Remember the Maine one more time



It was one of the first lessons of Cuban history that we learned in school.    The Maine blew up in Havana’s harbor on February 15, 1898.

This is from the front page of The NY Times the next day:

“At 9:45 o’clock this evening a terrible explosion took place on board the United States battleship Maine in Havana Harbor.
Many persons were killed or wounded. All the boats of the Spanish cruiser Alfonso XII. are assisting.
As yet the cause of the explosion is not apparent. The wounded sailors of the Maine are unable to explain it. It is believed that the battleship is totally destroyed.
The explosion shook the whole city. The windows were broken in nearly all the houses.
The correspondent of the Associated Press says he has conversed with several of the wounded sailors and understands from them that the explosion took place while they were asleep, so that they can give no particulars as to the cause.”

The Maine explosion led to the US-Spanish War and the eventual independence of Cuba in 1902.

In 1976, a US Navy investigation concluded that the Maine explosion was likely caused by a fire that ignited its ammunition stocks, not by a Spanish mine or act of sabotage.

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

President Lincoln and my late great Uncle Joaquin


As we get older, we associate certain moments of history with people we grew up with. For example, the Bay of Pigs and Cuban Missile Crisis remind me of my parents. Hearing of Minnie Minoso reminds me of my father and brother one Sunday afternoon in Cuba.

I am always reminded of my late great uncle on Lincoln anniversaries, from his date of birth to the Gettysburg Address to the day he was assassinated.

President Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809. I don’t believe he had a bigger fan on this planet than my late great uncle, who was a judge; a college professor; an attorney; and, I repeat, a big fan of President Lincoln.

I am sure he would have loved this post about Mr. Lincoln written by Scott Johnson:

Today is of course the anniversary of the birth of America’s greatest president, Abraham Lincoln.
As a politician and as president, Lincoln was a profound student of the Constitution and constitutional history.

Perhaps most important, Lincoln was America’s indispensable teacher of the moral ground of political freedom at the exact moment when the country was on the threshold of abandoning what he called its “ancient faith” that all men are created equal.

Yes, my great uncle would have loved President Lincoln referred to as “America’s indispensable teacher of the moral ground of political freedom.” Yes, he would have loved that!

To say the least, Abraham Lincoln had a huge impact on his life and specially his political ideas.

In fact, he was such a fan that my brother and I got to sit at his home study and hear him recite the Gettysburg Address.

We were too young back in Cuba to appreciate his message. It took me a while, and relocation to this wonderful country, to understand it and to love each and every word.

Years later, I always think of my great uncle on any day, or when I am exposed to any documentary or book, that reminds us of the 16th president of the U.S.

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

December 10: The Treaty of Paris 1898


We remember today The Treaty of Paris signed in 1898.    It concluded the short Spanish American War of the same year.

The Spanish empire was largely dissolved in the 19th century.   From Mexico to Argentina, most of the old colonies declared their independence from Spain.

Cuba remained a colony.   In fact, my paternal grandparents were born in the island during the colonial period or 1892.   It was really interesting a few years ago when my mother showed my “abuela’s” birth certificate.

The treaty followed years of fighting for Cuban independence, the Maine incident and the short war that made Teddy Roosevelt’s rough riders famous.

It all ended for Spain when Puerto Rico and Guam were ceded to the US.  Also, the Philippines were bought for $20 million, and Cuba became a US protectorate until independence in 1902.

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

The monster is dead


Two years, one month, and nine days after the day I was born, Fidel Castro Ruz, after the cowardly abdication of Fulgencio Batista, started on a tour that took him east to west to the Cuban capital of Havana. The adoring crowds in the towns and cities he passed welcomed him with open arms and with shouts of “Viva Fidel!” and “Fidel, this is your house!” Waving at these sickeningly adoring crowds, he knew he was weeks if not months away from becoming the new boss of Cuba — and he was definitely not the same as the old boss.

My family knew who Fidel really was: a charlatan, a liar, a criminal, a thug, a murderer, a seditionist, a traitor. Rivers of blood and waves of suffering would well up from our land. My great-grandmother, in her eighties, had a stroke after watching one of Fidel and Che Guevara’s revolutionary executions on television. Mercifully, she did not live past that evil overture of 1959 and 1960.

My family had started making plans to leave as far back as 1958. Fidel was almost certain to topple Batista and they knew that no good would come from this man. They knew he was a communist. It was not a secret, despite what anyone may tell you. Their thoughts were with us, the toddlers and youth, the innocents who were blissfully unaware of what had brought Cuba to its knees. They did not want us to suffer the pains of whatever lay ahead. Even knowing what they knew, I don’t think they could have predicted, on that first day of January in 1959, the depth of suffering Cuba would endure for almost six decades.

I’m very thankful for their decision.

Fidel Castro’s dark presence has haunted my entire life. Directly and indirectly, he has made me and so many others into what we are. We know the truth, the unvarnished truth. The truth we know from the tears of family members who lost everything, of friends who suffered imprisonment, of the executions of loved ones. Full of pain and suffering, longing and sadness. It never leaves us. We are exiles, after all, forced into it by him and his evil.

And it’s not just the pain of exile, it’s the slanders that we hear from the screeching left. We’re disaffected Batistianos, pissed off that the gravy train ended; we’re aching to repossess our property; we’re going to remake Cuba again into a Mafia prostíbulo; we’re “intransigent”; we’re “hard-liners.” we’re “right-wing wackos”; we’re not nuanced enough to understand the Cuban situation. Basically, we should just shut up and leave the real analysis to “Cuba experts” — who, of course, are not Cubans. It hurts even more when our own brothers and sisters, dragged into the pit of hate and envy Fidel created, join in on the verbal lynchings. Turning brother against brother is just another part of his legacy.

I regret there will be no Cuban Nuremberg.

Inexplicably, though, I’m also glad his demise as common as it was, having become feeble and decrepit, immobile, near the end, more than likely with a stomach tube feeding him and an artificial anus pumping his waste into a plastic bag. No heroics. No myth-making. No going out in a blaze of glory, like he so desperately dreamed of during the crisis days in October of 1962 when he urged Nikita Kruschev to press the nuclear button. Like so many other old men, he died in his bed, soiling himself, probably terrified about what was to come next. At the end of the game, as the old Spanish proverb goes, the king and the pawn go in the same box.

During the excruciating (for us, not him) nine-year long “recovery” from his illness he was certainly better treated than he treated others in his too-long, egomaniacal life. He was the first and only Fidelista, dedicated solely to himself, his needs, his ambitions, his desires, his goals, his wishes. Nothing else mattered. Not sons, not daughters, not family, not friends, not country. Nothing else mattered but him. His life was a testament to the basest qualities a human being can aspire to, devoid of goodness, and of God, without even the slightest hint of love.

What does this day mean to me?

My grandfather prayed for this day and he didn’t live to see it. My grandmother prayed for this day and she didn’t live to see it. Two great aunts (my grandfather’s sisters), two great aunts and two great uncles (my grandmother’s siblings), their wives and husbands, they all prayed for this day and never lived to see it. The offspring of some of these these did not live to see it. So many lives, three generations, in one family, ruined by this one man. They are dead, bereft of country, stripped of their identity as Cubans. Multiply that by hundreds of thousands of families and you’ll understand why today is the day of reckoning for all of them. A quiet one, perhaps, but a reckoning nevertheless. The malevolent man that drove them out of their country has finally perished — not absolved by history.

Forgive us if we revel a bit.

I pray that the light of God shines on that sad island and inspires its dejected people to awaken that spirit inside them that made Cuba a great nation among nations in the past. I pray that what was once a vibrant culture, full of life and music, amidst the simple joys of family and friends, can reestablish itself. I pray that we remember the true legacy of Fidel Castro so that this 56-year long nightmare can finally have an ending that will be good for the Cuban people.


Editor’s note: This obituary has gone through many, many revisions and edits. I have tweaked it more than anything else I’ve ever written. When I originally wrote it in late 2007 — yes, 2007! — it came out of me in one cathartic sitting.

Since then, unfortunately, I’ve had way too much time to reflect on what I originally penned. My original final paragraph began thus:

This is not the time to look backward, however. it’s time to look forward. The future of Cuba begins today. Today is day one of year one of the new era, the era that will be the beginning of a new Cuba, free, finally, from one of the most ignominious monsters of modern history.

Nine years later, with a US President that has gleefully conspired against the Cuban people, with Fidel’s rat-faced brother firmly in control, and with the prospect of the embargo being lifted, granting billions of dollars in credit to the communists that run the island like a mafia family, I feel very pessimistic and dejected about the future of the island of my birth.

For all intents and purposes, Cuba is as dead as Fidel…


Postscript: My only change to the text would be this: President-Elect Trump, with his leadership and a team and that understands Cuba, may yet change my somber and pessimistic assessment. I certainly hope so…

Happy May 20th to all of my Cuban friends



Back in 1902, Cuba became an independent country after 400 years as a Spanish colony (1492-1898) and the US occupation (1898-1902).

JM Sierra recalls the moment:

“May 20. Tomás Estrada Palma is sworn in as president, and the Cuban flag is finally allowed to fly over Havana.”

As one of those of us who grew up in the US, I always found May 20 as a great day to learn about Cuba.

My grandmother, who died in 1984, left Cuba and would share her stories often.    She was a young girl on May 20, 1902 and told me a lot about the day.   She remember flags all over and a great sense of optimism every where.

My parents also had their own stories, specially from their school activities.   I recall my mother telling me about the parade in Ciego de Avila.   Her family lived across Parque Marti.

My father had many tales of events in Sagua la Grande.     By the way, this is the first May 20th since my father died last December.   I miss chatting with him about this day.

I learned a lot of Cuba history hearing their memories of May 20.

May 20 is actually bittersweet for many of us.   We remember Independence Day 1902 but understand that Cuba is not free today.

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

We remember Carlos Manuel de Cespedes (1819-74)



Let’s take a moment and remember Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, a Cuban patriot from the 19th century.   This is from a summary written by Juan Perez:

Born on April 18, 1819, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes is considered by many Cubans to be the “Father of the Nation”.

Céspedes, who owned a plantation in eastern Cuba, began the 10 Years’ War when he freed his slaves and asked others to join his armed resistance against Spain. He wanted independence for Cuba, which he announced through the Grito de Yara (Cry of Yara).

Guerilla warfare was practiced by the Cuban troops, whose numbers soon grew. Céspedes became the general in chief. His forces captured the city of Bayamo and made it their capital.

When Spanish troops were sent to take the city, the outnumbered Cuban troops left and burnt it to the ground. Céspedes’ birthplace was one of a few buildings that did not burn.

As the war went on, Céspedes’ major goal was to attain American recognition of the new Cuban government, though it was to be an unrealized goal. Céspedes ran a constitutional convention, which decided upon a representative government for Cuba and proposed the abolition of slavery.

Céspedes was deposed by other revolutionaries in 1873. A year later, he was apprehended by the Spanish and executed.

Eventually Spain reached a settlement with the revolutionaries, but broke many of its promises.

Céspedes also published Cuba’s first independent newspaper, the Cubano Libre (The Free Cuban).

It’s important for young Cubans to hear about men like Cespedes.


And they play baseball on “Viernes Santo”?


Posted this over at American Thinker this morning……it is a recollection of that first year in the US and Wisconsin…….

Our first encounter with Easter in the U.S. was indeed a cultural shock. My parents did not understand the bit about going to the beach for Easter.

My favorite recollection of our first Easter was hearing my mother’s reaction to a major league game on TV. She looked at me and said: “They play baseball on Good Friday?”

Have a wonderful Easter however you celebrate the holiday. To be honest, Easter brings me a lot of memories of my parents and grandparents.

P.S. Here is the full article:   READ!

Memories of “Semana Santa” in Cuba

Do any of you remember “Semana Santa” in Cuba?

As I recall, it was a very solemn week, from Monday to Easter Sunday. I recall that Good Friday (“Viernes Santo”) was a very quiet day with lots of time for mediation and prayer.

Click here for the Friday show with Carmencita Romanach, President, Operation Pedro Pan Group, Inc. & Carmen Valdivia, Member of Board of Directors, & Historic Committee Chair:

Click to listen here:



1898: The Maine explodes in Havana

uss maine

We remember the Maine:

At 9.40pm on the night of February 15th, 1898 the United States battleship Maine, riding quietly at anchor in Havana harbour, was suddenly blown up, apparently by a mine, in an explosion which tore her bottom out and sank her, killing 260 officers and men on board.

In the morning only twisted parts of the huge warship’s superstructure could be seen protruding above the water, while small boats moved about examining the damage.

The Maine was showing the US flag in Cuba.   At the time time, the Spanish regime was resisting an armed uprising by Cuban patriots.

The consequence of the explosion was the brief Spanish-American War of 1898.    Eventually, Cuba became an independent country in 1902.

P.S. In 1976, an investigation concluded that it was a fire rather than a Spanish mine or act of sabotage.