Smokey looking for Miracles in Cuba?



In the interests of full disclosure, Smokey Robinson is a very talented performer and songwriter. However, he’s a bit naive thinking that music will change Cuba.

Smokey is down in Cuba with other musicians.   It’s part of the latest effort to promote cultural contacts:

The three artists were among a dozen who joined a presidential delegation led by the directors of the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Smithsonian Institution that wrapped up a three day-mission to Cuba on Thursday morning. The purpose was to expand cultural exchanges with Cuba — the latest sign of warming relations in the wake of the countries’ decision to restore full diplomatic ties last year. The U.S. and Cuban cultural leaders announced the delegation’s achievements at a closing forum in the beautifully restored Grand Theater.

The officials’ delicately worded, and bilaterally edited, bureaucratese did not quite match the giddy passion of the artists, but it seemed that some progress had been made, even as the Cubans’ ire at the U.S. trade embargo hovered over the proceedings.

Like others before, Smokey does not understand that the problem in Cuba is Castro not exposure to US music.   In fact, most Cubans are already familiar with Smokey and can hear his music via Radio Marti or an AM station out of Miami.

The real problem in Cuba is a lack of freedom not music.

How did Smokey’s trip promote freedom in Cuba?

It didn’t and that’s the problem!

In fact, Smokey’s music sales in Cuba will enrich the Castro regime.   Castro Inc will share the profits with Smokey and the Cuban people won’t get anything out of this.

Let me paraphrase one of Smokey’s songs (“You really got a hold on me”) and remind everyone that the Castro regime’s really got a hold on the democratic aspirations of the Cuban people.

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

“The struggle begins”: A book about Cubans in the US

Guest: Victor Andres Triay, author of “The struggle begins”.  This is a Cuban story circa 1960-62.




“No ayudes a la dictadura”: A word to all of those spending their vacation dollars in Cuba!

We’ve read often in this blog about repression, torture and complete violations of human rights in Cuba.

I have a message for those who travel to Cuba and subsidize the corrupt Castro regime:  You are not helping the Cuban people!  You are subsidizing a corrupt dictatorship sustained by your dollars!

I wrote about this at American Thinker this morning:

“Elsa Morejon is Dr Biscet’s wife and a human rights activist.

It was great to see her article in The Washington Post:

“A few weeks ago, President Obama invited my husband, Oscar Elías Biscet, and me to a dinner to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Many thought that in light of Obama’s efforts to improve relations between the United States and Cuba, Gen. Raúl Castro, Cuba’s president, would approve a passport for Oscar so that he could attend. Such was not the case.

Oscar is a physician, but he is not allowed to practice medicine. Amnesty International has named him a prisoner of conscience for his years in jail for defending human rights. He is a follower of the philosophy of Gandhi and King.

In 2007, President George W. Bush awarded Oscar the Medal of Freedom. But he could not receive the award in person because he was in prison, where he had been sentenced to a term of 25 years.

Oscar was released in 2011, but in many ways he’s still a prisoner because he can’t leave the island.”

Elsa speaks for so many and it was good to see a major US newspaper give her the space to tell the world the truth about Cuba.

Remember Dr Biscet the next time that you hear of all of those “bargains” about traveling to Cuba!

Show your support for Dr Biscet and other dissidents by taking “your vacation dollars” elsewhere!

Help us bring down Castro.  Stop spending money in Cuba!

Elitist, Happy Cuba Traveler “Shocked” at All The Backlash



Jessica Chasmar @ The Washington Times

Pop icon Beyonce called the amount of criticism she and husband Jay-Z faced for their vacation in Cuba “shocking” in an interview that aired Monday.

“You know, it was such a beautiful trip. I met some incredible children. I visited some incredible entrepreneurs. I learned so much about so many people and the country and [all of the criticism] was actually quite shocking,” the singer said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

The music power couple celebrated their fifth anniversary in Havana last month, drawing the ire of several politicians. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and Debbie Wasserman Schultz have all questioned why — and how — the couple was able to visit the communist country.

I guess Mr. and Mrs. Z only managed to visit the paradise part of Cuba. Truth be told, this pampered princess of the Obama White House could have made a big impact on publicizing the plight of the real Cuban people who suffer everyday under apartheid, and most especially the brave mission of the government abused Ladies in White. But she and her husband instead chose the easy propaganda path so many other American celebrities stroll on while in Cuba.

As Mr. T was known to say, “I pity the fool”.

The Rap Credibility Gap

Greg Gutfeld sat in for Bill O’Reilly last night on FOX. He had a segment about Jay-Z’s Cuba trip and the rap song that followed. One of his guests was black California college professor Mark Sawyer who says he lived for a year in Cuba and he pretty much assumes himself one of those “Cuba experts” because he wrote a book. He called Marco Rubio an “idiot” more than once, saying Rubio doesn’t know anything about Cuba, and even went so far as to claim Che was somehow not anti-black but was a champion of blacks, basically saying everyone’s views on castro and Cuba are bullshit, except his of course. The other guest was James Hirsen who kept bringing up the imprisoned Cuban rappers and the reality of the Cuban people. I’m sure if the professor did live (and study) for a year in Cuba it wasn’t with the typical Cuban people under their daily oppressed circumstances. For years the Babalu writers have documented and debunked the outlandish fallacies of the wonderful castro Cuba this professor listed in his arrogant diatribe.

What’s even more curious are the comments under this video at Youtube. It’s quite clear, given the vitriol aimed at anyone calling out Jay-Z and Beyonce on this Cuba trip, that the same vile, willfully uninformed, ignorant, cheap-emotionally-led mob that is Obama’s base is now swarming to Jay-Z’s (Obama’s pal) defense … and NOT with anything of logical worth, but with personal attacks and insults on anyone questioning the propaganda tourist. The atmosphere in this country is becoming thick with the fog of ignorance and mental laziness.



“We’re going to do for blacks exactly what blacks did for the revolution. By which I mean: nothing.” -Che Guevera

New Cuba Sage: “I done turned Havana into Atlanta”


Last week it was the tale of two black women in Cuba. This week it’s the tale of two rappers.

Well, that was fast, huh? You wrote a real good rap song, real good rap song, Jay-Z.

It’s all about his trip to Cuba and his transforming and enlightening experiences there. Must’ve wrote it on the flight back to the USA. I guess Jay-Z got some eye-opening educating in that whole “Cuba education exchange” trip he and his wife made last week. And now he’s a big Cuba expert educating the rest of us on the truth. Some real prolific observations down in those lyrics

Rapper Jay-Z released a new track Thursday in which he boasts about his recent trip to Cuba with superstar Beyoncé and says that President Barack Obama told him he’d get him “impeached.”

“I done turned Havana into Atlanta,” Jay-Z raps in “Open Letter,” which he released Thursday. “[…] Boy from the hood, I got White House clearance… Politicians never did s—- for me except lie to me, distort history… They wanna give me jail time and a fine. Fine, let me commit a real crime.”

He later raps: “Hear the freedom in my speech… Obama said, ‘Chill you gonna get me impeached. You don’t need this s—- anyway, chill with me on the beach.’”

“I’m in Cuba, I love Cubans. This communist talk is so confusing,” Jay-Z raps on the track, which is produced by Timbaland and Swizz Beatz and goes on to reference the Bob Dylan song “Idiot Wind.” “[…] ‘Idiot Wind,’ the Bob Dylan of rap music. You’re an idiot, baby, you should’ve become a student. Oh, you gonna learn today.”

I guess Jay-Z is feeling some political dissident pressure after the trip … or something.

It’s just too damn bad Cuban dissident rapper Angel Yunier Remon Arzuaga had to misbehave and diss the castro government in his lyrics or he could be listening to the new fantastic release Jay-Z will be making lots of money off of. Ain’t no radio or internet in castro’s prisons, Angel. Hell, brother, ya coulda been chillin’ on the beach with Jay-Z. But no-o-o-o-o…

The ‘Fully Licensed’ Propagandists for Castro

When asked yesterday in the daily White House briefing about the controversial Jay-Z and Beyonce anniversary vacation to Cuba Obama’s Press Sec. Jay Carney deflected responsibility to the Treasury Department

The Treasury Department “fully licensed” Beyonce and Jay Z’s trip to Cuba, according to Reuters.

“American pop star Beyonce and rapper husband Jay Z visited Havana last week on a cultural trip that was fully licensed by the United States Treasury Department, according to a source familiar with the trip,” Reuters reports.

“Beyonce and Jay Z celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary in the Cuban capital, where big crowds greeted them as they strolled hand in hand through the city and posed for pictures with admiring Cubans.

“The longstanding U.S. trade embargo against Cuba prevents most Americans from traveling to the island without a license granted by the U.S. government, though President Barack Obama’s administration has eased restrictions on travel to Cuba for academic, religious or cultural programs.”

The Treasury Department is led by Secretary Jack Lew, President Obama’s former chief of staff. […]

Supposedly this trip was viewed as a “cultural exchange”. The couple sure looked like your typical tourists to me. And let’s be honest …


How much real 21st century Cuban culture was exchanged with Obama’s buddies?


The safety valve, redux

Of course, we can count on the Cuban government to keep its promises just as they’ve done for the last 53 plus years:

The Cuban government announced Tuesday that it will no longer require islanders to apply for an exit visa, eliminating a much-loathed bureaucratic procedure that has been a major impediment for many seeking to travel overseas.

A notice published in Communist Party newspaper Granma said Cubans will also no longer have to present a letter of invitation to travel abroad when the rule change takes effect Jan. 13, and beginning on that date islanders will only have to show their passport and a visa from the country they are traveling to.

“As part of the work under way to update the current migratory policy and adjust it to the conditions of the present and the foreseeable future, the Cuban government, in exercise of its sovereignty, has decided to eliminate the procedure of the exit visa for travel to the exterior,” the notice read. […]

The Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra visits Cuba, gets scammed

When President Obama eased the travel restrictions to Cuba, his statement included the following, “…These measures will increase people-to-people contact; support civil society in Cuba; enhance the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people; and help promote their independence from Cuban authorities.” According to the White House Blog,  President Obama believes those changes, along with the continuation of the embargo,  “are important steps in reaching the widely shared goal of a Cuba that respects the basic rights of all its citizens.” 

Sounds good from the teleprompter,  but the reality on the ground is very different.   The U.S. Dept of State informs potential visitors to the island  that interactions between Cubans and foreigners are carefully monitored physically and electronically .  What that means for Cubans is that they are under surveillance. and not free to interact with foreigners,  not free to hear statements about democracy, human rights, or anything the Castro regime arbitrarily decides is against the revolution. This is especially true of contacts with U.S. citizens. By engaging Americans, Cubans risk imprisonment or worse under Cuba’s draconian Law 88

Recently, the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra traveled to Cuba for a series of concerts under the allowed practice of so-called “cultural exchange.”  Timpanist Elizabeth Bloom shares the experience at Harvard Magazine.  

In Cuba With the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra
by Elizabeth C. Bloom

I suppose we didn’t really know what to expect. At least, I didn’t. All I knew was, I was a bit nervous. It was 3:58 in the morning on May 27, and I, along with 85 of my closest friends from the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra (HRO), was on a bus to Logan International Airport. HRO had received a license from the U.S. government to embark on a one-week, three-concert tour of Cuba, making us the first American orchestra to travel there since 1959. While I might not have known what to expect of Cuba, our expectations for the tour and of ourselves were rightfully high.

We flew from Boston to Miami, and from Miami to tiny Jaime González Airport in the coastal city of Cienfuegos. It was surreal to be standing in the land of forbidden C’s: Communism, Castros, and Cuban cigars. On the bus ride to Hotel Jagua, I tried to absorb it all as our tour guide, Jorge (all Cuban names have been changed), explained to us how the dual currencies worked, and why we shouldn’t buy cigars on the street. “They’re not real,” he told us.

We had come here to play music. But why Cuba? The United States had abandoned all formal diplomatic ties with the country. In any case, orchestra tours often occur in countries like Germany or Italy, places with strong traditions of classical music, places that make sense. If orchestras do tour Latin America, they usually make a stop in Venezuela, with its famous state-wide youth orchestra program. In Cuba, however, you’re more likely to find claves than classical music; you’re also more likely to find just about anything other than a group of 80 Americans. But that was the point. Cuba might not be known for its Mozart, but it is known for its music. Maybe music, no matter the genre, could be the diplomat that the two countries had lacked since 1959.

The Teatro Tomás Terry in Cienfuegos, where our first concert took place, is beautiful; like most buildings in Cuba, it isn’t particularly big, or exactly new (a Cuban-American friend once told me that going to Cuba “is the only way to time travel”). But the high ceilings, opera-house-like boxes, and intricately decorated wood made it a unique venue. There we met the two professional Cuban percussionists we had recruited to help us with our encore piece, Cuban Overture, by George Gershwin (or, as they called it, “el Hare-SHWEEN”). Roberto would be playing the bongos, Carlota, the timpani, and I, the guiro (a notched gourd that is played by rubbing a wooden stick along the side). We introduced ourselves in Spanglish as we hurriedly set up for rehearsal. (“Hablo un poco de español,” I told them. I took it for six years before college.)

I was interested to notice that Carlota had arranged the timpani in the German style, with the highest drum on the left side. When I told her that there wouldn’t be much time to change the order of the drums after I finished playing timpani on Dvorak’s Ninth Symphony, From The New World, she graciously accommodated my request to rearrange them from low to high, as I was used to. Later, when we rehearsed the fourth movement of the Dvorak, I was surprised to hear Carlota whistling along.

Roberto, Carlota, and I decided to get dinner before the concert began. We were joined by their music director, Tomasina, and the arts administrator coordinating the concert, José. He ordered us ham sandwiches, with potato chips and drinks to tide us over.

It was a wonderful meal. It wasn’t so much the food—Cuban ham sandwiches are about as exciting as American ham sandwiches, and in any case, Cuban restaurants aren’t exactly Jean Georges. But I so enjoyed my conversation with my fellow musicians. They spoke in slow Spanish to accommodate my rustiness. In Cuba, they told me, students who want to become musicians go to music schools in their early teens. Few go to university to continue studying afterward. Carlota was taking university courses part-time, but she and Roberto, both in their early twenties, were quite young to be professional orchestral musicians by American standards. They played Cuban music in their orchestra, Tomasina explained to me, but also much of the “traditional” orchestral literature. Now, Carlota’s whistling of the Dvorak made sense. Both she and Roberto supplemented their incomes—about $15 a month—with gigs playing drums in more traditional Cuban bands.

This became evident when, after a discussion of our astrological signs, a band happened to enter the restaurant, and José pretended it was my birthday so the band members would sing to me. They offered Carlota and Roberto a pair of claves, which they happily took, easily settling into a salsa rhythm. All four of my dinner companions joined in singing for my “birthday,” and the band stuck around for several numbers before our food came. I paid for the meal, which was in the tourists’ currency. It cost $22 for the five of us.

I didn’t know how many Cubans would come to a classical music concert in Cienfuegos. I was pleasantly surprised—the un-air-conditioned concert hall was full of local residents beating paper fans. We performed Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, featuring Damon Meng ’13, the Dvorak, and the Hare-SHWEEN. Our performance went well—despite the, er, evidence of bats that appeared on the timpani during the fourth movement of the Dvorak, a relic of the stage’s high ceiling and outdated construction. The audience graciously put down their fans to give us a standing ovation. Their applause ended in unison, in what one friend later said is called the “Communist clap.” Afterward, the entire orchestra celebrated with a reception full of salsa dancing and Cuba libres. Carlota and Roberto tried to teach me how to salsa, to little avail. They were excellent teachers; I was a poor student.

Our next concert, at the Teatro La Caridad in Santa Clara, was a collaboration with Carlota, Roberto, and Tomasina’s Orquesta Sinfónica de Santa Clara, which I was eager to hear. I was not disappointed. The small orchestra had many young players, around the same age as those in HRO. They opened the performance by playing what Americans might consider typical classical music, but I was most interested in their Cuban pieces, which featured more percussion than the standard European work. Carlota played an incredible solo on the bongos, and Tomasina called her to the front of the stage at the end of the performance. The audience, once again filling the hall, wasn’t jaded by the music either; they even applauded during some of the orchestra’s pieces. In the United States, it is taboo to clap in the pauses between the movements of a piece, much less while the orchestra is playing. (In my experience, those pauses seem to exist to allow audience members to cough up the hairballs that have apparently accumulated in their throats during the previous movement.) HRO’s performance after the intermission wasn’t too shabby, either, and it was fun once again to collaborate with Carlota and Roberto on the Cuban Overture.

Cienfuegos and Santa Clara were wonderful, but I was most excited to visit Havana. It is the center of all things Cuban—the best jazz and salsa venues, the most classic-looking cars, the most luxurious ambassadors’ mansions, the most famous of cigars. Thus, it was only fitting that Havana was where our most significant musical endeavor would take place: a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, one of the workhorses of the symphonic literature. We collaborated with the Coro Nacional de Cuba, the Coro de Ópera de la Calle, and soloists from the Instituto Superior de Arte for a concert at the Gran Teatro de La Habana.

American classical music is plagued by a lack of racial diversity. The Cuban choruses, however, seemed to reflect accurately the racial make-up of their country, with singers who were black, white, brown, and everything in between. It was refreshing to see that classical music didn’t predict the racial composition of the musicians as much as it did in our country. One of my friends on the trip wondered if there is less racism in Cuba, because communism places everyone on more or less equal economic ground. It is a bold claim: is economic equality a necessary prerequisite for full racial equality? In the United States, the socioeconomic status and racial background of one’s parents still, to a devastating extent, predict one’s future economic outcomes. I wondered whether Cuba—if it ever adopted a capitalist economy, in which everyone started at the same wage level of $10 or $20 a month—would be a perfect meritocracy.

As a timpanist, I always love playing with choruses. I’m right in front of the action. The Cuban choirs were no exception; their singing of Beethoven’s famous “Ode to Joy” gave me chills. We were musicians most comfortable in English and Spanish, yet here we were, playing music sung in German, which I suppose became the best way we knew how to communicate. It was, in a word, awesome. (That is the technical, musical term.)

HRO members have pointed out the significance of Beethoven 9, played in a country normally forbidden to us. It is a piece about brotherhood, and performing this symphony with Cuban singers in Havana was a tribute to this theme and a significant moment in the history of the piece.

But Beethoven’s Ninth is also a piece about joy. And joyful we were.

Elizabeth Bloom ’12 of Currier House is a Crimson staff writer. This summer, she is interning at CNN in New York City.

There is no mention of any contact with Cubans not part of the regime’s official propaganda machine. From the moment the orchestra disembarks, they are riding Cuba’s Potemkin village useful idiot tram.  They are met by their state assigned tour guide, Jorge, who warns them away from black market cigar shopping.  Their concerts are in state owned and operated theatres. They work with state selected musicians, music director, and arts administrator.   Playing on the naivete of their visitors, the new Cuban friends join them for a dinner out, which includes a “spontaneous” visit with a band.  It’s a lovely fun-filled evening, and sets up the fix.    The young American students can’t be blamed, a product of American freedom, they have no reason not to accept their slick handlers feigned camaraderie.  I wonder if Ms. Bloom recognized the communist code phrase coming from her pen as she wrote about the lack of racism in Cuba being due to Cuba’s greater  “economic equality.”  

Val often reminds that “those rafts only go one way.”  I think it’s safe to say so does “Cultural Exchange.”

Estela Bravo and the Castro gang

Here’s more on Estela Bravo, currently on a propaganda tour peddling the regimes version of Operation Pedro PanAgustin Blazquez takes a revealing look back at Ms. Bravo’s long association with the bloody Castro regime.

The 2005 article is about a pro-Castro documentary shown on PBS by filmmaker Estela Bravo, a known collaborator with the Castro regime.  It’s quite long, so most of it is posted below the fold.  Please read the whole truth-loaded article, as every word is a bull’s-eye.  Agustin takes on the despicable character assassination of the Cuban exile community, the Cuba lobby’s efforts to lift the embargo, PBS hypocrisy, and so-called Cuba “expert” Wayne Smith.  It’s a primer on los pandilleros de Castro.

From Misceláneas Culturales, ‘Miami – Havana’ A Misguided Trip:

Dedicated to Reed Irvine

by Agustin Blazquez with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton

The New York Times, the creator of Castro’s myth (thanks to the famous Herbert Matthews series of articles that began in February 1957) and according to the tyrant himself, “I owe my job” to that newspaper, is one of the sponsors of this pro-Castro propaganda film festival that showed on April 18, 2005, the documentary “Miami-Havana.”

While talking to a Cuban defector, I mentioned that I had seen on the local PBS station in Washington, DC the 1992 documentary “Miami-Havana” during the 1993 season.  To my surprise she said, “Oh yeah, Estela Bravo.  She is a Castro collaborator.”

Being Cuban also, and knowing the different outlook and perspective firsthand experience inside a totalitarian communist society brings, I thought that this defector – who was involved in the performing arts in Cuba – might have a point.  At the same time, that statement worried me, since our perspective as non-pro-Castro has been so harshly criticized and misunderstood by the U.S. media and so many in the U.S.

So I decided to get some information from the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), the Washington, DC, distributor of Estela Bravo’s documentary.

What I received from Arwen Donahue, the documentary publicist at the IPS was revealing.  It was Estela Bravo’s curriculum and an article by Andres Viglucci published by The Miami Herald on September 24, 1993, about the showing of her documentary on PBS.

Almost everything in this curriculum, and details in the article, fits the profile of what the defector implied when calling her a “collaborator.”

It’s going to be difficult to explain what the defector meant, unless you come from the inside and are acquainted with the mechanisms of a communist society.  According to my experience in the U.S., it’s very difficult for Americans to comprehend or relate to the complex daily survival routine of people trapped inside a regime like the one Castro imposed upon Cuba.  As a friend of mine still in Cuba hinted in a letter, it’s “totally surrealist.”

In my attempt to understand where this documentary came from, I found that Estela Bravo – who is an American born in New York City in 1933, has, since 1963, been dividing her time between Havana and New York.

I must explain: in the early 1960s many so-called “true believers” of the Castro revolution began arriving in a sort of pilgrimage to Cuba.  Castro gave his true believers coveted jobs, expropriated houses and apartments in exclusive areas, access to foreigner-only stores and schools for their children and other privileges not allowed to ordinary Cuban citizens (the beginning of apartheid in Cuba).

Please continue reading below the fold.

Read more

A Pedro Pan history lesson from Professor Carlos Eire

Yale professor, brilliant author, and good friend Carlos Eire corrects the revisionist history presented as fact in Estela Bravo’s documentary, “Operation Pedro Pan: Flying Back to Cuba.”

Imagine how you’d feel if you were once rescued from a soul-crushing totalitarian regime –not unlike that of the Third Reich – and you then you spent the rest of your life contending with accounts that portray your rescuers as evil, and your escape as a crime against humanity.

Welcome to the world of the Pedro Pan airlift children.

Recently, a new documentary from Cuba has been making the rounds in a few American cities, as  part of a cultural exchange program between Castrolandia and the United States: “Operation Peter Pan: Flying Back to Cuba.”  The latest venue for this film was Los Angeles.

I haven’t seen this film because I live in the boondocks, but it has already caused me lots of grief.

This documentary deals with the airlift that brought over 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban children to the United States between December 1960 and October 1962, a chapter in Cuban and American history that has never attracted much attention, but has always been of great interest to the Orwellian Ministry of Truth in Havana, whose business it is to rewrite history.  Estela Bravo, the film’s director, lives in Cuba and has dedicated her career, much like Leni Riefenstahl,  to ensuring that the exploits of a mad despot look really good on screen.

Since I was one of those 14,000 children who are the subject of Bravo’s film, I’ve been following its American tour in the press, on the internet, and in email reports.

The most disturbing account I’ve seen thus far was published in the New York Daily News on Sunday, April 10th 2011, and is currently featured in the web site for High Point Media, the American distributor of Bravo’s film.1 Albor Ruiz, the author, distorts the history of the airlift along the very same lines as the Castro regime has been doing for years, so, being a professional historian, all I can assume is that this twisted history must come straight from the film, or from some of the other Castroite-directed accounts that pollute library shelves and the internet.

I can’t comment on the film, since I haven’t seen it.  But I must contest the Ruiz review and its warped take on our history, which is now being used to advertise the film.

First,  our exodus must be set into context.  The final tally of 14,000 is just the tip of the iceberg.  When the airlift ceased in October 1962, because Fidel Castro suddenly refused to let any of his subjects leave his island, the number of children lined up to take part in this airlift stood around 80,000.  Add the thousands of others who left without their parents, but not as part of the airlift, and the total figure of instant orphans easily surpasses 100,000. At that time Cuba had a population of only six million. Do the math, and hold your breath.  The numbers speak for themselves: a huge percentage of Cuban parents were not just willing, but eager, to get their kids off the island.

You have to ask yourself why.

Castrolandia’s Ministry of Truth – and Albor Ruiz of The New York Post –  would have you believe that our airlift was concocted by the government of the United States as a nefarious Cold War scheme, the objective of which is never clear. As their version has it, the evil Yanquis tricked Cuban parents into “falsely” thinking that their parental rights were about to be revoked by the state.

Total nonsense. The reason our parents sent us here was not due to any rumor spread by Americans and their agents, but because of what we were experiencing already.  The Castroite Revolution demanded total devotion from all of us children, our parents be damned. Once the state took over all of the schools, we were held hostage by it every day, indoctrinated until our brains could take no more, forced into “Revolutionary” errands, jammed into agricultural labor camps, dressed in Pioneer uniforms, forced to march in lockstep and chant slogans, warned never, ever to attend religious services, and, at the age of eighteen, drafted in the armed forces.  Some of us were even being sent to the Soviet Union or its satellites behind the Iron Curtain.  Our parents had no say in any of this. Worst of all, we were constantly admonished to report on anyone in our family who dared to criticize these arrangements.

The facts speak for themselves, and can be verified through empirical research.  Our parents were already losing us and they a real tough choice to make: do we let Castrolandia steal our kids or do we send them somewhere else where the state won’t claim their mind and soul?

Logic comes into play too.  Why would the U.S. government orphan so many children and fund their upkeep, but make no effort to publicize their plight ?  It makes no sense. Our exodus was a nearly invisible event, of which most of the world remained woefully ignorant.  Check it out:  I dare you to find more than a handful of news reports about the airlift from the early 1960’s.

Second, the long-term separation of the children and parents was caused by  the Castro regime, not the United States.  The plan every Pedro Pan family had was to reunite immediately in the United States, with the hopes of one day returning to a free Cuba.  As soon as we arrived in the U.S., our parents were granted entry visas by the State Department.  Unfortunately, though their American visas came quickly, the Castro regime not only refused to grant our parents exit permits at a reasonable pace, it actually put obstacles in their path and harassed them. Many fathers, especially, were not allowed to leave at all.  Then the final blow came in October 1962.  Although thousands of us still had parents in Cuba, the Castro regime closed the door and refused them the right to leave.  Those who tried to find some way out through an embassy – such as my mother – were often denied the right to leave, repeatedly.  No amount of pleading from anyone changed Castrolandia’s policy, until late in 1965, when President Lyndon Johnson’s administration paid a high ransom and the Freedom Flights began to deliver our parents here very slowly, as if from a dripping faucet. By then, most of us had already spent what seemed like an eternity without our fathers and mothers.  And some parents never made it out at all, like my father.

Third, one must ask: if the Cuban authorities had any real concern for us children, and saw the airlift as an evil American scheme, why did they allow us to leave and then prevent our parents from joining us?  And why did the Cuban authorities harass us and our families at the Havana airport, with strip searches and an interminable wait in a soundproof glass enclosure known as “the fishbowl”?

I had a chance to put these questions to someone who was very high up in the Castro regime at that time, Carlos Franqui, a close associate of Fidel Castro and editor of his regime’s propaganda rag, Revolución.  Like so many of the Maximum Leader’s cronies, Franqui was eventually purged and banished  into exile. Shortly before his death,  he came to lecture here at Yale, where I teach.  At dinner, when I quizzed Franqui , he had a brutally simple answer to the questions above. “We loved it,”  he said, smiling, “because anything that would destroy the bourgeois family was good for us.”

Franqui’s sarcastic confession can be taken at face value because of one more undeniable fact: the instant that all exits from Castrolandia were blocked in October 1962, Fidel’s goons arrested all those who were running the airlift in Havana, and imprisoned them for two decades.  So, you see, the Cuban authorities knew exactly what was going on and who was responsible, but had refused to stop it on purpose.  Only when the usefulness of the family-wrecking airlift was derailed by the fallout from the Missile Crisis did they decide to act; and then, hypocritically, they punished those brave souls for their great service to the so-called Revolution.

And ever since they shut down the airlift and trapped our parents, this corrupt regime has been trying to whitewash its guilt and portray our parents as morons and our rescue as sheer Yanqui devilry.

Lord have mercy.

Only utter desperation can make a parent to let go of a child, especially in circumstances where there is no guarantee that they will ever see that child again. Our parents made a heroic decision.  Please do not let anyone trick you into thinking that they were easily or needlessly fooled, or that anyone else but Fidel Castro and his henchmen bear the blame for the suffering we all endured.  Also, do not let anyone trick you into thinking that most of us Pedro Pan kids see ourselves as victims. Most of us are immensely grateful to those who rescued us from slavery.


Cultural Exchange: Pedro Pan of California responds to Estela Bravo’s documentary

The Los Angeles Latin American Film Festival, in collaboration with the Si Cuba Festival, presented Estela Bravo’s documentary, Operation Pedro Pan: Flying Back to Cuba. Estela Bravo, a New York native, has lived and worked in Cuba since 1963.  Her work includes the documentary Fidel, a total pro-Castro whitewash seen by useful idiots on Cuba’s “tourist indoctrination tour.” 

This event perfectly illustrates the one-sided nature of “Cultural Exchanges” with Cuba. There is no exchange, no sharing of American ideals of democracy and respect for Human Rights at these events, not here in the States, and certainly not in Cuba.  Celia Cruz was never allowed to return to Cuba, and you don’t see Willy Chirino playing Havana.

We received the following (Edited by me, and approved by the author) from friend and Pedro Pan member Oscar B. Pichardo.  He attended two screenings of the film, and shares his review of the film, and the presenter’s treatment of audience members not on board with the Castro approved version of events portrayed in the documentary. 

The film lasted about 60 minutes. It was plagued by some technical interruptions and loss of sound, to which a wag in the audience shouted,”must be the CIA.”  Make no mistake, this film in nothing like the “unfinished” documentary Bravo released 10 years ago that we have seen.  This is a top of the line production and the picture and sound are excellent.  The editing is well done and crafted out of context to support their arguments.

The film can be summarized as follows.  Part 1:  Pedro Pan was a scam perpetrated by the U. S. State Department, the CIA, and the Catholic Church.  This segment is composed mostly from footage from the “unfinished” documentary going on ad nauseam using footage and interviews from the 70s and 90s cleverly edited to support the “scam theory.” Weaving interviews with the Pedro Pan, the parents etc., a distorted picture is presented.

Much is made in the film about the Visa waivers being granted only to the minor children by the U.S. No mention is made that the reason Cuban parents petitioned for visa waivers for the kids was due to the onerous restrictions and extreme obstacles placed by the Cuban regime once a request for an exit visa was made.  In many cases, the regime would not grant exit permits to the whole family, so parents were forced to make the decision to divide the family in the hope they would eventually reunite.

In the second half, the storyline is based on the premise that all Pedro Pans must return to Cuba as a group to be healed. It opens with footage showing the five PP arriving in Cuba, as if this is their first visit back, but these quaint vignettes of interviews on the tarmac are staged; all five of the featured PP had returned to Cuba multiple times over the last 15 or so years, and some as far back as the late 1970’s.

No mention is made of the repressive policies of the Castro regime that is the direct cause of the mass exodus, which has been taking place from the island since 1959 and continues to this day.

The whole production is very crisp, well presented, slanted, and very believable… without the proper historical background the average viewer will swallow it hook, line and sinker!

The Q&A session:  Davd Ansen introduced Estela Bravo and the four Pedro Pans present. They all spoke, basically regurgitating the interviews from the film.  Bravo of course took off on the propaganda trail regarding the CIA having documents it will not declassify, false rumor of patria potestad, ran operation, Radio Swan broadcasts etc…  Then she got around to the 5 PP and how they bonded on trip to Cuba etc., a lot of the effort due to Elly who had “found’ over 2000 PP, and dedicated to her dream of taking PP back…

Finally, they got to audience questions.  Frank Varela introduced himself self as a Pedro Pan and said,  “Although I had some shared experiences, such as the anxiety of not knowing if I would ever see my parents again, I feel that all the Pedro Pan parents were heroes, preferring to send their children away to live in freedom instead of growing up in a communist dictatorship, and whatever hardships the Pedro Pans and their parents had to endure at the beginning was a small price to pay compared to the misery the millions of Cubans left behind in the island had to suffer.”  At that point, Estela Bravo cut him off and told him it was her film and he should do one and tell his own story.  This seems to be her polished standard answer when face with questions or facts she does not wish to address.

The next question was from an older gentleman who asked for a comparison between the 10 thousand Jewish children spirited out of Europe from the Nazis (Kindertransport) and similarities with Pedro Pan.  This seemed to throw Bravo of her game she appeared flustered and babbled something about the Jewish kids not allowed into the U.S., and brought up Eleanor arguing with Franklin, and how the Pedro Pan kids were allowed into the U.S.  It appears our erstwhile documentarian has her history confused as Kindertransport was strictly a European Endeavour and none of the children was sent to the U.S. during the war.

The last question came from a lady who I believe said she was not a PP but had been on, or left the island during the same time and remembered the pecera and having to walk through a gauntlet of milicianos with rifles and machine guns and asked if anyone would comment on that.  Bravo cut the question off saying that had been addressed in the film which if it was I must have missed that segment.

Finally, David Ansen gave the floor back to Bravo and she closed the session with a propaganda diatribe on eliminating the embargo, and changing travel policy so everyone could go to Cuba…

Observation: The Castro propaganda machine is doing an excellent job of promoting these “cultural exchanges” and using them to promote their political agenda.  Bravo is a formidable and valuable asset to the Cuban propaganda venture and not to be taken lightly.

Next:  June 27, a group of Southern California Pedro Pans attended a screening of the documentary at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro, where during the Q&A, their attempts to address the omissions of the Castro’s role in the the Pedro Pan story were rudely dismissed.  According to Mr. Pichardo, she was very patronizing, and in a dismissive manner, she cavalierly challenged them to make their own film.

This is their response:

Dear Pedro Pan Brothers and Sisters:                 

Recently there has been considerable local publicity regarding a “Cultural Exchange” in the Los Angeles area featuring exhibitions at area museums by Cuban artists and musical performances. The “Cultural Exchange” is publicized as an apolitical “West Coast Celebration of Cuban Arts & Culture” by the sponsoring organization ¡Sí CubaSocal!  Nothing could be further from the truth.

 Among the commonly cited reasons for having these “cultural exchanges” is to promote a better understanding between the local Southern California and Cuban communities, and that politics has no place in the arts.  A noble and admirable goal not supported by the facts.

 One of the featured “artists” is filmmaker Estela Bravo. Ms. Bravo, who resides in Havana, has a long history of churning out pro-Castro government sponsored propaganda – including her personal tribute to the tyrant, Fidel. Her contribution to this travesty is the film “Operation Peter Pan: Flying Back to Cuba,” which presents a pro-Castro distorted view of the exodus of over 14, 000 Cuban children sent to the U. S. by their parents to escape the terror of the Castro communist regime.

 On June 27, 2011, a group of Cuban Kids from the 60’s Exodus – Pedro Pan of California friends attended the screening of Bravo’s pseudo documentary Operation Peter Pan: Flying Back to Cuba at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro, California.

During the post screening Q&A session the filmmaker refused to address valid comments and questions regarding the inadequacy of the film dealing with the actions of the Castro government which provoked the exodus of the Cuban children.

 While asserting in a very patronizing and dismissive manner that it was her film and she could do what she wanted she cavalierly challenged us to make our own film.

 This is our film. We are Pedro Pan by the grace of God and our parents. We can do anything!

Cultural Exchange and a usual suspect

“The function of propaganda is, for example, not to weigh and ponder the rights of different people, but exclusively to emphasize the one right which it has set out to argue for. Its task is not to make an objective study of the truth, in so far as it favors the enemy, and then set it before the masses with academic fairness; its task is to serve our own right, always and unflinchingly.”  – Adolph Hitler 

Fidel Castro, a practiced student of der Führer, learned that lesson well. With Obama’s relaxation of Cuba restrictions, the regimes agents of influence wasted no time in bringing their planned grand Castro propaganda show to the U.S. audience.  The shows, given the cover of legitimacy by respected cultural institutions such as Carnegie Hall in New York, and the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, dutifully enhanced by glowing write ups in the New York Times, promoted by the Hollywood establishment, well, what a fait accompli for the dictatorship!  The American masses, unindoctrinated no longer as they view carefully chosen photos depicting life in Cuba before and after the revolution,  thrill to the beat of Cuban music and dance. Yes Cuba!

From the LA Times:  “For the final performance of its first North American tour since 2003, Ballet Nacional de Cuba danced a thrilling, go-for-broke “Don Quixote” on Sunday at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.”   The reviewer goes on to describe the performances as  incandescent, sparkling, and unforgettable.  What drivel.

This Machiavellian tour is brought to our shores by the Si Cuba Festival, partnered with the following organizations: (Please, follow the links and check out their board members)

  Los Angeles
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Fowler Museum at UCLA
The Getty
The Int’l Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5 and SPARC
LA Phil
Los Angeles Film Festival
Museum of Latin American Art
Music Center
Segerstrom Center for the Arts

Missing  from the Si Cuba Festival’s display of everything Cuban  from traditional Son to the delights of Cuban Cuisine (at $75 per person in the Getty Center’s private dining room), is the simultaneous hunger, terror, and repression inflicted on non-elite Cubans back home on the island.

Who’s behind this disgusting deceitful collaboration with the dictatorship? Among others, a well-known suspected Castro agent of influence.  

Julia Sweig is an Honoray Committee member of Sí Cuba Festival; a “go to Cuba Expert” and member of the “non-partisan” Council for Foreign Relations.   The Castro’s can surely count on their good friend Julia to promote the interests of the Castro dictatorship

Here is a list of her fellow Honoray Committee members, also from Sí Cuba Festival’s website. Note however, that this list is from the Si Cuba’s New York Festival page and unavailable on the SoCal page, an interesting omission.

Alicia Alonso
Director, National Ballet of Cuba

Jody Gottfried Arnhold
Chair, Board of Trustees, Ballet Hispanico

Margaret C. Ayers
President, Robert Sterling Clark Foundation

Beth Rudin DeWoody
President, May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation

Howard Farber
Founder, Fundación Cuba Avant-Garde

Damian Fernandez
Provost & Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of Political Science, SUNY-Purchase

Mauricio Font
Director, Bildner Center for Western Hemisphere Studies, City University of New York

Allen Greenberg
Director, The Jerome Robbins Foundation, Inc.

Dr. Ramiro Guerra
Director, Danza Contemporanea de Cuba

The Trustees of the Harkness Foundation for Dance

Stephen Heintz
President, Rockefeller Brothers Fund

Tania Leon
Composer, Conductor, Distinguished Professor, CUNY

Lourdes Lopez
Co-founder and Director, Morphoses

William H. Luers

Richard Lukins
Vice Chair, Board of Trustees, The Joyce Theater

Alberto Magnan
Co-Owner, Magnan Metz Gallery

Ben Rodriguez-Cubeñas
Chair, Cuban Artists Fund & Program Director, Rockefeller Brothers Fund

Alex Rosenberg
American Friends of the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba

Carole Rosenberg
President, American Friends of the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba

Jane Gregory Rubin
Secretary, The Reed Foundation

Donald Rubin
Co-Chair, The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation and Co-Chair, Board of Trustees, The Rubin Museum of Art

Julia Sweig
Nelson and David Rockefeller Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies and Director for Latin America Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Luis A. Ubiñas


Who cares?  Not the MSM bent on promoting their favorite revolutionary hero, and keeping their desks in Havana… the devastation of the Cuban people be damned.


Cultural Exchange II

In conjunction with the Si Cuba!  (Whose partner organizations include The Int’l Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5 and SPARC) event at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, Arturo Sandoval is in concert at the Hollywood Bowl with Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club featuring Omara Portuondo. 

This special Cuban-themed evening of scorching rhythms and infectious improvisations includes projections of photos depicting historic and present day Cuba.

AUG 24: This concert will feature photo projections from the Getty’s historic photographic exhibit, A Revolutionary Project: Cuba from Walker Evans to Now, showing May 17-Oct 2, 2011 at the Getty Center.

Isn’t that truly special.  The prodigal son, an escaped slave now living in freedom, dances for the former slave master. 

This just breaks my heart, as I just love, love, Arturo’s music.  No more.

Here’s the graphic of choice for Si Cuba, they should get together with Oliphant.

si Cuba 2