Hova in Havana

After learning that music superstar couple Jay-Z and Beyoncé celebrated their fifth anniversary in Cuba last week, a lot of pro-embargo politicians were seeing red come Monday.

Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart, two Florida Cubans doggedly opposed to the Castro regime, wrote a letter to the Treasury Department expressing their discontent with Jay and Bey’s treasury-sponsored trip.

“The restrictions on tourism travel are commonsense measures meant to prevent U.S. dollars from supporting a murderous regime that opposes U.S. security interests at every turn and which ruthlessly suppresses the most basic liberties of speech, assembly and belief,” the two wrote earlier in the week.

For others, the high-profile jaunt only highlighted the hypocritical inequity of prohibiting Americans from visiting a place just because its government is totalitarian.

“After spending the appropriate amount of time admiring Beyoncé’s outfit and Jay-Z’s ability to look coolly detached,” wrote France François for Ebony, “all I wondered was why I too couldn’t stroll the streets of Havana as effortlessly as they are. Rather, why is the United States holding on to the embargo against Cuba, a policy that Secretary of State John Kerry said ‘has manifestly failed’ for more than half a century?”

Good question. I find myself wondering the same thing.

Undoubtedly, the Castro regime has a firm grip on Cuba’s destiny, for which it should be criticized at every turn. But I doubt continuing a 50-year-old game of “I’m not talking to you” will improve the situation.

In fact, the embargo is leaving the Cuban people further exposed to state control by denying them much needed resources and providing el Consejo with a neighboring enemy to blame for the people’s impoverishment and the necessity for a strong, centralized state.

These aren’t my arguments. They belong to Yoani Sánchez, the Cuban dissident blogger currently in Europe on the second leg of a world tour.

It must be nice being able to travel anywhere you want.


April immigration march

Thousands of supporters of comprehensive immigration rallied on Wednesday, from Hollister to D.C., urging members of Congress to pass reform.

The now-notorious Gang of Eight senators met Wednesday evening in an effort to draft a bill by the end of the week, a deadline that seems unlikely according to aides. Issues concerning agricultural workers and border security continue to snag discussions. As it stands, the senators’ proposal would provide a 13-year path to citizenship and place major requirements on border security, as well as a time limit on meeting said goals.

As close as the nation is to seeing Congress pass immigration reform, the week’s rallies may seem superfluous to some. But they’re far from it.

It was the Senate themselves who killed the last attempt to remedy the country’s defunct immigration system, after earning the support of prominent Democrats and Republicans alike, including Pres. Bush and Sen. Kennedy.

If Congress can reject something backed by the Kennedys and the Bushes, then all bets are off.


Ay, Dios mio

“The Latino Reformation,” TIME‘s April 15 cover story, discusses the Protestantizing (or de-Catholicization) of the Latino community and how “new Hispanic churches [are] transforming religion in America.” On the cover are the praying hands of Wilfredo De Jesús, pastor of New Life Covenant Church in Humboldt Park.

There are a couple of details worth shuddering over.

First, America is in the midst of what TIME‘s Elizabeth Dias terms “the evangelico boom.” In April 2012, the Pew Research Hispanic Center reported that, although a solid majority of Latinos are Catholic (62 percent), close to one in five now identify as Protestants. That’s a four-point gain from just five years ago, when the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life reported Latino Catholics and Protestants at 68 and 15 percent, respectively.

The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, “America’s largest Hispanic Christian organization,” puts the number of evangelicals among Latinos at 35 percent.

Call me cynical, but I doubt their math.

The second pattern to worry about is the level of social conservatism exhibited by them. Dias paints Latino evangelicals as more socially conservative as Latinos but more egalitarian than most of the Christian right.

“They are quicker to fight for social justice than their white brethren are,” she writes in her article. “They are eager to believe in the miraculous but also much more willing to bend ecclesiastical rules to include women in church duties and invite other ethnic groups into their pews.”

Yet, given that 92 percent of born-again Latinos consider their faith “very important in their lives,” it isn’t difficult to prophesy what’s likely to win out when their egalitarian spirit collides with their love for the Holy Ghost.

And then it’s bye-bye blowjobs.


El Negro del Sur

Wednesday marked the 94th anniversary of Emiliano Zapata’s assassination in his home state of Morelos, Mexico.

I bring it up, first, because I’m something of an amateur Zapata expert (translation: I wrote my undergraduate thesis on him), and second, because there’s a claim floating around that Zapata was part African.

Again, I’m just an amateur expert, but that doesn’t keep me from doubting the claim.

I read a lot of books on Zapata during the course of my research — the key texts, in fact (check the bibiliography). No where i did learn that Zapata was anything but a proud sureño of Nahua and Spanish ancestry, which most historians agree sufficiently explains his dark complexion.

Of course, maybe he did have an African ancestor, as most of us in the New World do, but that doesn’t make him Afro-Mexican. If it did, then the African-American population would probably be double what it currently is.

Andy Porras, a freelancer writing for VOXXI, laments that few among Zapata’s admirers know the general “was born into a Mexican-African family.” Porras points to the work of Ivan Van Sertima, whose magnum opus, They Came Before Columbus, claims that the Olmecs carved their large, ceremonial heads as an homage to the Africans who reached Mesoamerica centuries before the conquistadors did in the 16th century.

To be clear, I consider utter nonsense any theory suggesting a significant number of Africans sailed across the Atlantic, found themselves in modern-day Mexico, and became the proto-Aztecs.

As much as I’d like to claim Zapata as part of the Afro-Latino community, the truth is he was simply a freedom-loving morelense who just wanted the government of his back.

So maybe he was a Republican.


[Photo: gorriti via Flickr]

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