For a natural-born Cuban like me, the sight of two Cubans—more precisely, two descendants of Cuban immigrants who came to the US during the Batista (this is significant), not the Castro era—running for the Republican presidential nomination is a spectacle of horrific proportions.
Cubans were ubiquitous in US history during the 20th century. They were leading participants in significant events such as the Spanish-American War, the Bay of Pigs invasion, the October Missile Crisis, the Watergate break-in, the Mariel boatlift and the Bush-Gore election in Florida. They have re-appeared (like birds of evil omen) at critical moments for the US almost as often as the New York Yankees have played in the World Series.
Now, if you please, two US Senators of Cuban heritage are running for president of this great country. Like the Washington Senators baseball fan in the Broadway musical Damn Yankees, I begin to yearn for a Devil who will buy my soul in exchange for the prevention of such a future eventuality.
Cubans have many natural gifts; the Cuban migration to Florida has turned the sleepy, backwater city of Miami into one of the great commercial and artistic centers of the Caribbean. But an aptitude for the practice of democracy has never been part of the Cuban skill-set. We have never been devoted to the observances of the goddess Democracy.
Two relevant, vivid memories come to mind: 1) the articulated credo of one my father’s business associates: “Wherever there are Cuban politicians, there is theft”; 2) my mother’s firm conviction (the reason she never exercised her right to vote as a US citizen): “ALL politics are crooked.”
Archetypes repeat themselves in different times and places. Generations pass away and other generations arrive, but the mythic substratum of a culture abides forever as long as its foundational myths persist.
Marco Rubio closely approximates the North American idea of what a Cuban should look like. He has an uncanny resemblance to Desi Arnaz (of I Love Lucy fame), which Rubio—I am convinced—exploits for his own purposes. He follows in the steps of Ronald Reagan, who silently emulated the swagger of John Wayne and mouthed lines from Clint Eastwood movies (“Go ahead, make my day!”).
Rubio is a showman like Arnaz, but his politics are as derivative of others as Arnaz’s music was. Unlike Arnaz, whose genius for the medium of TV created the Desilu empire together with Lucille Ball, Rubio is a simulacrum, a faint echo of Cuban politicians from the days of Grau San Martín and Prío Socarrás (Cuban presidents before Batista). “Cuban Pete” (the title of one of Desi Arnaz’s hit songs) is eager to please his donors, friendly to US corporations, and ready to do what he is told.
(to be continued)