Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Déjà Vu

It was just about a year ago that the Bolivarian Youth was attacked in Little Havana in a counter-demonstration against the release of Luis Posada Carriles. Now, another group (Code Pink) opposed to the release of Luis Posada Carriles gets chased away in the streets of Little Havana.

So what have we learned?

The events of past Saturday only reaffirm the fact that some Cuban exiles depend on Luis Posada Carriles (the imagined and remembered hero) as an important component of their (personal) exile identity, ready to be defended at whatever costs (against any perceived threat), especially since he represents personal and community integrity to some in exile. Code Pink, in this case, was seen by some exiles as a direct personal threat to their self-identity (regardless of what Luis Posada Carriles personally thinks of Code Pink), and also seen as a threat to a protective unified Cuban community that supposedly supports Posada.

Reading the posts on the Babalu blog was also enlightening because it confirmed some of my thoughts about hard-line exiles. Both Val Prieto and Henry Gomez (co-editors of the Babalu blog), after Saturday's demonstration, were most concerned about "the Cuban-American community once again look[ing] like intransigent extremists in the eyes of the [mainstream media]" and their "painting Cuban-Americans as intolerant." But, Prieto and Gomez felt no need to separate themselves in any way from those who did act as "intolerant" or "extremists." To say so would mean that there are differences or divisions in the unified exiled community. Instead, both Prieto and Gomez (and others) APPROVED of the actions that would be perceived (by any neutral person) as "intolerant" or "extremist" by saying:

Gomez: "As far as those old men go, in my mind they've earned the right to tell those [Code Pink] bitches exactly what they did and more. Don't come into the lions den with a stick, you might just walk out with it impaled in an an orifice."

Prieto: "Those treasonous Code Pinkos got what exactly they deserved... Those Cuban-Americans that took Code Pink to task the other day displayed good, old fashioned, American backbone. There will be no quarter for traitors and haters. Period. End of fucking story."

These overt comments of approval for hostility certainly mark the hard-liner who must rid any threat that may reveal gaps in the "monolithic" Cuba exile community that is militant, victim of and defender against communism, victim of US betrayal, and shares ONE memory of a "lost" Cuba. Any, misinterpretation of that kind of exile is a perceived attack, and intolerable.

We all should understand that identity (individual or collective) is crucial to our well-being, but we should also understand that it is mutable. One can accept a hostile or militant exile identity and also refuse it. But, in Miami, as long as very influential people support militancy (or violence) without any other alternative, acquiesce to such hostility, or just look the other way, there is little hope that the hard-line Cuban exile will change. And that only portends further rifts within the greater Miami community (and with general American attitudes) that will make future efforts of reconciliation a greater task.

The case of Luis Posada Carriles is one issue (of many) that needs to be debated and discussed urgently (within Miami and the US) with the hope to reach some common ground, and avoid other spectacles like past Saturday's. Unfortunately, there's lots of work to do, but I think it is possible.

The local news reports that followed Saturday's demonstration reveals some differences that exist when it comes to reporting about the Cuban exile community. Pointing out theses differences allows us to address specific issues.

[Covering Code Pink...]

[Photo above by Danny Hamontree]

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