Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz Have No Love for Fidel

Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz

When it comes to politics, this year proved to be historic in many ways.

A businessman that had no experience holding public office became the president of the United States.

Hillary Clinton became the first woman nominee of a major party and Bernie Sanders  was the first Jewish candidate to receive serious backing for the highest office in America for the Democratic Party.

However, the Republican Party also had two Hispanic contenders that had a strong chance of becoming commander and chief of the United States in Cuban Americans Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

Earlier this year in March, President Obama also announced an end to the Cuban embargo, which has slowly been coming to an end, but that might very well change with Trump’s presidency.

Nothing has been more momentous than the recent death of Fidel Castro.

His timely passing comes after half of the Cuban-American population in Florida helped to decide who will become the new leader of their country after being angered by President Obama’s decision to start to lift the embargo, a right they would have been denied if in Cuba.

Of course, this led to many Americans across the country wondering what the two most famous Cuban political candidates in the United States most recent history had to say.

With both Cruz and Rubio having immigrant parents that fled Castro’s rule in Cuba, it wasn’t hard to guess.

Both were angered by Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s condolences to the Castro family and lack of acknowledgment to his political crimes.

Pathetic.”

That was one word that Rubio used to describe Obama’s statement to the Cuban people.

There are thousands upon thousands of people who suffered brutally under Castro’s regime. He executed people, he jailed people for 20 to 30 years. The Florida Straits…there are thousands of people who lost their lives fleeing his dictatorship.”

Rubio was not alone in his sentiments towards Castro, as Cruz tweeted his disgust towards both the dictator and Trudeau who praised el Comandante’s power as an orator over the island nation.

Disgraceful. Why do young socialists idolize totalitarian tyrants? Castro, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot — all evil, torturing murderers.”

Rubio also had choice words for the young Canadian Prime Minister admiration for Fidel.

Shameful and embarrassing.”

 

 

 

The Many Faces of Fidel Castro

Photo by Kenya News

Photo by Kenya News

Saint, idealist, rebel, leader, dictator. Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, or simply known as Fidel Castro, was a controversial man of many faces not just to Cubans, or Cuban-Americans, but to people around the world.

During his teens, his mentors and classmates found him to be a stubborn and deeply religious man, almost saintly. As a boy, he was sent to study at Colegio de Dolores in Santiago de Cuba with Jesuits, and when a priest fell down a stream during a hike it was Castro that pulled him to safety. Together, the two prayed fervently after surviving the ordeal.

In 1945, he joined the University of Havana‘s law school. It was there that Castro read Marxist literature, studied everything there was on Cuban politics and befriended Communist students. At this point in his life, he was simply a strong-willed, idealistic and open-minded man that wanted to fight against the oppression of the poor, but radical ideologies began to seep into his school of thought.

Castro’s father, Angel Castro, influenced him to fight for those in need. Angel, an impoverished Spaniard came to Cuba with nothing but dreams for a better life. In time, Angel Castro owned a plantation and became a landowner.

Castro became a lawyer for the poor once he obtained his degree. Since many of his clients had no money, they paid for his services with food.

It was the early 1950s when he started to struggle with the merits of democracy versus communism. Wanting to do more for those that were suffering, Castro ran for Congress only for the elections not to be upheld because of former dictator Fulgencio Batista returning to the country, taking over the government and destroying what was left of the democratic process in Cuba.

As a rebel with a cause, Castro made an appeal through the court system to take a stance against Colonel Batista’s violation of the Cuban Constitution. When that was unsuccessful, in 1953 Castro and almost 200 hundred followers attacked the military Moncada Barracks. His men were outnumbered 10 to 1 when they lost the element of surprise.

Unfortunately, this only led to Castro and what was left of his followers becoming political prisoners. This experience would go on to shape his future and that of Cuba’s for 50 years.

Believing that Castro and his men lost hope and would no longer be a threat, Batista released the surviving members of the Moncada Barracks attack after one year in 1954 so as not to come off as a dictator. This would prove to be a critical error.

Castro and his men were emboldened after their release. First, Castro retreated to Mexico, but then he came back to Cuba on an old yacht with the Argentine radical Che Guevara. With his power of speech and a group of 80, Castro initiated several guerrilla campaigns against Colonel Batista. By New Year’s Day of 1959, Batista fled Cuba.

Within a few months, Fidel Castro became the very thing he fought against, a Cuban dictator. Castro became paranoid after his coup and proceeded over the execution of 500 of Batista’s former officials.

In 1960, Cuba took over land that was owned by American and British landowners angering both superpowers in the process. This led to the Cuban embargo, in which the United States cut ties with the country. Castro turned to the Soviet Union for financial support.

As a dictator, he helped to increase sugar harvests in the country, attempted to bring about racial equality, and made social progress through medical advancements. However, the downside to his dictatorship was extreme poverty, political imprisonment and the loss of rights for citizens of Cuba, especially the middle class.

No matter what you consider Fidel Castro to be, idealist, rebel, or dictator, he was revolutionary and changed the course of history not only for Cuba but for all of Latin America, for good and bad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EVENSONG: YOU WILL NOT LOOK AT THE HOMELESS THE SAME AGAIN

From L to R: Daniel Prado, Chad Carstarphen# Marie Louise Guinier# #Member of Actor's Equity Association

From L to R: Daniel Prado, Chad Carstarphen# Marie Louise Guinier#
#Member of Actor’s Equity Association

photo credit: Michael Dekker

The vast majority of us live from paycheck to paycheck. If we were to lose our jobs, our soul source of security, most of us would be solvent for perhaps a month tops before savings start to drain to zero. Perhaps some of us would have to leave our apartments or homes, maybe end up in a shelter if help is not readily available.

In Christina Quintana’s play “Evensong” we learn that our view of the homeless, which is the one we know best, the one’s who sit or sleep on the sidewalks, disheveled, asking for dimes or nickels. We think we are not like them. We are wrong. We also carry hidden prejudices for people who are labeled with the homeless tag. “That is the central question in Evensong,” Christina said, “Where do we get these judgements that we make?” Directed by David Mendizabal, the ideas we hold are broken down for view into their smaller components, then splattered across the stage.

Statistically 44% percent of the homeless population actually hold jobs and pursue careers. It’s deceptive. Just such a person is explored through the main character Teo Aguilar, played vibrantly by Daniel Prado.

“The biggest thing about Teo in this play, he surprises us all,” Quintana explained, “He is not who you would imagine to be homeless.”

Daniel Prado (L) and Chad Carstarphen# (R) #Member of Actor's Equity Association
Daniel Prado (L) and Chad Carstarphen# (R)
#Member of Actor’s Equity Association

The first image of the play are the series of empty cots neatly arranged in rows and a buffet of food. We are introduced to Teo, who is a young, gay man from San Antonio, Texas who is fulfilling a dream of visiting New York City while in the shadows of personal setbacks that brings him, a guest, to the church homeless shelter. He is judged in triplicate and it takes it’s toll on his morale. “There is a lot of shame,” Christina points out, “As a man, not living up to his potential.”

He is a proud man who meets Bob, a volunteer, who emphathizes with Teo, but draws the line when he tries to make a move on him. Bob likes Teo and even refers to him as one of “The Good Ones.” Teo takes the rejection negatively. Chad Carstarphen was brillant in his role as an outsider who cares and his chemistry with Daniel Prado is the cornerstone relationship of the play, even without the type of payoff one would of expected after the fireworks that were launched after a couple of intimate kisses. This relationship is a variation on a real life experience Christina spoke about encountering a homeless woman who flirted with her during a volunteer stint. The question of whether she would date her opened up further thought on how as people, the homeless lose their humanity in our eyes. “I found I could be friends and hang out with someone who was homeless but to the point of having a relationship is a whole another level.”

Christina pointed out that though the lead character is Gay, that this is not to be assumed to be an LGBT story. “Yes, Teo is Gay, it’s not what the story is about,” Quintana explains, “It’s about a guy who has found himself homeless and it can be anyone.”

As one can surmise the intent of this play was to explore the inner pain of having had standing in a society and then, in Teo’s case, in an act of love, drain his resources to care for the health of his grandmother. In pursuing his dream, he is relegated by necessity to the underside of city life. He puts up a tremendous front, tries to work through the obstacles, but it is his own prejudices that initially place him above those that occupy what Bob refers to in the play as “The Rolls Royce of Shelters.”

Teo is too embarrassed to admit to family, in particular Beny, his cousin, that he is homeless. He tells his friend Hague and soon regrets it as he is equally pitied and shunned from the circles friends normally share. He has become the elephant in the room.

Daniel Prado (L) and Sai Somboon# #Member of Actor's Equity Association

Daniel Prado (L) and Sai Somboon#
#Member of Actor’s Equity Association

Here we must make a strong mention of Sai Somboon, who showed great vitality and flexibility in playing three roles. He was family member, friend, and lover. A actor who can hold degrees in diverse fields like Dance and Anthropology is just the type who can pull this off so well.

Teo is also put in his place by Gladys, played by Marie Louise Guinier who appears to be mentally off but we learn just has never adjusted to the drastic changes in her lifestyle and is quick to remind Teo that he is no better than her since they share the same situation. Guinier, an IRNE nominated actress who has been on ABC’sWhat Would You Do” showed great depth making Gladys funny but maddening at the same time.

The diverse points of societal punishment Teo encounters reflects the duality challenges of the playwright. Christina was raised in Louisiana and is of Cuban heritage. It certainly had an impact. “It’s a huge part of me. They both inform me as a writer,” Christina recalls,

“New Orleans, Pre-Katrina is a black and white place. Because of that and being Latina, in that environment, I experienced a lot of micro-aggression.”

Christina described herself as obsessed the idea of the American Dream and what it means. She displays this through story examples. For Randy, later Tragedy (Doug Rossi), the homeless subway hobo who spouts poetry and enjoys harassing our lead throughout the play, it was about him and his wife getting out of the shelter system together. Her death ended the dream but his advice, though given while applying a submission hold, brings Teo some clarity.

Rosa and Ricardo, were very much like a modern “I Love Lucy” view of life. Ricardo (Francis Mateo) and Rosa (Arlene Chico-Lugo) displayed a great interaction delving well into how couples struggle when they don’t quite rely on each other. Arlene also did a nice double impressively playing not only a young wife but Teo’s abuela. The contrast was quite believable.

Daniel Prado (L) and Arlene Chico-Lugo # (R) #Member of Actor's Equity Association

Daniel Prado (L) and Arlene Chico-Lugo # (R)
#Member of Actor’s Equity Association

Teo wanted the New York dream. But he has lost his faith along the way and settles for one night stands with guys like “Len” who were physically attractive but little else outside of providing a place with a hot shower. His knowledge of his grandmother’s passing has removed his lone anchor. Bob finds Teo on a sleeping on a park bench while jogging a day after they fought. He offers Teo a chance of a shower before going to the bank teller job he is slaving over, he refuses.

A look at meanings for a moment. The word evensong was chosen when she came about deciding the setting of this play. When you look it up it is defined as “a service of evening prayers, psalms, and canticles, conducted to a set form.” In certain churches it is conducted through song.

“I had an idea of a chorus underscoring what would happen,” Christina shared this insight,

“What is the pulse of the city that connects us and isolates us at the same time? I found that in a sanctuary that had rehearsals which fit what I was looking for.”

Teo hears the singing of just such a service. He likes it. It seems to remind him of his grandmother who even in death appears in his dreams watching over him. He experiences temporary solace.

A box is sent to the wrong address. The couple spoken of earlier has had a personal issue haunt them. Rosa lost a child while pregnant. The name was similiar to the one on the package. She sees this as fate to be fulfilled. She finds Teo at the bank she goes to and puts two and two together.

Teo is quite rude with her but she convinces him to vent his problems with her, a stranger. He is suspicious of her motives but surprisingly complies. “It’a part of this play,” Quintana explained, “I am always amazed how strangers look out for each other here. There are these crazy connections, somehow they happen.” He opens the box and takes out the gloves that his grandmother sent to keep his hands warm. He smiles. Symbolically they seem to represent the helping hand Bob talked about earlier and weaved itself throughout the play.

He tells Bob about a possible job lead. Bob is pleased to hear it. Teo has his faith restored now and as he holds his abuela’s gift, he is reminded that he is loved no matter how he is tagged by society. As Christina was told by one who read the play. “I went outside and looked at everybody differently.” Though each of us take our unique views from what we view, the playright also hopes that the audience can identify hers for a production like this that is quite personal. What did Christina want people to take from this?

“I would like us to be a little aware, open, and more compassionate. What more can you ask for?”

Christina summerizes. Evensong is the first production of the 2016 season of APAC, who is now in their 16th season. The show continues to run at the Astoria Performing Arts Center in Astoria, NY until November 19th, 2016.

Christina, who volunteered at The Friends Shelter whose base is the Friends Meeting House and Seminary in lower Manhattan wants you to know that volunteers are always needed. For those interested you may contact volunteer coordinator Katy Homans at katy@katyhomans.com or via the website www.friendsshelter.org.

WELCOME TO THE HOTEL HAVANA

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We have not been here since 1959. It’s been nearly six decades since an American hotel operated in Cuba. Fidel Castro waved his cigar and foreign businesses were washed out with the revolutionary bathwater. But wait, change is eternal and once the announcement that relations had improved between the United States and the former communist island, the smell of money would mark the return of financial interests.

Starwood Hotels and Resorts made the first splash as the opening of the Four Points Havana was announced. Following this we learned that the U.S Treasury Department will finance monetary transactions aimed at renovating certain properties that surely will be part of the rebirth of economic movement in Cuba.

This September, six airlines will start flying to the island and credit will make its return in the form of the first U.S credit card issued by Stonegate Bank. So it stands to reason by this time next year, we will have long forgotton that these two nations ever had an issue as the distant past becomes merely a footnote.

PRESIDENT OBAMA POSES WITH CHE GUEVARA, AND REGRETS IT

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The first stop of the tour of U.S. President Barack Obama in Cuba, the first since Calvin Coolidge in 1928, began in controversy with a photo. Social media distributed a pic of Obama along with members of the U.S. delegation posing in front of a mural of Che Guevara in the background.

The photo took place in the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana, where Obama laid a wreath at the monument for Jose Marti. But it was the Guevara pic that drew the wrath of those who recalled Guevara as the Marxist revolutionary who joined Fidel Castro in the revolution that overthrew Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.

Guevara still attracts strong emotions from those who cheered his battle against Capitalism and those who see him as the epitome of the socialism movement that later transformed Cuba into a Communist nation. Many felt it was inappropriate for a U.S. President, the perceived leader of world freedom to be seen and photographed with a figure that many see as the polar opposite.

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Despite that, Obama seemed to rebound well when he attended the Cuban National Team vs Tampa Bay Rays exhibition game yesterday which the Rays won 4-1. Publicly smoozing with Derek Jeter, who is baseball royalty and part of the delegation, didn’t hurt. Obama should be able to ride out this storm if he stays away from posing near landmarks or symbols that can misconstrued.

DEREK JETER AND MLB JOINS CUBA IN JOINT BASEBALL VENTURE

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Derek Jeter is retired but he is forever baseball royalty. Cuba is defined by the same sport. For the first time since 1999, Major League Baseball and Cuba will join together to bring MLB to the island as a gesture of good will.

This is one of the initiatives put into play since President Obama announced the intent of the United States to re-open relations with Cuba in 2014. Obama will be expected to attend this event.

Jeter, who spent 20 seasons with the New York Yankees, will join Cuban legends Luis Tiant and Jose Cardenal, along with commissioner Robert Manfred, and Hall of Famer and MLB’s chief operating officer, Joe Torre.

They will be representing MLB as part of a historical return to the island nation with an exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban National team, March 22nd, in Havana.

Jeter, who has made it known of his ambition to own an MLB franchise in the future, is already showing a new side of himself in this regard. Cuba, who will probably relax restrictions on players who want to play in MLB, recognize that they can only benefit financially from the exchange as players know they can return home and not be exiled for wanting to play in the United States.

It’s a win-win for both countries, for Jeter, for MLB, and ultimately, for Baseball as it serves once again as a sport of universal appeal and unity where-ever it is played.

CUBA ELIMINATES DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, MAKES SERIE DEL CARIBE 2016 SEMI-FINALS

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The 2016 Serie de Caribe has been quite unpredictable as the host country was winless in the final group, Mexico was undefeated, and Cuba, the defending champions, advanced today’s semi-finals with a single victory.

The Dominican Republic, who found themselves tied with Cuba at 0-3 for the fourth and final berth to see who would qualify for the final four, were nipped in 11 innings, 4-2 as Ciego de Avila (Cuba) outlasted Escogido. The star of the game would be young Jose Adonis Garcia who lined a two run single to center off Rafael Soriano to provide the one win and a semi-final date against against Mexico.

Mexico (Mazatlan) won all four of their contests which included a 9-3 rout of Cuba and 8-3 win over Puerto Rico and 6-4 victory over Venezuela, the other semi-finalists.

The other semifinal taking place today is Santurce of Puerto Rico, who finished 2-2. The two wins were significant as they won a close one against Escogido 2-1 and shellacked Ciego de Avila of Cuba 12-1. They will be matched against Venezuela (Arugua Tigers) who went 3-1. Neftali Soto, whose two home runs for Santurce denote a big game feel.

“This is a huge game and its no pressure,”

Perez said,

“Hopefully we come out on top.”

The two winners today will advance to the championship Sunday February 7th. See below for postgame coverage of the Cuba-Dominican Republic duel.

YOENIS CESPEDES: A MET AGAIN, A YANKEE NEXT YEAR?

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Decisions, Decisions, oh where to go. These are the thoughts that crossed the mind of Yoenis Cespedes as he mulled offers from the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles. Cespedes, 30, appears to have tired of the nomadic existance he has tolerated since his arrival in MLB from Cuba.

But Cespedes has been marred by circumstance as he has played for four clubs starting with the Oakland A’s in 2013, who traded him to the Boston Red Sox in 2014, who followed by trading him to the Detroit Tigers in 2015. Finally a mid-season trade to the New York Mets jump-started a run that ended in a World Series appearance.

Cespedes accepted a three year offer from the Mets worth 75 million dollars. However, there are a few reasons pointing to a strong possibility that Cespedes could become a New York Yankee in 2017.

The Yankees will have a few contracts off the books next year with Mark Teixeria, Brendon Ryan, and Carlos Beltran in their last seasons. Beltran’s vacancy will open a corner outfield slot as well. The decision to pack 27.5 million in the first year of the deal along with an opt out clause makes one wonder if he really wants to stay long term for the Mets. The Yankees did show interest and after seeing his 17 homers in 57 games along with Gold Glove performance showed that the New York stage does not deter him one bit.

Also take into account what Mets manager Terry Collins said about Cespedes.

“I’ve been around and seen alot of great players,”

Collins explained,

“This guy just strictly, the five tools, he’s got them all.”

The Yankees would not be going any ten year deals, but not adverse to matching his current top-heavy contract, which averages 25 million a year can be absorbed more easily with Alex Rodriguez in 2018 and C.C Sabbathia in 2017, completing their contract terms.

So for Mets fans it appears a World Championship or bust is in order. If the Mets fail to match or improve on last year, Cespedes can fit in just nicely as the Yankees have been in need for a fairly young veteran slugger to complement an emerging new core of talent in the Bronx that is close to blossoming into something special.

LUIS ORTIZ LOOKS FOR RESPECT AGAINST BRYANT JENNINGS

Sept 11,2014, Las Vegas NV. Hard Rock FIGHT # 11     Photo by Gene Blevins/Hogan Photos

Sept 11,2014, Las Vegas NV. Hard Rock FIGHT # 11 Photo by Gene Blevins/Hogan Photos

The heavyweight boxing division, which was ruled for nearly ten years by one man, is now fractured. The upset loss that Tyson Fury laid on Wladimir Klitschko opened up a series of actions in which now four different men will claim partial pieces of the heavyweight pie

One of those men, Luis Ortiz (23-0, 20 KO’s), from Cuba, who at 36, captured the interim version of the WBA Heavyweight title this past October in Madison Square Garden, when he knocked out Argentine Matias Ariel Vidondo in three rounds. He is slated to defend the title in Verona, NY, at the Turning Stone Resort Casino, this Saturday, December 19th.

Ortiz, by appearances, has put in his work, and at 6’4″ and fighting southpaw, he has the physical tools. He is a former Olympic Gold medalist in 2004. His skill-set would give any heavyweight in the division trouble. Bryant Jennings should be wary.

“To headline an HBO event and fighting a former world title contender like Jennings is what I have been preparing my whole career for,”

Ortiz pointed out.

Jennings, (19-1,10 KO’s) got a lesson when he fought and lost a decision to Klitschko in Madison Square Garden for his shot at undisputed honors. He talents were exposed as promising but still raw. Take into account that he is fighting a boxer very similar to another Cuban he fought, Mike Perez, who gave him fits, and won by a very close split decision. But he is a tough defensive nut to crack. Golden Boy Promotions head Oscar de la Hoya recognized,

“Jennings doesn’t crack under pressure, he has a great chin and is very athletic.”

Jennings gets a second shot at the big prize but for Ortiz, its about redemption and clearing his name, which was tarnished on September 11th, of 2014, when he won the then vacant WBA interim belt by defeating Lateef Kayode. He was stripped shortly after after testing positive for anabolic steriods.

“He’s determined, motivated, he wants to be great and wants to take on all comers,”

confirmed De La Hoya.

The man known as “The Real King Kong” seeks a cleaner and more successful start to his second reign and give Golden Boy Promotions, who are working with Gary Shaw Productions, a heavyweight Latino power player.

“What a terrific heavyweight showdown,”

Oscar de la Hoya pridefully exclaimed,

“We’re obviously banking on Ortiz to win.”

HBO LATINO TO AIR FILM ON CARLOS VARELA

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The 30th anniversary of Cuban singer, songwriter, and lyricist Carlos Varela will be celebrated in various homes next month via HBO Latino in the movie “The Poet of Havana.” Havana was the locale where this documentary was filmed. It will show how Varela and his country influenced each other over the years. The politics and people of Cuba impacted him while his music returned the favor.

Ron Chapman, who directed and produced the film, has been a musician and music manager. His Toronto music club “The Edge” has been a hub of promotional events for top international artists. But it was through his film production company, where he directed rock videos and commercials for leading brands worldwide that made him perfect for this project.

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He provides exclusive access and backstage views for different concerts and secured interviews with the likes of Jackson Browne, Benicio del Toro, Ivan Lins, and Luis Enrique, among others. They all shared their stories about the man, even showing them on stage with him.

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The man who was known as “Cuba’s Bob Dylan” was in a constant battle over the censorship of his work. Long before the healed relations between Cuba and the United States, Varela was often a loud voice for freedom for the individual in Cuba while spending great deals of effort in building bridges between his country, his people who immigrated to Miami, and the United States. On October 23rd, at 7pm on HBO Latino and also on HBO on Demand, HBO GO, and HBO Now, “The Poet of Havana” will tell you all you need to know about Carlos Varela.