Cuba and the American Media: Truth Is Hard to Find But Not Impossible

Myriam Marquez, on the left in the above photo, is the Editorial Page Editor at the Miami Herald. DeWayne Wickham, on the right, is the top columnist at America’s top newspaper, USA Today. Ms. Marquez, a University of Maryland graduate, was born in Havana, Cuba. At age four in 1959 her parents brought her to Miami, Florida after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. She is viscerally anti-Castro, a philosophy that has helped her become arguably the most powerful journalist in South Florida. Mr. Wickham is also a graduate of the University of Maryland. During a distinguished career in both the electronic and printed media, Mr. Wickham has taught journalism at Delaware State University, North Carolina A & T, the University of Pennsylvania, and now Howard University. He has been a superb syndicated columnist at USA Today since 1985. And Mr. Wickham is unique in the pantheon of American journalism: He does his own research and then makes up his own mind when it comes to reporting on Cuba, which he does often. Almost without fail, the rest of the U. S. media, when it comes to Cuba, saturates the American people only with the viewpoints of influential Cuban-Americans such as Ms. Marquez or the sanitized politically correct jargon of even the very liberal New York Times or the very middle-of-the-road CNN. The extremes of right-wingers such as Fox News and left-wingers such as MSNBC can, or should, be readily discounted because they speak only to their choirs. Thus, the freshness and uniqueness of journalists such as DeWayne Wickham keeps the fading sanctity and integrity of the U. S. media afloat, if barely.

Dewayne Wickham’s column in USA Today appears each Tuesday. This week (May 27th) his column was entitled “U. S. MISSES OUT ON CUBA INVESTMENT.” He wrote it after his 14th recent trip to Cuba. Never one to base his journalism on either anti-Cuban or pro-Cuban propaganda, Mr. Wickham was actually on the island this week to judge for himself the ramifications of Cuba’s newly formulated economic/entrepreneurial changes. He realizes that the Castros, Fidel (87) and Raul (82), have already named a much younger non-Castro (Miguel Diaz-Canel) as Cuba’s next leader. Also, he realizes that Cuba is preparing for the day that a U.S.-friendly leader will unseat the current Cuba-friendly Venezuelan government. Therefore, Cuba is drastically seeking and obtaining foreign investment in such projects as the billion-dollar enhancement of the Mariel Port 28 miles southwest of Havana. In this week’s USA Today column from Havana, Mr. Wickham wrote: “The U. S. travel restrictions and embargo against Cuba have morphed into a blockade against U. S. businesses that ought to be this island’s leading economic partners. Instead, Spanish companies are building many of the hotels that are a part of Cuba’s surging tourism industry. Most of the new cars in Havana are being built in China, not Detroit. Last year, a British company signed a contract to build a golf course resort in Cuba. All this might explain why a U. S. Chamber of Commerce delegation will visit Cuba this week.” Mr. Wickham concluded Tuesday’s column with these words: “Now it’s time for a sensible policy…”

For years, Mr. Wickham has pleaded for a sane, decent, sensible American policy regarding Cuba. In the mainstream U. S. media, that makes DeWayne Wickham consistently unique as a virtual lone wolf with both the courage and integrity to write sensibly about Cuba. As he has often done, this week Mr. Wickham spotlighted a decent American {Rosa Grillo of Silver Spring, Maryland} as an example of the vast majority of Americans who have been “held hostage to U. S. policy.” To benefit or appease a handful of Cuban exiles, that “U. S. policy” has been in effect since January of 1959. If DeWayne Wickham is unique because he points out that simple, basic, lingering fact, what does it say about the rest of the mainstream U. S. media?

Meet Conner Gorry! She is an American. She lives in Havana. She owns a popular small business there. If you ask her, she will explain Cuba to you, from A to Z.

Conner Gorry’s business in Havana is “Cuba Libro,” a cafe and library. She knows the counter-intuitive nature of the island — its people and its government. She writes honestly about the island from that perspective in a variety of venues.

Conner Gorry — an American who lives and works in Havana — knows Cubans intimately. She writes knowingly and beautifully about their everyday lives, including their hopes and dreams. Everyday Americans have been prohibited from going to Cuba for decades, thus they might not understand why Conner Gorry loves the island and its people so much. That discrepancy displeases and saddens Ms. Gorry.

Conner Gorry writes about everyday life on the island, such as these lovebirds sitting on Havana’s famed Malecon seawall that she featured in one photo-essay.

Conner Gorry is a native New Yorker. She received a BA in Latin American Studies at New York University and her Masters from the Monterrey Institute of International Studies. She has lived in Havana since 2002 and not only owns a business there but she is a brilliant and prolific writer. She is Managing Editor of “MEDICC Review,” the best blog about Cuba’s health issues. She has written twelve highly acclaimed Lonely Planet guides about Cuba and other nations. She is the author of “Here Is Havana: The Blog & Book.” In the preface to the book she writes: “Being an American in Cuba is often revelatory, rarely easy, and never dull. But if it was Cuba’s soul that first entranced me, it is Havana’s heart that has me in its grip.” Conner Gorry knows Cuba. She lives and works in Cuba. Her superb and insightful writing about Cuba is unbiased. Therefore, Americans are supposed to ignore Conner Gorry and get their Cuban information spoon-fed by members of the U. S. Congress from Miami or from well-rewarded Cuban dissidents such as Yoani Sanchez. Conner Gorry’s insight is a reminder of why Cuba is the one spot on earth that everyday Americans are not allowed to visit, a self-serving dictate drilled into the U. S. democracy decades ago by a handful of people who prefer to tell you about Cuba as opposed to letting you see it and judge it for yourself. If routinely allowed that opportunity, Americans might not like what they see but they surely deserve the right to sift through the labyrinth of distortions and observe for themselves. Americans can at least visit to get a first-hand perspective of Cuba from an inimitable American who lives there.

Rosa Jordan is another keenly interesting, enigmatic, unique person. Like Conner Gorry, Rosa has multiple degrees and is a brilliant writer. She grew up in the Florida Everglades and, as an energetic traveler, settled in Canada in 1980. As a Canadian, she had/has the freedom to travel wherever she chooses. Her favorite destination turned out to be Cuba, of all places. Rosa has traveled to Cuba many times — walking, riding, and even bicycling across the length and breadth of the fascinating, alligator-shaped island. She has written many Cuban books, including a superb travel guide.

Rosa Jordan not only knows all about Cuban topography, travails, and vernacular, she is also an expert on Cuban history. Therefore, she is aware that the most important revolutionary fighter and leader in Cuban history was/is the petite doctor’s daughter Celia Sanchez, the heroine of the Cuban Revolution that has so mightily impacted the United States of America. Rosa Jordan’s book “The Woman She Was” is an absolutely brilliant novel in which the primary character is inspired by and modeled after Celia Sanchez. That’s why Rosa featured a photo of the meticulous, note-taking Celia Sanchez on the cover.

Rosa Jordan is a best-selling author in Canada. She knows Cuba and its people like the back of her hand. She writes and speaks beautifully and authentically about the island and its people. She is, in other words, the type of unbiased Cuban expert that Americans are not supposed to know — Americans that conveniently are not allowed to visit the island so, apparently, they can get their impregnable information about Cuba only from a handful of anointed and self-serving dissidents on the island or a handful of eager Miami politicos.

Rosa Jordan’s book “Cuba Unspun” is a scintillating portrait of life on the island of Cuba. If you are an everyday American without the freedom to visit the nearby island, this book as well as other Rosa Jordan gems should be atop your “must read” list.

And by the way………… …………….Rosa Jordan’s “Far From Botany Bay” is one of the few hardback novels that I have read twice from cover-to-cover within one week after purchasing it from Amazon. It’s not about Cuba. It’s about a Australian prison known to history as “Botany Bay.” A 21-year-old woman named Mary Broom ended up there and in 1791 attempted a miraculous escape. Rosa’s depiction had me emotionally attached to Mary’s rarefied plight and bold determination even on the second reading!

In summary:

As a lifelong, democracy-loving conservative Republican, I believe the Cuban Revolution back in the 1950s says more about the United States than it says about Cuba. And that’s why I am fascinated by Cuba and not, say, Jamaica. What the Cuban Revolution says about America is two-fold: {1} The U. S. should not have teamed with the Mafia to support the vile Batista dictatorship in Cuba; and {2} after the overthrow of the Batista dictatorship in 1959 the U. S. should not have allowed what essentially became the reconstitution of the Batista dictatorship on U. S. soil, namely nearby Miami, to the detriment of the vast majority of Cubans, Americans and citizens of the world. Americans and Cubans, for example, should not have to face the dictates of an American Cuban policy designed to sate the political, economic and revenge motives of an elitist few. That’s why, I believe, the viewpoints of DeWayne Wickham, Conner Gorry, Rosa Jordan, etc., are so important…as opposed to Americans overwhelmingly being force-fed self-serving and detrimental Cuban data, not so unlike the infamous water-boarding at the U. S. Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba.

Columbus discovered both the USA and Cuba in 1492, revealing that the two nations were and forever would be neighbors. But through the ages big nations have preyed upon smaller nations. And in recent centuries ruthless, greedy profiteers have benefited from wars, conflicts and turmoil — especially when war-mongers have unchecked authority either in small Banana Republic-type dictatorships are in large, super-powerful democracies. In that regard, Cuba has run the gamut. Being the next-door neighbor of the world’s superpower figured to be an asset for Cuba, especially after the 1898 Spanish-American War. But war-mongers high up in the U. S. democracy decided that U.S.-backed dictators in Cuba would best suit their plans, resulting in the Batista-Mafia dictatorship beginning in 1952 that the Cuban Revolution booted all the way to Miami in 1959. In the 55 years since then, a few have benefited enormously from the continuing strife between the neighbors largely because the transplanted Batistianos, although hiding behind the skirts of the world superpower, have been, for some unfathomable reason, unable to regain control of the island.

Thus I am reminded yet again that Rosa Jordan’s favorite Cuban, Celia Sanchez, in 1959 issued a daunting proclamation: “The Batistianos will never regain control of Cuba as long as I live or as long as Fidel lives.” Celia died of cancer at age 59 on January 11, 1980; Fidel is 87-years-old and very sick. So, this deep into 2014 the Batistianos, against all odds, have not regained control of Cuba despite a massive all-out effort each day since January of 1959. But Fidel is not immortal and he may well die before this year is over. It is also very likely that Celia’s proclamation will die with him because there was only one Celia Sanchez. Rosa Jordan, who now lives in Canada and has been to Cuba many times, understands that. Americans do not.

Thomas Donahue, President of the United States Chamber of Commerce, was in Havana Wednesday {May 28th} to assess the economic changes taking place in Cuba. In the above photo Mr. Donahue is inspecting a privately owned car workshop, one of the new wave of businesses that now employ about 450,000 Cubans. Mr. Donahue told Reuters, “We are very pleased to be here. We are learning a lot about the changes taking place in Cuba.” Back in the United States, not surprisingly, most of the coverage of Mr. Donahue’s fact-finding trip to Cuba this week concerned the Cuban-Americans in the United States Congress going ballistic as they loudly denounced this latest non-hostile America approach to the neighboring island.

Rich Haney, Cubaninsider 

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