I HAD JUST GOTTEN UP at around 7 a.m. because I needed to take the car in for some repairs. I usually don’t wake up earlier than 9 a.m. anymore, not since I got fired and was collecting unemployment and on summer break from college and staying up late watching Netflix documentaries, reading news, alone on the couch in my one-bedroom apartment while my girlfriend sleeps 10 feet away behind a closed door in a big, unwelcoming and half-empty queen-sized bed.
But that morning really pissed me off.
I will attempt to start from the beginning. Here it goes.
I live in Echo Park, which is a relatively shitty neighborhood in Los Angeles. I stay off of Sunset Boulevard and Echo Park Avenue. After a few years of gentrification, the area has started to get trendier, with borderline upscale restaurants and high-end, snotty wine & beer bars, beauty salons, art galleries and random shops that cater to overly privileged white kids with nothing but money and an overwhelming conviction of irony and post-post-modernism.
However, the poor and the bums remained, much to the chagrin of the young iconoclasts. Some of the small shops stayed, but most left or were kicked out—either directly from an abundance of commercial, more modern competition or they were just bought out, or they saw the new wave of clientele come into the hood and decided to pack up and head farther east or south—the last haven for darker-skinned, non-hipsters.
There is a park with the same namesake in Echo Park where there is a bronze bust honoring the Cuban national hero and anti-imperialist fighter, José Martí. It sits at the far northwest corner of the park across the street from an evangelical church. The bust is surrounded by short and well-manicured palm trees. Echo Park has a huge Latino population, and a sizeable component of that is Cuban American.
Unfortunately, most Cuban Americans living in the States have a deep-seeded resentment toward Castro and most of the socialist and Left movements in Latin America—some of them go as far as being ultra-rightwing violent zealots. In fact, a documentary recently came out called “Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up?” by award-winning director Saul Landau, which goes into great detail on the history of anti-Cuba and anti-Castro terrorist groups centered in Miami and a group of five Cubans who infiltrated these extremist groups in order to stop future terrorist attempts (but guess who’s in jail?). But Miami is not alone. Places like New York and even Los Angeles harbor a vastly conservative Cuban population.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Cubans. I love Cuba. I even love mojitos, salsa and pulled-pork Panini sandwiches. But, more importantly, I admire and respect the Cuban Revolution and Socialist Cuba, and the resurgence of the Latin American Left going on in South American and Central America [Mexico is lagging, unfortunately]. I make no apology for that. Not to you. Not to Cubans. It is what it is. And for that, I believe, I am suffering the consequences.
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by Robert Barboza
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