Agrees and disagrees with
(This note is in
response to the article, "The role of the alternative media: A wall against the
manipulation of reality," by Salim Lamrani which appeared two weeks ago in
I found the article both informative and provocative. I
generally agree with the main thrust of many of the central points including a
general misreading of Cuban immigration statistics in the
and an ideological manipulation of immigration in the Cuban case to serve U.S.
geo-political interests. I also agree that Cuba gets too much attention in
reaction to its migration relative to other countries that send many more
migrants such as the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
However, I think the author goes a bit too far in a number
of places. First of all, no numeric comparison can be made between Cuban
migration to the
before 1959 and after. Yes, there was a significant migration to the U.S. from
Cuba going back at least to 1850 and the dictatorships of Machado and Batista
generated substantial migration from Cuba in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. But all of
that was but prelude to the hundreds of thousands of migrants who have come
since 1959. Revolutions by their nature turn society upside down and alienate
those in past positions of power, others benefit. Those who lose out seek to
change the system or leave or both – the case of the Cuban exile community.
There were perhaps 30,000 Cubans in the
in 1959, now there are over 1 million. I agree that many of these migrants
(especially the ones since 1990) are more accurately described as economic
migrants than political refugees, but the numbers are clear. Also, it is quite
difficult to determine in any blanket way if an individual immigrant is an
immigrant or a refugee. Your point is that the U.S. calls them all “refugees
from communism” for its own political reasons. I agree. However, given the
extent to which politics and economics are unified in state socialist regimes
such as Cuba, there are few decisions (especially that of emigration) which are
not at least partly political.
It is true that
policy continues to (cynically) grant special treatment to Cuban immigrants
under the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act acting as a huge magnet for potential
immigrants. However, the original purpose of that legislation was more about
granting a legal status to those who had originally expected to return quickly
to Cuba (after the U.S. overthrew Castro). They are still waiting. The U.S.
manipulation of migration and the Cuban Adjustment Act loophole, however, do not
mean that Cuba produces no refugees. All Cuban migrants are not refugees as the
U.S. would have it, but neither are they all economic migrants as Cuba would
Furthermore, major immigration from places like
and India did not begin until 1965 so it is misleading to compare them to Cuba
in the 1950s period.
Finally, the numbers cited for the 1990s up to 2003 for
Cuban immigration to the
are inaccurate. Only a portion of the real numbers are shown. Due to the
migration accords of 1994-1995, more than 20,000 Cubans have come to the U.S.
each year since 1995 – more than 250,000 since 1995. I agree that this is not
automatic "proof" of the repressive nature of the Cuban government since the
U.S. does continue to grant Cuban immigrants virtual automatic acceptance under
the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act. However, the numbers are much larger than cited
in the article.
Finally, BOTH the
and Cuba have a long history of manipulating migration and the media for
political purposes. Yes, the mainstream media in the U.S. serves many of the
nefarious purposes you mention in the article (due to the concentration of money
and power and to political interests). But what is “mainstream media” anyway –
the New York Times, Fox, CNN, the Washington Post? Do they all work together to
serve Uncle Sam? Yes, they are all businesses and like all business have (and
serve) the bottom line. But surely you don’t mean that they are all the same.
Finally, if you want an example of a media that censors, manipulates, and
distorts information to serve political and power interests (with no competitors
or “alternative media” allowed) you need to look no further than Granma.
For updated numbers and analysis of Cuban Immigration since
1995, I refer you to my recent article entitled, "Balseros, Boteros and El Bombo:
Cuban Migration to the
since the 1995 Accords and the Persistence of Special Treatment." Published both
in Latino Studies (in English) and in Encuentro de la cultura cubana (en Español).
Baruch College, CUNY
New York City