“Lot and his family leaving Sodom” by Peter Paul Rubens, oil on panel, 1625. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
On Saturday 24 November this year, the Arizona State Sun Devils beat the University of Arizona Wildcats in the Territorial Cup football game by a score of 41-40. ASU rallied after trailing 40-24 in the 4th quarter to win the game. No Pity for the Kitty indeed!
We learn from the American myth of “Bargains with the Devil” that ill-gained riches have calamitous consequences. When Fortune turns on those who play this demonic game, let the evil they have brought upon themselves play itself out. Sodom and Gomorrah incurred the righteous wrath of God; yet angels warned us not to interfere with their destruction and commanded not to look behind us on peril of disaster. At night, the Exterminating Angel smote the firstborn of the Egyptians; still we marked our doors with blood and did not go out of our houses until the morning of that terrible night. (more…)
The Exterminating Angel, also known as Guardian Angel, is a sculpture by Josep Llimona dated in 1895. Built on the ruins of an ancient cemetery which in turn was built on the remains of an old church of the fifteenth century. The Exterminating Angel is the “Angel of the bottomless pit” who reign over locusts that devastate humanity “not marked on the forehead with the seal of God” (Revelation 9:11). (Credit: Andrés Suárez García)
My mother was a gifted psychic who never believed her talent was a big deal. She scoffed at poseurs and charlatans, was highly suspicious of the use of spirituality for profit, and reserved a deep respect for Catholic nuns and Catholic schooling. Never a churchgoing person, she had a profound faith in the power of her plaster image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (a gift from my father to her before their wedding), and an unswerving belief in the principle of Poetic Justice in the world. She never called it karma, but she maintained, to the end of her life, that eventually we all get our just deserts.
I have been thinking a great deal about my mother during this crisis of abduction and hostage taking of immigrant children by the US government. I remember distinctly the day at the Havana airport when we left Cuba in 1961. At the enclosed glass-area that led to the Pan American airplane, my mother and my aunt were taken away by female guards to be body-searched (Castro militias were looking for unauthorized money or jewels leaving the country). To this day, I remember the fear that engulfed me as I was left by myself with my young sister (I was 7, she was 6) in the departure area. (more…)
Circus poster showing battle between Buffalo Bill’s congress of rough riders and Cuban insurgents. (Library of Congress)
Sic semper tyrannis! I will not celebrate the death of Fidel Castro. Dictators abound in the world; their deaths should be met with a silent shrug. What joy is there in the tragedy of a people still shattered, a country lost in childhood, and another failure in the centuries-old struggle of Cubans for liberty and equality? Let those who will dance on graves wave flags, honk horns and jump in the streets as a rite of passage.
Rather than spit on a corpse, I choose to recall memories of another Old Man—what he did, and what he meant to us. (more…)
USS Maine in Havana harbor, shortly before explosion, 1898. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Conversely, Ted Cruz is the kind of Cuban North Americans dislike—once they come to know him. Chris Matthews of MSNBC’s Hardball is fond of comparing Cruz to Joseph McCarthy; the more illuminating comparison is with Fidel Castro, whom Cruz eerily resembles.
Both Castro and Cruz were the children of native mothers and foreign immigrants (Castro’s father was a Spanish immigrant to Cuba). They both grew up in rebellious, secessionist minded provinces of their countries (Castro in Oriente, Cruz in Texas). Like Cruz, Castro attended the best schools (Belén and the University of Havana in Cuba). They both became brilliant young lawyers who displayed zealotry in the pursuit of their ends and a penchant for the use of gangster tactics in their politics. (more…)
Official logo of the videogame “Scarface: The World is Yours,” distributed by Vivendi Universal Games. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
In the summer of 1980, in spite of race riots in Miami and the failed military mission to rescue the American hostages in Iran, the U.S. unleashed a vast and welcoming generosity upon the Mariel Cuban refugees.
Military planes carrying ambulances, trucks, tents, field kitchens, portable showers, mobile hospitals and tons of supplies were dispatched to refugee centers established in Florida and elsewhere across the nation. Refugees with families in the U.S. who could act as sponsors were quickly processed and released by immigration authorities. Those who confessed to crimes or prison histories in Cuba were sent to Federal Penitentiaries. Refugees who did not admit to felonies (confession was the only means of determining culpability), or who acknowledged crimes not considered serious in the U.S. (such as the crime of “killing a cow without government permission”), were held indefinitely in the camps.
By 15 May 1980, over 46,000 Cuban refugees had landed in the U.S., a number that would swell to 125,000 by the end of that summer. 2,000 of them were violent criminals; 22,000 were “non-felonious criminals and political prisoners.”(more…)
Graffiti art of Tony Montana. (Credit: redleaf / Wikimedia Commons)
By 1980 (35 years ago this summer), it was believed that all enemies of the Cuban Revolution were either dead, exiled or in jail.
On 1 April 1980, a public bus driver crashed a bus with all its passengers into the gates of the Peruvian embassy in Havana. A Cuban soldier on duty in front of the embassy was killed. The bus driver and passengers asked for political asylum. When the Cuban government requested the return of the asylum-seekers, the Peruvian ambassador refused to hand them over. Castro withdrew his armed protection from around the embassy building.
In less than a week, compelled by an unobstructed passage into the grounds of a foreign embassy, 10,000 Cubans flooded the Peruvian legation asking for political asylum. (more…)
Douglas DC-6B, N6522C, Pan American World Airways (PA / PAA), August 1964. (Credit: Ralf Manteufel / Wikimedia Commons)
Here is the story I promised in my last post. This is the way I wrote it in my unpublished book about Cuba, The Gospel of Scarface:
On 1 January 1961, exactly two years after the triumph of the Revolution, a lone Cuban refugee arrived at the Miami airport with one suitcase full of carefully bought new clothes and $5 in his pockets. He also carried with him the written address of relatives of a friend who were willing to put him up for his first few days in a new country. Wishing to save his money, he began to walk on the modern American highway leading out of the airport.
A police car stopped him. “You cannot walk on the freeway here.”
“I don’t have money for a taxi,” he replied in his broken English learned in night classes.
The policeman called a taxi cab. Did he have enough money to go where he wanted to go?
“$5 will be enough,” said the cabdriver.
When the cabdriver left him the fare had added up to $4.35.
When my father tells this story of his arrival to the U.S. he throws his hands up in the air in amazement and wonders, without self-pity, at the impossible situation that he faced starting a new life in a new country without friends, without a job, and with only 65 cents. But always the story resonates with a clear, silent message which is the reason why he tells it, an irreducible moral made all the more powerful by the fact that it is left unspoken: if ever you find yourself with only 65 cents, put your money in your pocket, keep on walking, and remember that you are a free man.
El Morro lighthouse is located inside the fortress known as the Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro. This was built in 1845 and consists of an octagonal dome metal with specially designed to guide ships and aircraft crystals. Located approximately 45 meters above sea level, its light has a range of 18 nautical miles with two light flashes every 15 seconds , helping to avoid accidents as consequences of bad weather or poor visibility. El Faro, next to the Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro, has become the symbol of Havana capital of all Cubans. (Credit: CO8MRF / Wikimedia Commons)
Brief Fragments of a Personal Cuban History
The flight of Fulgencio Batista from Cuba (“to avoid more bloodshed”) during the early hours of January 1, 1959, marked the triumph of the Cuban Revolution.
The most comprehensive and best written history of Cuba in English is Hugh Thomas’ Cuba: The Pursuit of Freedom (New York: Harper and Row, 1971). Here is Thomas’ assessment of Cuba before the Castro Revolution:
Cuba’s social misery in the past was due to an extreme form of that public meanness and private affluence that characterizes North America as well as South. (p. 1487)
Soon after Fidel Castro’s assumption of power, U.S. politicians condemned the new regime’s public executions of torturers, policemen, civil servants and suspected criminals as a “bloodbath.” Typically, Castro pointed out U.S. hypocrisy: