Countering the Castro
the Miami Sun Post
Note: A few weeks back I received an email from Jack King who writes a
weekly King of Miami
column for the Sun Post. He wanted to meet with Max Castro and I – saying he
enjoyed and appreciated Progreso Weekly and the work we were doing. The result
of that meeting is this column. It hit the mark Jack, thank you! Progreso Weekly
has decided to reprint it.)
don’t think anyone who has lived in Miami for any length of time would argue
with the premise that the single event that has changed this city the most over
its history was Fidel Castro’s takeover of Cuba. His rise to power and its
repercussions have defined the economics and politics of our neighborhood for
the past 40 years and possibly for the next 40 years. And I think it has changed
the economics very much for the better and the politics so very much for the
Several years ago Channel 10’s Michael Putney said that Fidel Castro was the
most powerful and influential politician in South Florida. He is so right.
Nothing happens in this town unless there is some reference to Fidel. And if
Fidel weighs in on an issue, all the local Cubans vote the opposite of what he
said. It can be the school board, the Sweetwater City Commission, whatever;
Fidel controls them all in a very backwards way, and they let him.
at the national level, with our three Cuban representatives and our Cuban
senator, nothing happens until they find out how Fidel feels about it. How else
could we have such silly policies as the wet foot, dry foot immigration for
Cubans only and different policies for everyone else, and such silly programs as
TV Marti, a broadcast system that costs millions of dollars each year but which
no one ever sees? Fidel said they were bad ideas, so we get them. The way Fidel
plays the local Cuban politicians like a cheap tambourine is just amazing to me.
early days of the Cuban diaspora, the Miami Herald did a very good job in
pointing out the incongruities in the “hate Castro at all costs” program. Even
though it was not very funny to the Cuban community, it sure seemed like a three-ring
circus to the rest of us. Eventually the Herald tried to cash in on the
Hispanic market and started El Herald, a full-scale joke of a newspaper.
By this time the Cuban community so despised the Herald that nothing they
did would bring back the Hispanic audience.
Several years later, with
nearly 50 percent Hispanic and with Herald revenues plummeting, they
dumped El Herald and started El Nuevo Herald, like no one in the
Hispanic community would notice. Even though it was stuffed with flaming anti-Castro,
right wing nutcase writers, the Cuban community still hated it.
that’s where we are now, with the Herald newsroom sold out to the anti-Castro
forces and El Nuevo Herald becoming bigger. So, now we really
don’t know what’s really happening in Cuba, or anywhere else for that matter.
Several years ago a fellow named Francisco Aruca, who believed that the only way
to work things out between Cuba and America was with dialogue, started an AM
radio program to give us a little better and more open view of just what is
happening. Bear in mind that people who espouse dialogue with Cuba are generally
shot or have their cars blown up. But Aruca has soldiered on and is still alive.
Along with the radio show he started a Web site called Progreso Weekly.
It was essentially a written version of the radio show, but with a few extras.
Francisco is a whirling dervish who never stops moving. But adding the Web site
nearly killed him, so he passed it on to his compatriot Álvaro Fernández. Álvaro
has expanded the Web site, www.progresoweekly.com,
adding a number of new writers. It is now getting about 300,000 hits a month.
Seems like there might be a few people out there who really want to find out the
Álvaro’s first writers to come on board was Max Castro. An academic and
sociologist by trade, Max had been writing some very interesting and insightful
columns for El Herald in Spanish for then publisher David Lawrence.
Lawrence soon had him writing for the big Herald and he generated quite a
following. When Lawrence departed, new publisher Alberto Ibargüen didn’t take
too kindly to Max’s liberal bent and canned him. Álvaro had him working in short
time for Progreso Weekly.
little aside here: I first met Max about a year after the Elian Gonzalez
debacle. Ofra Bikel and her New York-based production team were in South Florida
to do a one-hour show for Frontline on PBS. They needed some private
homes to conduct the interviews from, but couldn’t find a single homeowner in
Miami who would allow them in. That is, until they met me. They interviewed Max,
myself and, just to show you that there were more than just hippy dippy liberals
on the show, Ramon Saul Sanchez.
Álvaro Fernández is doing on the Web site is just magical. The content changes
every week and generally has about 10 columns. There are also some special
pieces, like the “BS Detector,” which generally compares what the Herald
is saying to what real newspapers are saying.
in about 800 words, I have introduced you to three Cuban Americans who believe
the only way to solve the Cuban-American issues are through dialogue. Not war.
Not lies. Not ranting and raving. Not intimidation. Not BS. Just talking.
you didn’t know there were three! If you listen to the Cuban American National
Foundation and its ilk, they would tell you there are zero.
Progreso’s 300,000 readers grow to 3 million. This neighborhood needs and
deserves good journalism.
Web site is www.progresoweekly.com and is in both English and Spanish.