "batistianos." In 1959 alone, 15,000 Cubans were sent to their deaths without any pretense of due process in a country that had abolished the death penalty in the 1940 Constitution, which had saved Castro's life in 1953 and which he had pledged to implement fully.

Why Cubans did not storm the television studies and lynch him right there and then will always remain a mystery.

Babaloo's Waterloos: Spain "Forced Religion" on Cubans

On another thread I noted yesterday:

To the reader who asks in an e-mail:

"Why don't you pick on Val anymore?"

Because he has done nothing wrong lately while Henry doesn't seem to be able to do anything right.

20/5/07 11:35 AM

Well, it didn't take long for Val Prieto to return to form even in the midst of the Cuba Nostalgia convention. In fact, I should have checked Babalú before congratulating Val because less than an hour earlier he had delivered himself of one of his biggest whoppers since he voluntarily enslaved himself to the Estefans:

Independence Day

I dont know if they're celebrating Cuban Independence Day in Cuba today
[doesn't everybody know that Fidel Castro abolished the celebration of May 20th as Independence Day in Cuba? Apparently not Val, and he couldn't care less] because in many aspects, the people of Cuba have yet to rid themselves of the Conquistadors [so it's the conquistadores who are our enemies, not Castro?] Whereas once the Spanish anihilated the Mambises [the Spaniards tried to annihilate the mambises, but didn't succeed because in the end the Cuban rebels beat them] and forced religion onto the natives [so the Spaniards "forced religion" on Val's siboney ancestors? So he condemns them with the same "Black Legend" as does that other siboney Fidel Castro?], today, the Spanish exploitation of the Cuban people is an economic one [it was an economic one in colonial times, too]. Sol Melia hotels, Iberia Airlines and other Spanish entities [actually, companies] enrich themselves at the expense and through the sweat of the Cuban people who are, for all intents and purposes [no, not for "all intents and purposes" but in fact], slaves in their own country, mastered by a government that desperately clings to power by selling its own people to the highest bidder, all the while professing a social purity that is non-existent [since the "government" (Val means regime) is responsible for enslaving Cubans, shouldn't it be targetted directly rather than through its accomplices?].

So today, May 20th, Cuba's Independence Day, wield your cyber machetes and help fee [I think he means "free," unless he's thinking of the BUCL dues] the Cuban people of their Spanish slave masters [so if Henry the pacifist is the new cyber José Martí, Val must be the new cyber Trespatines]. Email your local Spanish consulate and embassies. Email Iberia Airlines and Sol Melia Hotels. Email your friends and spread the word ["Al combate, corred, e-mailers." Is Val going to hold a Hialeah Olive Oil Party on Miami Bay complete with "Indians" and redpaint?]. If money is what the Spanish are seeking in Cuba, then let them know that those of you who live in freedom have a choice, and you choose not to be complicit in bondage and the exploitation of a nation [the Spaniards have made their choice already, Val, and the time to punish them is when Cuba is free by taking from them all their ill-gotten spoils].

Viva Cuba libre [of not just Castro and the Spaniards, but U.S. meddling and duplicity, because it is the U.S. which is directly responsible for installing and maintaining Castro in power for 48 years, not Spain, which is just one of many carrion crows native to western Europe that have sucked on our marrow].
Posted by Val Prieto at 10:50 AM

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Russians Admit It: Martí Has Defeated Marx, Lenin, Mao and Deng Xiaoping, and Will Defeat Castro

In an article published by RIA Navosti (the Russian News and Information Agency), political columnist Pyotr Romanov (nice name), having returned from an assignment in Cuba in January, gives his not-altogether-on-target impressions of Cuba and Fidel Castro, but discerns one very great truth that compensates for his many errors:

"In Cuba José Martí has consistently defeated Marx, Lenin, Mao and Deng Xiaoping. I am sure that in the future he will "usurp" Castro as well because the 1959 revolution has failed to reach its other goal — bring genuine democracy to the Freedom Island."

May 20, 1902: Cuban Independence Day

Today marks the 105th anniversary of the birth of the Republic of Cuba. It was not born under happy auspices though amid much happiness. The imposition of the Platt Amendment and the lease "in perpetuity" of Guantánamo Naval Base were unavoidable limitations on our sovereignty which the dignity and resolve of the Cuban people eventually overcame in the case of the first and would surely already have overcome in the case of the second except for Fidel Castro.

What the Cuban people won in 1898 and finally received in 1902 was not "nominal independence" nor was Cuba a "pseudo-republic" or a "neocolonial" republic. The independence achieved on May 20, 1902 was real and irrevocable, not a "legal fiction" but an incontrovertible fact. That Fidel Castro remains in power to this day perversely proves the very fact that Communists deny. If Cuba had not been granted independence on May 20, 1902, there would have been no Fidel Castro, just as there has never been a Puerto Rican Fidel Castro. Yes, the U.S. could and did intervene practically at will in Cuba before the abrogation of the Platt Amendment in 1934, but it couldn't and didn't stay precisely because Cuba was an independent state, which meant that it could be raped and ravaged but never wedded to the United States.

Even the greatest U.S. intervention of all, which did not involve a single U.S. Marine or larcenous provisional governor, but the imposition of Fidel Castro on the Cuban people through U.S. meddling and his perpetuation through U.S. treachery, did not rob our country of its independence, which is an inherent condition under international law which it would be impossible to usurp or renounce and which will insure that whatever Cuba is in the future, it will not be a colony or province of any other country. No less than Switzerland, no less than Spain, no less than the U.S., or any other sovereign nation, Cuba is and will always be an independent state. That was the legacy to us of the men of 1868 and 1895 and the reason that Máximo Gómez, the only one of the triad of epic liberators who lived to see that day, proclaimed with no hint of doubt or irony: "I think we have arrived" as the U.S. flag was lowered and the Cuban flag raised over the Palacio del Cabo.

The Cuban Republic lives though not in the farce of the Castro regime. It lives in our flag, our coat-of-arms, our national anthem and the Constitution of 1940; it lives in our heroes and martyrs past and present, and it lives in our people, who are the heirs of that legacy and who shall some day re-claim it when Cubans shall not only be independent but free as well.

May we all live to see the day when we can repeat the Generalissimo's words: "Creo que hemos llegado."

¡Viva Cuba libre!

¡Patria y Libertad!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Martí the Blogger

The idea of a blog is one that would certainly have resonated deeply with José Martí. In fact, he might well be regarded as one of the pioneers of this genré. Of course, he didn't conceptualize it, although he did believe that poets inspired inventors, and that it was possible to find the antecedents of all great scientific theories and inventions in the imaginations of poets before they materialized in the laboratories of scientists. As Martí saw it, poets not only celebrated the great inventions of the age but actually had a part in bringing them about. This is is a decidedly romantic concept and one that would have found many adherents in that age. The earliest Romantic, the great German poet Goethe (1749-1832), had been the first to observe this: "Life is always fumbling towards the very thing that the great poets and artists create."

No doubt the literature of the last 100 years (especially the pulpish kind that is not taught in schools) would reveal many anticipations of the computer and of its potentialities. Whether blogging also has been presaged in the literature of the last 100 or 200 years, I do not know. I suppose I could google examples readily enough but I would only lose my train of thought for something that can well be taken as a given.

Blogging, as I see it, is the desire to share your truth with the world, the belief that your truth matters, and the conviction that your truth can better the world by adding to the sum of human knowledge or lessening the quantity of human suffering. There are more frivolous reasons for blogging, of course, but those would not resonate with Marti. The rationale for blogging, if not the mechanics, is amply evident in all of Marti's writings. Among them one group in particular features many modalities we have come to associate with blogging: brief and succinct tableaux of the news of the world, especially those items that would appeal to a general audience, presented on a daily or almost daily basis, sometimes embellished with observations or not, depending on content, and generally gleamed from newspapers and journals, for, except on very rare occasions, Marti was not a reporter as we would understand the word today (neither, for that, are most bloggers). Although these casual paragraphs are not the crónicas of the Gilded Age for which he is best known, they contain, in "concentrated form, as Martí says, the pulse of the world as measured by Martí, and are, like everything Martí ever wrote, highly personal and engaging. Marti received much favorable feedback for his "blogging" through the snail-mail that was the only means then to transmit it. In his own letters, the normally reticent Martí marvels that something that caused him so little trouble to write had acquired such a mass following as his Venezuelan editor (or "webmaster") Juan Luis de Aldrey assured him (there is perhaps a note of sadness here, too, because Marti's literary ambition was to be a famous playwright like the swashbuckling Echegaray ["Eche," who?], whom he emulated to perfection, alas, a case of a poor model destroying a great artist).

Marti began his "blog" — actually called the Sección Constante — during his brief and failed residence in Venezuela in 1881. He was contracted by the newspaper El Nacional to write a continuing series of small digests (we would call them "posts") on a variety of subjects of topical interest, including current affairs, literature and the arts, scientific discoveries and industrial advances, celebrity news and something which Marti called "singularidades" (an anticipation of "Ripley's Belief It Or Not").

Martí averred that the public literally "ate them up" ["se la bebía"], and such was the popularity of the "Sección Constante" that he was contracted by the newspaper to continue editing it after he had relocated to the U.S. because of his refusal to write panegyrics on the country's dictator Guzmán Blanco.

What strikes one most forcibly about the "Sección Constante" today is precisely its eclectic nature. Martí's knowledge really was universal and encompassed all fields of human learning or endeavor; nothing was alien to him or insignificant in his cosmology. So what we find here is a thick slice of the world as it was 125 years ago pickled in Martí's essence. What is most remarkable is that the world then was pretty much as the world is today, with a little less useful knowledge and a great deal more learning.

There was the story, which Martí reported on January 24, 1882, concerning the construction of a new transoceanic Nicaraguan Canal under the supervision of Cuban engineer Menocal (a cousin of the future president of Cuba). Martí, incidentally, was always giving hat tips to fellow Cubans, though only one or two of his "posts" were devoted to Cuba. Well, the plan to build such a canal has been lately resurrected due to the fact that they say the Panama Canal is obsolete. Since the Nicaraguan Canal was three-quarters built by the French in the 19th century before being abandoned for lack of funding it might be possible to follow the old route. The U.S. itself nearly finished the Nicaraguan Canal a century ago before abandoning it and switching over to Panama because a postage stamp depicting an active volcano led American officials to suppose that the volcano might erupt and fill up the canal again!

This "post" is followed immediately by another on the use of the residue from sugar cane production (bagazo) to make excellent paper. Martí writes that the glowers in Louisiana can only extract 60% of the sugarcane juice from the bagasse which makes it unsuitable for papermaking. Although he doesn't say so directly the only inference is that such paper could be made to perfection in Cuba, where they know how to get the juice out of the sugar cane. Indeed, Cuba in the 1970s perfected this process out of necessity because Castro's criminal deforestation had made it impossible to manufacture paper from wood pulp. The bagasse paper, by the way, is everything that Martí says it is and is also edible. When Ricardo Alarcón told the Cuban people at a press conference during the "Special Period" of the 1990s about the nutritional value of grass (and was asked by a reporter whether he eats it too), he could also have advised Cubans to literally (or not literally) consume their books and newspapers.

Returning to the subject of poets presaging inventions, on January 18, 1882, Martí "posted" a story about a San Francisco photographer name Muybridge who had been able to reproduce in successive frames and with perfect definition a trotting horse. Yes, this was the birth of what 15 years later would become motion pictures. Martí, incidentally, missed being filmed (although the Spanish-American War was the first to be), but a speech of Martí's in Tampa was recorded on a wax disk, which is tragically lost. What a boon it would be to the spirit to hear Martí's voice restored to pristineness by today's technology? Perhaps it is not hopeless to expect that some day we might. Only five years ago a long-lost and -searched for recording of Walt Whitman reading one of his minor poems was found, and what a great revelation it was! Whitman had the Long Island accent of his birth with some assumed English inflections and sounded very soulful, exactly what one would expect the "Good Grey Poet" to sound like. But I am digressing, and, given the subject matter and my affinity to the subject, it can hardly me avoided.

What Martí would most have appreciated about blogging, what Whitman himself would also have hailed about it, is its democratic nature. Thanks to it anyone and everyone can have a voice at the common table. Come to think of it, Martí would probably have thought this the greatest invention of the 20th century, and he presaged it, too.

Friday, May 18, 2007

May 19, 1850: Birth and Baptism in Fire of the Cuban Flag

On May 19, 1850, the Cuban tricolor was first flown on Cuban soil over the city of Cárdenas, Matanzas Province, by General Narciso López in the second of his three expeditions to Cuba. The capture and liberation of "La Ciudad Bandera" was the first victory obtained in Cuba's 75-year struggle for independence (1823-1898). Conceived by López, drawn by Cuban poet and patriot Miguel Teurbe Tolón and sewn by the latter's wife, the Cuban flag was displayed for months from The New York Sun building prior to its maiden battle.

The flag of Narciso López was first adopted as Cuba's official flag by its first Constitutional Convention, held at Guáimaro, on April 11, 1869, and its status confirmed in all subsequent constitutions of the Republic-in-Arms and the Republic of Cuba. The Constitution of 1940, Cuba's last democratic constitution, states in Title I, Article 5: "La bandera de la República es la de Narciso López. La República no reconocerá ni consagrará con carácter nacional otra bandera" [The flag of the Republic is Narciso López's. The Republic shall neither recognize nor consecrate any other flag as its national emblem].

The Cuban flag is one of the most distinctive and recognizable in the world, owing nothing to any other but serving as the model for those of many other countries.

Next to Bonifacio Byrne's immortal vindication of our flag (which is indirectly referenced in the above Constitutional Article), Agustin Acosta's decima is the best known tribute to our national ensign, which did indeed "surge from the sky" since the fortuitous juxtaposition of white and red clouds on an azure sky inspired it. Thus the Cuban flag, justly called by Byrne the "most beautiful of all flags," was drawn by the finger of God before it was traced by the hand of man.

To the Cuban Flag

Beautiful, gallant, victorious
And beyond the tyrant's hand,
Thou art the banner most glorious
And the emblem of my land...

When thy colors float on high,
Eternal dream of Martí,
Such pride do I feel in me,
I would have heaven reply
Whether thou prolong the sky
Or the sky surges from thee!

A la bandera cubana

Gallarda, hermosa, triunfal,
tras de múltiples afrentas,
de la patria representas
el romántico ideal...

Cuando agitas tu cendal
-sueño eterno de Martí-
tal emoción siento en mi,
que indago al celeste velo
si en ti se prolonga el cielo
o el cielo surge de ti...!

By Agustín Acosta (1886-1979)
Cuban National Poet
Translated by Manuel A. Tellechea

May 19, 1895: Death of José Martí at Dos Ríos

There was no literary-political figure whom Martí admired more than Victor Hugo. Indeed, Hugo may have been the model for Martí's life, though the Cuban was to surpass him in becoming not only the inspiration but the architect of his country's redemption. As a student and political proscript in Europe, Martí met Hugo on a brief visit to France and was presented with a copy of his book Mes Fils (My Sons), a symbolic gesture if there ever was one (Martí reciprocated by translating the book). Like Martí, Hugo endured exile for 20 years because he would not accept the betrayal of the Republic and reimposition of a Bonapartist monarchy under Napoleon III, the emperor's nephew, whom Hugo dubbed "Napoléon le petit."

Unlike Martí, Hugo lived to see the fruits of his labors in a resurrected republic as well as to reap the tributes and honors that a grateful nation heaped on him. Perhaps it was Martí's hope, then, that his life might conclude like Hugo's with vindication and victory. But his fate was another, for just as Hugo had been the conscience of the world in life, Martí was destined to become the conscience of his people, of all Latin America, and, finally, of the world only after his martyrdom at Dos Ríos, Oriente province, on May 19, 1895.

We honor the anniversary of the passage into immortality of the "Universal Cuban" with the final stanzas of Victor Hugo's poem "Ultima Verba" (My Last Word), which can also be read as tribute to all who, like Hugo and Marti, refused to consort with or capitulate to a tyrant.

Ultima Verba (Ultima Palabra)

Acepto el duro exilio
aun siendo hasta la muerte
sin ponerme a pensar, si alguien
claudicó ante, quien creyó más fuerte
o si otros desertaron debiendo resistir.

Si sólo mil recogen tu negro desafío
Entre esos bravos nombres ,
también estará el mío.

Si estos se reducen
y sólo quedan cien,
para seguir luchando,
allí estaré también.

Si sólo diez se yerguen
para enfrentarse al mal,
proseguiré con ellos
luchando hasta el final.

Y si quiere el destino,
que todo lo forjó,
que sólo quede uno,
erguido y soberano:
¡Apréndelo tirano!
ese uno, soy yo.

Ultima Verba (My Last Word)

I accept this harsh exile unto the grave,
Without stopping to think or bothering to learn
Who deserted his post and should have stood firm,
Who gave up his country his own life to save.

If a thousand are left to meet that black challenge,
Among those brave names will also be mine;
And if to one hundred their number decline,
I will be with them all wrongs to avenge.

And if the hundred should dwindle to ten
Who are willing their country still to defend,
And would their lives give her misery to end,
I will be found among those ten men.

And should fate this honor to one man decree,
That he should alone remain to fulfill
His duty with faith and a sovereign will,
Know it now, tyrant, the last I will be.

By Victor Hugo (1802-1885)
Translated by Manuel A. Tellechea

The complete version of this poem, in both French and English translation, can be found at:

Henry Gómez Accuses Spaniards of "Exploding Cubans"

Henry Gómez declined to heed my advice about the unsuitability of the acronym for Bloggers United for Cuban Liberty (BUCL, pronounded "Buckle"), but perhaps he will be more amiable to a grammatical correction. The BUCL slogan, which now graces the wall of a bus stop shelter no more than ".66 miles [13 blocks!] from Spain's consulate" in Miami, is: "España: Explotando Cubanos Por Mas de 500 Años." Let's forget about the missing accent mark over the "a" in más. Since the slogan is in capital letters that "a" may be dispensed with. What cannot be dismissed, however, is the missing "a" between "explotando" and "cubanos." This "a" cannot be omitted in Spanish ever. Because it can be omitted in English doesn't mean that it can be omitted in Spanish. It can't. Because omitting the "a" changes the meaning from "exploiting" to "exploding." I won't try to explain to Henry the grammatical quiddities which make this so. Anyone who makes such a mistake has to learn or re-learn Spanish grammar from scratch. The greatest patriotic duty which a Cuban raised in this country or born to Cuban(s) parents here can perform is to learn Spanish correctly. Suffice it to say that Henry's whimsical phrase "explotando cubanos" literally means "blowing up Cubans." Unless Spaniards are actually putting dynamite under Cubans and blowing them up (not an inadmissible conjecture), the correct expression should be: "explotando a los cubanos." This actually means "exploiting Cubans," which is what Henry means to say.

I know that you think with your heart, Henry (except when it comes to an abused 4-year-old girl threatened with deportation to Castro's Cuba). But we must all observe the rules of grammar or risk making fools (or greater fools) of ourselves. Many Spaniards will read your poster and laugh, and that is not what I think you intended. More advice which is certain to be ignored.


In answer to a comment by El Caimán:

Except for their horrible acronym, Bloggers United for Cuban Liberty (BUCL, pronounced BUCKLE), is not a bad idea per se; it is their methods which fall short of their expectations. If you are going to do a campaign against Spain's shameless re-colonization of Cuba, the place to do it is in Spain, not here. It might be well to remember also that American colonialism handed Cuba over to Castro, not Spanish colonialism (which in 1898 handed Cuba over to the U.S.). Since we happen to reside in the U.S., it would be easier and more effective to do an informational campaign about America's role in Cuba's tragedy, which, of course, is that of principal player. But, as Henry once said, he is an American-Cuban, not a Cuban-American. His loyalties, which are not even divided, will never allow him to castigate [t]his country for Cuba's woes. So Spain is the next best thing. Of course, Spain also deserves to be castigated; it deserves to be castigated a great deal, and in the fullness of time perhaps it will be.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Liberals that Reviled Cuban Exiles for "Dancing on Castro's Grave" Do a Jig on Falwell's

Newsbuckit reports that liberals on the blogosphere are celebrating as if Rev. Jerry Falwell had died. Well, actually, he has died, and they are beside themselves with joy, or as Newsbuckit puts it, they are experiencing a "leftospheric engorgement." One gets the distinct impression that if they were given the choice of feeding all the world's hungry kids or indulging in their own feeding frenzy over Falwell's grave they would all turn into carrion. The same liberal hypocrites that vilified Cuban exiles for celebrating Castro's moribundity (hopefully soon to be consummated) are now unabashfully venting their ire at a man who never killed or imprisoned even one of them. I don't know what their brand of Christianity is but it sure gives Falwell's brand a good name.

Here are a few representative sentiments from Digg:

"Fuck Jerry Falwell, too bad he didn't die years earlier. Enjoy your time in hell, you racist, homophobic asshole. Hopefully somebody runs a train over your corpse."

"Morning [sic] the death of Jerry Falwell is like morning [sic] the death of Hitler."

"Screw you, Jerry, and the whole Christian Taliban community."

Imagine if anyone had dared to express such sentiments upon the death of John Paul II. Well, liberals hated him as much or more than Falwell, but they had to maintain some level of decorum or be considered fanatics, whereas with Falwell they are encouraged in every way by the liberal establishment to unbosom themselves of all the hate and vileness in them.

Falwell, unlike Pat Robertson, never gloated over anybody's death (not even the great public sinners like Castro or Chávez who should be dead) perhaps because death was closer to him than to most men.

Twenty years ago or more Falwell sent me his Autobiography. Why, I don't know, as I had never mentioned him in print. I tried to read it but couldn't get beyond the first page. It was not better or worse than any other ghostwritten affair. What put me off was the story of how Falwell's father had killed his own brother (Falwell's uncle). Or did the father kill Falwell's brother? In any case, those are stories one only reads in the Bible, and Falwell's life, in these externals certainly, was worthy of an Old Testament prophet.

Ironically, it was not in religion but in politics that Rev. Falwell left his greatest mark. If there had been no Jerry Falwell there would have been no Ronald Reagan. And, of course, if there had been no Reagan, the world would still be what it was in Jimmy Carter's time. It was Falwell more than anybody else who brought blue-collar church-going Americans to the Republican Party. The solid Republican South, something unthought of before Falwell came on the scene, was the miracle that this preacher performed. His enemies are right to hate him because he was the cloud that wouldn't lift from their parade or allow their rainbow to shine.

He was, of course, an enemy of Communism as any man of God must be if he has any hope of being one. And he hated Castro as intensely as we do and more commendably so because it was not a duty in him but a tribute to humanity.

His role in defeating Communism by marshalling the forces of Christianity in this country against it at the crucial moment was as significant in my opinion as Pope John Paul II's timely embrace of Solidarity. Without a strong and resolute America willing to confront Communism and support its renegade-states all the brave exertions of the Eastern Europeans would have been as productive as Hungary in 1956 or Czechoslovakia in 1968. Yes, Falwell has indeed done his country a service, and not just his country but mankind.

There was something else that I liked about Falwell. Unlike other Christian leaders of his day, he never praised "Che" Guevara or held hands with Castro. He might not be a future "saint," but Falwell knew between right and wrong, not just right and left.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Henry Gómez Comes to Posada's Defense (Sort Of)

Henry is moving in the right direction in the Posada case and he's moving Babalú along with him. Which is good. Late but good. Not entirely there yet but good — for now and for what it's worth, which is little. ["Who Flunked 8th Grade Civics?" May 15].

Henry wants Posada to be treated fairly and for justice to prevail in his case. That's the good part. Where we disagree is in his assertion that "The Judge's decision to let Posada walk on the immigration charges is in no way a reflection [on] the Bush administration." Oh, but it is, a very great reflection and a negative one. But more about that later. Let us tackle first Henry's assertion that "the judge let Posada walk." Did she, really? The expression he uses ("let him walk"), in common parlance, implies that the defendant may have been guilty (and probably was) but got off on some technicality born perhaps of the judge's unwarranted indulgence. Simply put, the implication is that a guilty man beat the system. How does this apply to Posada Carriles? Judge Cardone made clear that Posada's indictmernt was obtained through fraud and carried forth with malicious intent in an attempt to subvert the law. It is the Attorney General, the Director of the FBI and the President who walked away from their sworn oath to defend and support the Constitution. The Judge let them walk but not without prejudice (i.e. she rubbed it in their faces good). Judge Cardone made it quite clear in her 38-page decision, and not just between the lines, that the executive branch had acted in fragrant violation of the defendant's rights, had, indeed, concocted a case from whole cloth for the explicit purpose of subverting the law. How the hell doesn't this reflect negatively on the Bush administration? Or does Henry subscribe to the position of the Castro regime that the entire process was a ruse to protect Posada from more serious charges, concocted by the FBI and Justice Department under the coordination of the White House?

Why is it that even when Henry is defending Posada (sort of) he cannot resist the temptation to sneak in a snide remark at the expense of the old man? We have already parsed the "let him walk" remark, but there is one even worse which leaves us no doubt that Henry's trying to do something for which he has no stomach or heart: "What results [from Posada's release] is an undoubted uncomfortable situation for the Bush administration ..." As before Henry is more concerned about Bush's "comfort" than he is Posada's. In fact, Henry not only appears to prefer Bush's comfort over the triumph of Justice, he even appears willing to buy one at the price of the other. No need to say who would be the loser in such a bargain.

But no, Henry must appear at least fair even when he isn't. And so he allows — and what a concession it is! — that we shouldn't throw out the entire legal system to secure Posada's conviction. I guess that everything short of throwing out our whole legal system is O.K.

He ends his defense with an appeal to liberals to come to Posada's side, which is now the most ridiculous thing I ever read or anyone ever wrote. As if. Henry should have concentrated his efforts on convincing his fellow Cuban-American bloggers to come to Posada's defense, or, at the very least, convinced himself of Posada's innocence.


FLASH!!! Val Prieto has just quoted Humberto Fontova to the effect that the accusations against Posada Carriles are "slanders." Val has waited for the great Humberto Fontova to have his say and followed him, which is always a smart thing to do. Some day, hopefully, Val will develop his own instincts on Posada and find his own words to defend him. But better to be a follower in the right direction than take the wrong road by following his own lights.

Arthur M. Schlesinger: The Devil in Mr. Kennedy

Arthur M. Schlesinger died in early March of this year. A Memorial Service was held for him on April 24 at the Great Hall of New York's Cooper Union, which was attended by all the surviving liberal waxworks called "Frontiersmen" by the Boston Globe. I attempted to watch this Sunday at 3:00AM the broadcast of the Memorial Service on cable television but could get no further than Ted Sorenson's introductory remarks. I knew that no word of truth would be spoken or insinuated there and that whatever interest it contained was in being a hagiography of the world's greatest (and most shameless) hagiographer. In the end, the entertainment value of such an exercise was outweighed by the revulsion which Schlesinger and the other architects of Potemkin Camelot inspires in me.

For me, there is another more representative Schlesinger than the one celebrated at his Memorial Service: the Schlesinger who was the greatest maligner of the Cuban people, the inventor of the myth of pre-revolutionary Cuba as as an economically and socially backward country deserving of a Communist Revolution, and, most damning of all, the man who encouraged, and, indeed, campaigned for Kennedy's betrayal of the Cuban freedom fighters at the Bay of Pigs.

The mild-mannered professor was the "Devil in Mr. Kennedy" and it was a role he cherished as much as any (supposedly) heterosexual man could. Despite the great harm he did to his idol's reputation by his Machiavellian advice or, perhaps, because of it, Schlesinger remained Kennedy's lapdog for more than 50 years, in life as in death, and it is in this role that he is principally remembered by his countrymen if he is remembered at all.

Schlesinger cultivated the professorial image with leather patches on the elbows of his jackets and the omnipresent bow tie. Playing the part of a patrician came naturally to him because he had hobnobbed with them all his life though not belonging to their class. He was their Boswell without Boswell's genius for character-definition but with all his fawning and obsequiousness.

As I said, I remember another Schlesinger. This "esteemed historian and presidential advisor" wrote the infamous "White Paper" on Cuba of April 3, 1961. The so-called "White Paper" was issued two weeks before the Bay of Pigs invasion and may have convinced Kennedy that Cubans deserved nothing better than betrayal as they were the world's most barbaric, immoral and despicable people, fully deserving of whatever fate befell them. According to The New York Times (April 4, 1961): "President Kennedy devoted many hours to the pamphlet, personally going over it with Mr. Schlesinger."

Former U.S. ambassador to Cuba Spruille Braden characterized the "White Paper" on Cuba as "calumny, cheap demagoguery and a despicable act, unworthy of a responsible government and foreign office. The White Paper's direct and implied animadversions as to the poverty and bad economic conditions of Cuba, prior to the coming of Castro, are inaccurate and evidence the socialistic preferences of its drafter. This document begins by giving approval, i.e. encouraging what it calls the 'authentic and autonomous revolution of the Americas,' that is, to promote more fidelismo but without Fidel. For my part, I prefer to see the sound evolution of the Americas without the violence, abuse and waste inherent in all revolutions. Nor do I consider it wise or proper for my government to advocate 'authentic and autonomous revolutions' all over the American continents," concluded Spruille.

The author of this canard on Cuba was the man that Kennedy chose as his conduit to the Brigade 2506's political leaders before the invasion. While he lied to the Cubans about his own and Kennedy's support, Schlesinger literally poisoned the well for them. In a memorandum to Kennedy, dated April 5, 1961, Schlesinger advised the president to abandon the freedom fighters at the Bay of Pigs:

"On balance, I think that the risks of the operation slightly outweigh the risks of abandonment. These latter risks would be mitigated somewhat if we could manage a partial rather than a total abandonment (i.e., if we could put the men into Cuba quietly). We might also be able to make some diplomatic capital out of the abandonment. We might have Thompson say to Khrushchev, for example, that we have discouraged an invasion of Cuba; that this shows our genuine desire to compose differences; but that K. should tell his friend to behave, because our patience is not inexhaustible and we cannot hope to restrain the Cuban patriots indefinitely. Conceivably we might be able to turn abandonment to some diplomatic advantage within the hemisphere too."

There is always a civilian, cold and calculating, behind every great military defeat. The smart ones are able to cover their tracks, and forgetfulness, crime's best ally, conceals the tracks of the rest. But some, a very few, either do not care to conceal their actions or are unaware that history will not judge them in the same light as they themselves or their peers did. It is to this last group that Schlesinger belonged, as is affirmed by his indifference to the betrayal of the Cuban people, and, ultimately, his betrayal of his own country, his president and humanity.

It may seem crass of me to speak ill of the dead, but Schlesinger himself never had any difficulty doing so. On the 25th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs in 1986, he even published an article in The Wall Street Journal where he impugned the memory of the freedom fighters and blamed them for the defeat at the Bay of Pigs. Although I had published other articles there, the WSJ declined to publish my rejoinder (Schlesinger enjoyed the undeserved respect and protection of even conservatives, though he was himself never fair to anyone on the right). Instead, I published my reply in another New York newspaper and severed my connection with the WSJ's "Americas Page."

At the time I did not know that Schlesinger was the real architect of the Bay of Pigs "fiasco" — the "fiasco-maker," if you will (although as I re-read my article after 20 years I do seem to have intuited that fact). It was only after Kennedy's papers were released to the public that the full extent of Schlesinger's perfidy was known and I am the only one to date that seems to have picked up on it, confirming that forgetfulness indeed is a traitor's best friend.

[Here's a label for the photograph: Poindexter and the Prom King].

[I will be reproducing shortly that first refutation of Schlesinger as part of the continuing series From the Tellechea Archives].