Tag: Fidel Castro

More to the Story

Recently, I wrote about the dismal publishing scene for Latino authors. Well, I was remiss in at least one aspect. I implied that Hispanic writers are limited only to pitching the big New York publishing houses or jumping into the self-publishing quagmire. There is another option.


Namely, it is the world of small presses. Now, in the past, the phrase “small press” invoked images of ink-stained loners cranking out bizarre manifestos. Well, you’ll be glad to know those guys have moved on to troll internet comment pages across the web.


The small presses that exist today are often professionally run, highly principled organizations that focus on marginalized or experimental writers. And when it comes to Latino authors, we may be entering a golden age.

I’m talking about presses like Arte Publico, Floricanto, and Editorial Trance, all of which have been doing great work for years. And there is also Aignos Publishing, co-founded by Jonathan Marcantoni and Zachary Oliver.


Marcantoni says that Aignos, and other small presses that have a similar focus, look for writers who push boundaries and challenge readers to question their worldviews. Authors who embrace their distinct cultures — something Latino writers are well-known for doing — may find a home at Aignos or a similar small press.

“A small press gives authors the legitimacy of being affiliated with a company, one that is taken seriously by media and festivals and awards, in a way writers never get as self-published authors,” Marcantoni says. “Well-established small presses have marketing plans and publicists, plus the distribution channels are on par with what large presses use.”

Indeed, I can speak to this issue, as my own self-published novel, Barrio Imbroglio, is selling somewhere between hot cakes and lukewarm waffles.

It would certainly help to have an established marketing team behind me (my current marketing team consists of me and my cats).

Marcantoni says that when it comes to small presses, “the Latino author gets the best of both worlds: world-class distribution, a company backing their efforts, and creative freedom.”

That combo often leads to great books. For example, Aignos recently published Nuno, by Carlos Aleman. The novel is a lyrical love story set in pre-Castro Cuba and the aftermath of the revolution. Marcantoni says that Nuno doesn’t fit into mainstream expectations of Latino literature. As such, it lines up with Aignos’ mission of pushing writers to develop their views and skills instead of pressuring them to make the bestseller lists.

“No one should be a writer to be famous,” Marcantoni says. “It should come from a desire to express yourself and touch the lives of others.

So will we see more Hispanic authors telling their unique stories via small presses, touching the lives of more and more readers? Well, there’s ample reason to be optimistic about such a future.

“The Latino community can stand out as one of artists seeking to raise the bar of what storytelling can be,” Marcantoni says. “And there are publishers out there who will support you.”

Living in the Past

Right around Christmas, President Obama freaked everybody out by announcing that we are normalizing relations with Cuba. That’s right — Cuba, the home of this guy.



It’s not like we’re going to be all buddy-buddy now. I mean, who does Cuba think it is? Our real friends are places like Vietnam, where we fought a long, bloody war that killed thousands of Americans for nothing. And then there is Saudi Arabia, which isn’t hostile or repressive or hosting tons of people who would love to slit our collective throats — nope, not our good allies.

It’s Cuba that has vexed multiple presidents, tantalized us with its proximity yet unapproachable nature, and provided the storyline for at least one X-men adventure. And now the United States will begin discussions with the nation to re-establish diplomatic relations. America plans to re-open an embassy in Havana, and the Obama administration will allow some travel and trade that had been banned under the decades-long embargo.

The move is hugely popular with Latinos. In fact, 75% of Hispanics support re-establishing diplomatic ties with Cuba, compared with 64% of Americans overall.

But some Latinos, especially Cuban exiles, are infuriated. These are the people who fled Castro’s regime and took enough cash with them to set up a staunchly conservative community in Florida. For as long as I’ve been alive, Cuban natives have been the one subgroup of Hispanics who vote Republican.

So when Obama announced his decision, the predictable protests erupted in Florida. Senator Rubio declared that we were coddling dictators, and to hear some people talk, we would all be legally required to wear those annoying, pretentious Che Guevara t-shirts six days a week.

However, there’s something funny about Florida’s Cuban American community. Yes, polls show that 53% of Cuban immigrants oppose Obama’s plan, which I think is actually low. But there is a clear generational split, because 64% of U.S.-born Cuban Americans support Obama’s policy. That means almost two-thirds of the Cuban Americans who were born here — and who have little or no direct experience with Cold War politics — are saying, “It’s been half a century, so give it a rest.”

Of course, the older generation is aghast at this. They had Castro on the ropes… in that he is ancient and will soon die peacefully in his bed. But still, we just needed to give the embargo a little more time! Another decade or two would do it.

Leave it to the younger Hispanics, the ones born and raised in America, who are willing and eager to change the failed policies of the past. If they hurry, they might make it to Cuba and see the authenticity of their homeland before Starbucks moves in.

Here’s hoping.

Two for Two

I’m going to take a break from obsessing about myself (see my earlier posts) to look at the outside world. Two recent developments have proven that the Obama administration is serious about Latino issues. I never doubted the president’s sincerity or commitment, but I had gone on record as saying that Hispanic concerns would take a backseat in the early days of his administration.

I may – and this is as disturbing for me to write as it is for you to read – have been wrong. Furthermore, the president’s recent decisions have implications far beyond the interests of the Hispanic community. They potentially reveal the man for who he is and give some insight into what kind of leader he will be.

First, there is the news that Obama will press for immigration reform this year, which would fulfill a promise he made while campaigning for (and overwhelmingly winning) Hispanic votes. The president’s plan is vague at this point, and it reportedly involves the usual goals of increasing border security and convincing Mexico to hold on to their own people. The big-ticket item, of course, is the proposal to give the 12 million immigrants who already live in America some pathway to citizenship.

Yes, it’s the return of the dreaded “amnesty” provision.

I have, along with every other Latino writer, discussed this topic before, so I won’t rehash the arguments in depth. Suffice to say that conservatives believe that legalizing these workers is a slap in the face of law and order, and a surefire path to economic collapse.

The fairness issue can be debated, although let’s be blunt in pointing out that many of the people screaming about justice are actually just pissed that they had to endure overhearing Spanish in the grocery store. There’s nothing principled about their fear or hatred.

As for economic issues, I have a hard time understanding how more American jobs are going to be lost to people who supposedly have already stolen them. In fact, as columnist Ruben Navarrette has stated, a case could be made that “to help U.S. workers, we need to get the illegal immigrants legal and force employers to pay all workers higher wages and stop playing one group of workers off another.”

In any case, GOP members are hardly the people to lecture anyone on what’s good for the economy… I will refrain from additional cheap shots.

The second announcement from the Obama administration that got my attention was about Cuba. The president intends to make it easier for Cuban Americans to travel to the island and to send remittances. This decision – announced during what was apparently the first bilingual White House press conference – is a welcome first step in ending the arbitrary and counterproductive policy we’ve long held toward that country.

As usual, right-wingers are screaming about going soft on communism, as if our approach had done anything to bring democracy to Cuba. After all, it’s been a half-century or so; when can we expect to see results?

In addition, it wasn’t like the travel restrictions made any sense. Under the guise of getting tough on Castro, immigrants who live in Florida could rarely, if ever, visit their families. But over the years, multiple delegations of governors, members of Congress, and businesspeople were routinely allowed to land on the island. They would talk about trade issues with Cuban officials, all while saying, “We don’t officially recognize you, now please pass some of that kick-ass rum you guys make.” Basically, as long as the potential to make money was involved, we put a hold on our principled stand against oppression.

Obama’s decision will, in all likelihood, make it easier for immigrants to see their families, and perhaps it will be a catalyst for much-needed change. After all, a massive 71 percent of Americans support normalizing relations with Cuba. It’s difficult to get that many Americans to agree about anything, except maybe that Scrubs is long past being funny.

Perhaps the change is due to a lot of younger Americans wondering why we have normal relations with Vietnam, where 50,000 of our soldiers died, while we continue some absurd policy toward a tiny island run by a faded revolutionary on the verge of death. Maybe we’re finally ready to drop all the Cold War posturing.

Regardless of how these two proposals turn out, it is reassuring that Obama hasn’t forgotten how millions of Latinos set high expectations for his administration. Furthermore, it’s now clear that he didn’t just toss around promises like confetti in the hopes of garnering votes. The president is tackling controversial issues when he has more than enough drama to occupy him.

Few would criticize Obama if he took a temporary pass on hot-button social problems to focus on minor inconveniences (such as a faltering economy or a couple of wars). Indeed, many commentators expected him to do just that, and Republicans are delighted to lambast him for “trying to do too much,” especially when his decisions supposedly affect a small percentage of Americans.

But this is the crucial point. Obama can apparently see how disparate problems – such as immigration reform – tie into larger issues, like how our economy functions. It’s promising that he understands that concepts interlock and feed off one another, and necessitate a big-picture approach. He is thus far removed from someone who skips the analysis and goes with his gut (a “decider,” if you will). A person like that usually obsesses on a few basic agenda items, then becomes flummoxed when myriad “unforeseen” disasters occur and snowball. With hope, that will not happen to Obama.

In addition, and perhaps more important, these recent developments indicate that Obama is willing to fight, even when it would be politically easier to skip the tough battles. If that’s true, these decisions are not about kissing up to a key constituency. They are about improving a tattered nation.

And that, of course, is good news for the entire country.

No Recounts Are Necessary

The dancing in the streets has subsided since Tuesday. Of course, I remain stunned that we had dancing in the streets at all. Seriously, does anyone remember this kind of orgiastic response over election results? Before this, the standard imagery was supporters in ballrooms laughing and waving signs, but now we see impromptu parades and ecstatic outbursts on street corners and strangers hugging each other in every city in the world. But maybe it just overwhelms in comparison with recent history, because the last two elections provoked either muffled wailing or smug insinuations that God had spoken.

Among last week’s celebrants were Hispanics. Anyone tuning in to more than twelve minutes of television coverage heard how the Latino vote was key to Obama’s win. We even got more air time and credit than the fabled youth vote.

The facts are that Hispanics favored Obama by more than two to one over McCain (67 percent to 31 percent, according to MSNBC). Looking at it another way, Latino voters accounted for 11 percent of Obama’s vote and 6 percent of McCain’s total.

In addition to crunching the raw numbers, MSNBC ran an analysis under the particularly ominous headline “What if there were no Latino voters?” (Indeed, many Republicans are probably muttering that exact phrase).

The analysis found that the Hispanic vote was the difference in New Mexico and Indiana, which means that in a Latino-free world, Obama would have still won the electoral vote but in less decisive fashion. However, being the swing group in two states is pretty cool, and Hispanics continue to exert their prominence in places such as California and Texas.

More interesting still is the fact that the biggest percentage increases in Latino voters happened in Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada – all battleground states and all now freshly blue. As the GOP well knows, those states are getting more Hispanic, and those Hispanics are getting more Democratic, especially the younger generation.

Speaking of younger Latinos, they helped Florida become Obama country this year. Our new president won 57 percent of the Hispanic vote in that state, which is astonishing when one considers that the large Cuban American population there has been, in the past, so hardcore Republican that they make Rupert Murdoch look like a gay vegan folksinger in comparison.

Perhaps second- and third-generation Cuban Americans are tired of hearing how voting for the GOP is the only way to stick it to Fidel. They either don’t believe it (Castro is hanging on to power with his last, frenzied breaths and will only be removed through a natural death) or they simply have more pressing concerns, like job losses and collapsing education systems and shoddy health care and a thousand other American issues that have nothing to do with the unresolved, dusty battles of their grandparents.

One final bit of intriguing news comes courtesy of the Pew Hispanic Center. They found that 8 percent of this year’s voters were of the brown-skinned variety. Truthfully, this could have been better, considering that we make up about 14 percent of the population.

Regardless, it’s clear that Latinos, like just about every other demographic except for white evangelicals, were caught up in Obama frenzy this year. The long-term implications for Republicans look grim, as we get younger, more numerous, and more liberal.

And now that we have our first minority president, isn’t it just a matter of time before someone whose last name ends in Z takes the oath of office? It may be years away, but it’s coming.

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