Yoani Sanchez in Miami to Measure Cuban-American Pulse
Posted: 03/29/2013 4:02 pm
Super-star Cuban dissident blogger, Yoani Sanchez, is about to hit Miami
on April 1, in what might prove to be the most interesting leg of her
global tour. Skeptics and supporters abound. The two sides of the
Cuban-American hyphen will tug at the Diaspora, and what will result is
a taking of the Cuban-American pulse. A pulse that will play a role in
U.S.-Cuba foreign policy, as it has in the past.
But, first, we will have to see how Sanchez survives the Cuban-American
Wringer. A wringer that has, previously, blown up travel agencies,
closed down restaurants, and booed musicians off stage. A wringer that
proves to be a paradox in which Cuban-Americans exert the same kind of
militant behavior and censorship they despise in the Castro brothers.
Growing up in Miami, I witnessed this behavior first hand. In the late
nineties, I saw a friend's restaurant close down; a Molotov cocktail
thrown through the restaurant's window when it announced a particular
Cuban singer would perform. A singer who, for Cuban-American
hard-liners, was not vocally anti-Castro enough to be allowed to sing.
Since then, the temperatures, many say, have thawed. I too have seen
this change, this tempering of Miami's pulse. Sometimes, however, it
still peaks. As late as 2009, Cuban-Americans were in an uproar against
the Colombian rock star, Juanes, and his "concert for peace" in Cuba --
claiming a concert in Cuba showed support of the communist government in
Sanchez's visit will be a perfect time to test the proverbial waters
On Sanchez's tour outside of Miami, some have called her a "tool" for
the United States government. Castro sympathizers in Brazil and Mexico
have insulted her, calling her a "mercenary," among other pleasantries.
Miami, meanwhile, remains a hot-house in anticipation of her visit, and
often on the other end of the political spectrum. Some are even claiming
she is in cahoots with the communists. Mambi Watch, a Miami-based
Cuba-related blog, whose purpose it is to confront hard-liners, has
called out El Nuevo Herald for headlines that sensationalize against
Sanchez. Headlines that, for instance, claim Sanchez is not only
anti-embargo (gasp!), but aligned with the Cuban Government, for
instance, in calling for the release of the Cuban Five -- five Cuban
spies held by the United States since the late nineties.
Sanchez's comments on the Cuban Five, in fact, had layers of irony,
which she pointed to in blogs, interviews, and tweets afterwards, and
did not call for their literal release. This was enough, however, to get
hard-line Cuban-American airwaves buzzing against her.
Sanchez has, characteristically, been very careful, calm and collected
since then, and overall. She has even leaned in to the Cuban-American
community by giving an interview with Maria Elvira Salazar, a popular
Cuban, Spanish-language TV celebrity. In this interview, Sanchez said
she understood the differences between exiles and Cuban dissidents
within Cuba, and even among exiles and dissidents themselves, but she
linked all in opposition to the Castro regime by saying that the
important thing is that everyone is connected in the "fundamentals." "We
all want democracy [in Cuba]," she said.
I understand that hard-liners are comprised of an entire generation of
people that had to fight -- hard -- to flee from a system that was
oppressive. That those same people are the generation that gave birth to
me, in a place where I can write an article like this one. Where I can
speak my mind -- for that I am grateful.
The question is -- why carry on the oppression they fled from in Miami?
Not allowing artists and writers freedom of speech goes against the very
basic rights Cuban-Americans enjoy in the United States and criticize in
Only time will tell how Miami welcomes or shuns Sanchez. My guess is
that the reaction will be more mixed than in the past, with a younger
generation leading the way. The hope is that there will be no more
Molotov cocktails, of course. The hope instead: a discussion, where a
long-sought freedom can reign. After all, it's a strong and steady pulse
that gives life -- not one that spikes in fits and rages. No matter what
it is, all eyes should be on this reception, perhaps more so than even
Sanchez's recent trip to Washington. For it foretells U.S.-Cuba
relations by measuring the sentiments of Cuban-Americans today.