THE MOST OPENLY HATED MINORITY IN THE U.S.
by Agustin Blazquez with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton
On March 26, 2005, on the Washington, DC local PBS station WETA Channel 26, while watching “Viewer Favorites,” I was shocked to see singer Eric Burton - formerly of the group “The Animals” – wearing a Che Guevara shirt while performing on that show.
As a Cuban American, as a writer and a filmmaker, I am acquainted with the Che as a mass murderer who executed, without trial, many Cubans at La Cabaña fortress in Havana as well as in the Sierra Maestra Mountains before 1959.
It is shocking that an educational public television station is not aware of Che’s criminal record and let pass such an insensitive and offensive display of disrespect to Che’s victims and the Cuban American community in the U.S. If Mr. Burton had worn a Hitler or a swastika printed shirt, he wouldn’t have been presented – rightfully so - in order not to offend the Jewish victims and Holocaust survivors.
No PBS station would dare to show a performer wearing Ku-Klux-Klan apparel, a pro-David Duke or anti-Arab, anti-Islam, anti-Mexican, anti-Chinese or any other minority group in the U.S. It would have been simply edited out without any regard to what its creator intended.
Unfortunately, those considerations do not apply concerning the Cuban American community. Apparently everybody has carte blanche to offend and defame us without impunity in all print media, radio and TV as well as academia. Moreover, I believe there is even encouragement for bashing and scorning Cuban Americans.
But, stupid me, I decided to contact WETA. On March 29, I wrote an open letter complaining and requesting an apology from Sheryl Lahti, the Director of Audience Services at that PBS station with copies to Michael Pack and John Prizer of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. As of this writing I haven’t received reply from Ms. Lahti or anyone else from WETA or PBS.
A Cuban American advocate for Democracy and Human Rights in Cuba from New York City who read my letter at LaurenceJarvikOnline http://laurencejarvikonline.blogspot.com, on April 4 wrote complaining about the Eric Burton blunder. The next day he got an email from Danielle Dunbar (firstname.lastname@example.org), WETA’s Audience Service Coordinator.
She wrote, “Thank you for watching WETA and for taking the time to write to us about one of the performers you saw in ‘My Music: The 60s Generation.’ While I am sorry to hear that you object to a portion of the program, I appreciate the opportunity to respond.
“While WETA airs the fundraising special, we did not produce the program. The show was produced by TJL Productions and distributed by PBS. TJL Productions is solely responsible for its content. Nonetheless, as a public broadcaster that produces, broadcasts and values a wide range of programs that cover a divergent range of topics, it would be inappropriate for WETA to engage in such censorship. While you may dislike images of a particular subject, others may respond favorably to the same image. It is not our intent or role to suppress or promote either view, but to present the program as the show's creator intended. How you feel about that is a matter of personal choice. Further, there are no elements to the program that violate any FCC rules or guidelines. ‘My Music’ has been a very popular program with WETA's members and viewers, and I expect that we will air it again in the future.”
I think her arguments are not valid. Of course PBS is responsible for what they decide show, especially if it is offensive to a minority and PBS/WETA does exercise censorship in what they present about Castro's Cuba. Even Oscar winning Nestor Almendros' "Nobody Listened" had to be edited and shortened against what its “creator intended” in order to be aired by PBS/WETA in tandem with a Saul Landau's pro-Castro documentary. So PBS practices selective censorship in order not to offend Castro while doesn’t care about his victims.
However, the pro-Castro documentaries of Estela Bravo (a native New Yorker who has lived in Cuba since 1963 as a member of the pro-Castro foreign elite) are shown on PBS/WETA without the benefit of showing an opposite point of view. Yes, PBS/WETA offers opportunities to one side, but not the other.
In spite of our complaints, Danielle Dunbar is defiant at the end when she arrogantly states, "'My Music' has been a very popular program with WETA's members and viewers, and I expect that we will air it again in the future." Their attitude is of insensitivity and utter disdain for Cuban Americans feelings.
Famous guitarist Carlos Santana proudly wearing a Che t-shirt while performing at the 2005 Oscars Award ceremony recently offended uncountable Cuban Americans. Famous Cuban American saxophonist, Paquito D’Rivera, was offended and wrote a public letter to his colleague.
In his letter, Paquito D’Rivera says to Carlos Santana, “not too long ago you committed the faux-pas of appearing at the Oscar Awards ceremony, brandishing, with pride, an enormous crucifix over a t-shirt with that archaic and stereotyped image of ‘The Butcher of the Cabana,’ the moniker given to the lamentable character known as Che Guevara by those Cubans who had to suffer his tortures and humiliations in that nefarious prison.
“One of these Cubans was my cousin Bebo, imprisoned there just for being a Christian. He recounts to me on occasion, always with infinite bitterness, how he could hear, from his cell, in the early hours of dawn, the executions without prior trials or process of law, of the many who died shouting, ‘Long Live Christ The King!’
“The guerrilla guy with the beret with the star is something more than that ridiculous film about a motorcycle, my illustrious colleague, and to juxtapose Christ with Ché Guevara is like entering a synagogue with a swastika hanging from your neck; it’s also a harsh blow in the face of that Cuban youth from the 60’s, who had to go into hiding to listen to your albums which the Revolution, and the troglodyte Argentinean and his cohorts, dubbed as ‘imperialist music’ (i.e. Rock & Roll).
“I can’t find all the words to express my indignation over your irresponsible attitude, but believe me that in spite of all, as an artist I always wish you luck.”
Santana later apologized on the Spanish TV show “Primer Impacto” on the UNIVISION network. But the U.S. media said nothing.
On June 1, 2005, Santana had a concert at the American Airline Arena (AAA) in Miami. Cuban Americans organized a silent vigil carrying candles and crosses for each one of Che’s victims in front of AAA. As usual the U.S. media didn’t report the vigil. But according to sources inside AAA, Santana lost more than 40% in ticket sales.
Humberto Fontova, the author of the newly released book “Fidel: Hollywood’s Favorite Tyrant” http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2005/4/7/180418.shtml in a recent article titled “Che at the Oscars” http://newsmax.com/archives/articles/2005/3/31/162005.shtml writes about the testimony of a Cuban American, Pierre San Martin, that was one of the people jailed by Che. Fontova refers to an article in El Nuevo Herald a few years ago.
In it, San Martin says, “32 of us were crammed into a cell, 16 of us would stand while the other sixteen tried to sleep on the cold filthy floor. We took shifts that way. Actually, we considered ourselves lucky. After all, we were alive. Dozens were led from the cells to the firing squad daily. The volleys kept us awake. We felt that any one of those minutes would be our last.
"One morning the horrible sound of that rusty steel door swinging open startled us awake and Che's guards shoved a new prisoner into our cell. His face was bruised and smeared with blood. We could only gape. He was a boy, couldn't have been much older than 12, maybe 14.
"’What did you do?’ We asked horrified. ‘I tried to defend my papa,’ gasped the bloodied boy. ‘I tried to keep these Communist sons of b**tches form murdering him! But they sent him to the firing squad.
“Soon Che's goons came back, the rusty steel door opened and they yanked the valiant boy out of the cell. ‘We all rushed to the cell's window that faced the execution pit,’ recalls Mr. San Martin. ‘We simply couldn't believe they'd murder him!’
"’Then we spotted him, strutting around the blood-drenched execution yard with his hands on his waist and barking orders--the gallant Che Guevara.’ Here Che was finally in his element. In battle he was a sad joke, a bumbler of epic proportions (For details see Fidel; Hollywood's Favorite Tyrant). But up against disarmed and bloodied boys he was a snarling tiger. ‘Kneel Down! Che barked at the boy.
"’ASSASSINS!’ We screamed for our window. ‘MURDERERS!! HOW CAN YOU MURDER A LITTLE BOY!’ I said: KNEEL DOWN!’ Che barked again.
“The boy stared Che resolutely in the face. ‘If you're going to kill me,’ he yelled, ‘you'll have to do it while I'm standing! MEN die standing!’
"COWARDS!--MURDERERS!..Sons of B**TCHES!’ The men yelled desperately from their cells. "LEAVE HIM ALONE!’ HOW CAN...?!
"And then we saw Che upholstering his pistol. It didn't seem possible. But Che raised his pistol, put the barrel to the back of the boy neck and blasted. The shot almost decapitated the young boy.
"We erupted. We were enraged, hysterical, banging on the bars.’MURDERERS!--ASSASSINS!’ His murder finished, Che finally looked up at us, pointed his pistol, and BLAM!-BLAM-BLAM! emptied his clip in our direction. Several of us were wounded by his shots."
“To a man (and boy) Che's murder victims went down in a blaze of defiance and glory. So let's recall Che's own plea when the wheels of justice finally turned and he was cornered in Bolivia, ‘Don't Shoot!’ he whimpered. ‘I'm Che ! I'm worth more to you alive than dead!’
“This swinish and murdering coward, this child-killer, was the toast of the Oscars.” Fontova concludes.
And now WETA will defiantly is hoping to show Eric Burton again proudly wearing a criminal Che t-shirt without apologizing to his victims, one of them is a young boy 12 or 14 years old.
Cuban Americans sadly watch with concern and horror such open displays of hatred toward us as a minority in the U.S.
© 2005 ABIP
COVERING CUBA, CUBA: The Pearl of the Antilles, COVERING CUBA 2: The Next Generation & COVERING CUBA 3: Elian presented at the 2003 Miami Latin Film Festival and the 2004 American Film Renaissance Film Festival in Dallas, Texas and the upcoming COVERING CUBA 4: The Rats Below and Dan Rather “60 Minutes” an inside view (ALL AVAILABLE AT: www.CubaCollectibles.com)
Author with Carlos Wotzkow of the book COVERING AND DISCOVERING and translator with Jaums Sutton of the book by Luis Grave de Peralta Morell THE MAFIA OF HAVANA: The Cuban Cosa Nostra.