Saturday, September 17, 2011 | | 0 comments

Crafting Art on Both Sides of the Hyphen: A Discussion on Latin-American Art

Latin-American Art -- this was the topic of a panel discussion I curated/moderated this past week in Miami, Florida. Actually, the talk revolved around the figurative place that lies between South and North America; the "Latin" artists that live with a foot in both worlds, straddling the hyphen itself. Some of them grabbing on to it, embracing it, some of them longing to be free of it, shaking it off daily -- not with a rumba, let's be clear, but with a vigorous force of intellect.

When I was younger and people asked me if I was a Cuban-American writer or a "Latina" artist I'd get annoyed. "Your colors are so Latin," they'd say, as if "Latin-Americans" were the only people that could enjoy the bright flare of magenta. Today, due to pragmatic reasons I use the term myself, call myself Cuban-American; sometimes even "Latin," but only because they, these terms, reference the past and the past always influences the present. I never call myself "Latina" -- it just seems like too much sometimes, to say that.

All of these terms are growing increasingly complicated in a world that seems to further collide cultures, countries, hemispheres, continents -- erasing borders and creating them at the same time. Instead of complaining, I've always thought the best thing to do is to continue to talk it out. Until the terms themselves carry the weight of dialogue rather than any kind of ancient or neo-colonialism.

** The panel took place at the BUENA VISTA BUILDING, where an exhibit of Cecilia Moreno-Yaghoubi continues to exhibit through Oct. 8 (date of closing reception). 180 NE 39th Street is the Address. The image attached to today's blog is the invitation to the show.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 | | 0 comments

Educating Cubans & Americans

In her June 26th blog (, Yoani Sanchez complains about the Cuban school system – inept school teachers; students faced with a series of standardized tests that are in such constant flux that it confuses students instead of aids in their learning; and Physical Education hours that are spent haphazardly. Sound familiar?

FCAT scores; the **** we pay our teachers, thereby ensuring that the best and the smartest are lost to other professions. As for PE – well, we’ve seen the size of our kids.

However, Yoani then adds a line about how it has become common practice for teens in Cuba to trade sex with their teachers for good grades. One would hope that, despite “grade inflation,” this kind of behavior does not actually exist in the States to the extent it seems to in Cuba. Perhaps it did once, before all those sexual harassment rules were added to student/faculty handbooks.

Regardless, she ends the blog like this:

“We cannot continue to be satisfied with the fact that at least while our children are sitting at a desk they are not roaming the streets at the mercy other risks. Within the walls of the classroom very serious vices can be developed, permanent ethical deformations, and an incubation of mediocrity of alarming proportions. No parent should remain silent about it.”

I’d say that’s pretty good advice for parents, even here in the grand ‘ol US of A.

Thursday, June 10, 2010 | | 0 comments

Big Fat Cuban Families

Today, I read an entry on a blog called My Big Fat Cuban Family I know this isn’t a blog coming from inside of Cuba, which is what I said I’d be blogging about lately. But, I think this blog is incredibly relevant to the Diaspora and to what “Cuban” means. The entry I read today was called “My Life Has Been as Crazy as a Fiddler on a Roof.” At the beginning of the blog, the blogger, a Cuban-American mom who lives in Orange County, California, states that she hasn’t been able to blog because she’s been pouring all her creative juices into supporting her daughter in her high school production of Fiddler on the Roof.” I have been eating, sleeping, and breathing Russian Jews. ;-)” [The smiley face is hers too]. And the thing is, I believe her. I believe her whole heartedly. And I love it. I believe her and love it because I have a Cuban mother too, who, since were little is, for better or worse, as enmeshed as it gets.

Here’s to all the over-protective, uber-involved, "who-says-you-can’t-do-it-all" Cuban moms. We love you, with our whole hearts.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010 | | 1 comments

Droughts and Summer Doubts

Yesterday, Yoani ( a blog about the summer heat in relation to deflated expectations – melting hopes; and heat flashes on buses. The political prisoners who have been making the international press for several days – the political prisoners that are said to be released soon – are still behind bars. Summer plays out her drought-full role and, meanwhile, on the other side of the sea, and across quite a bit of land, I sit in a coffee shop, working, in California – doubtful.

My doubts are of a different place and time, but belonging to the same summer. Doubts about the future, decisions made, loves lost, and the fact that I’m sitting here, tired and desperately sad. I will not list my set of concerns because they will, doubtless, seem trite in comparison to the plight of those imprisoned in Cuba or those feeling locked in by the waters that surround them with a tight sky releasing no relief. But, still, I do feel overwhelmed by a particular bout of 31-year old growing pains, another course of searching on the horizon. Because that’s what happens when you grow –there’s this moment of absolute misery, when your pants are too short and you have nothing to wear. You’re naked until you go out and fill your closet again with an adjusted size. And while I minimize my feelings in comparison to that of the citizens of Cuba, I will say they are no less real, no less painful. I long for the day when everything fits again.

Cuba, itself, is going to have to go through an enormous bout of growing pains if it ever sheds its old bag of a leader. Buildings will outgrow their purpose; prisoners their bars; black markets their purpose; prostitutes their profession; bloggers their urgency; exiles their desolation…

Sunday, June 6, 2010 | | 0 comments

Church and State

On June 3, in a blog coming out of Cuba called Voices Behind Bars (, Pablo Pacheco Avila, a Cuban political prisoner, lauded the Catholic Church for intervening on behalf of Cuban prisoners, for their human rights and for their eventual release.

For many months, the issue has been bubbling to the surface – for the Cubans, with as much vigor as the oil that is bubbling up in the Gulf. One prisoner, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, died in Feburary, after an 85 day hunger strike. Another Cuban, Guillermo Farinas, a journalist, has been on hunger strike since Tamayo’s death. He promised to continue his strike until 10 prisoners were released.

Enter the church, which Pacheco calls the “mediator” between Castro (Raul, these days) and the Damas de Blanco (Cuban women -- the mothers, sisters, and wives of those imprisoned, who have been marching for days, for months, for years, protesting, despite threats and tribulations). Now, here arises the question, that age old question, about the actual role of the church and its relation to government – Church and State. Pacheco makes an argument in favor of the church’s intervention. And, in this case, it does make sense. If the church is supposed to spread a particular teaching; a Christ-like way of life, then it makes perfect sense to fight for those whose rights are being abused behind bars in Cuba. These, after all, were journalists, protestors, writers, that were writing and speaking their minds, simply that. In 2003, the Cuban government cracked-down and took them in. They are still behind bars, in dire conditions, some of them dying.

I just wonder, however, what goes on behind closed doors (not to mention behind bars). What the church and state are actually working out. I wonder how much of this is just Raul Castro buying time? I wonder how much of any of this will truly be effective. And, I wonder, how it is that one is effective at all when the Cuban government is involved. “God willing” these prisoners will be released, and one must be thankful for the intervention of the church, or its “mediation.”

But, what about the prisoners that will remain behind bars, after the church stops showing up on front pages; and the others that will be captured after.

I wonder, how do you really slay this dragon?