Angelina and Banderas in 'Cuba'

"Blessed Art Thou" by Kate Kretz is supposed to symbolize good and evil: Angelina is angelic; Walmart, satanic. Just a tad simplistic; and for many, sacrilegious to boot!. Politics aside, I like it because, well, it's of Angelina and I like her. Not only is she beautiful but she's a fine actor as well.

That brings me to the real purpose of this post: Original Sin, i.e., the movie. It stars Angelina and Antonio Banderas. Banderas is a well-to-do landowner and Angelina is his mail-order bride. But in an interesting twist it turns out that Angelina is not the person with whom the lonely Banderas' fiance. They immediately marry, he falls deeply in love with her, and then her secret life begins to emerge. Banderas learns that Angelina is not whom she claims to be and may in fact may be the murderer of his fiance.

What's intriguing is the movie's setting in late 1800's (or early 1990's) Cuba. The filmmakers attempted to give an authentic feel to the Cuba life. The landscape, music, harvesting of coffee beans, the clipping of a Cohiba, the breakfast cappuchino and the people surrounding the Hacienda created an interesting environment. There were also Afro-Cuban servants, the American Southerner, the catty society lady, and backstreet characters.

Since the movie is about the relationship between Banderas and Angelina, it doesn't really matter what the setting is. But since it is set in a place and time that's of interest to American Taino, it's hard not to notice a few odd things about the characters and the backdrop.

One is that the Banderas character is a wealthy and hugely handsome Hacendado, but his only recourse for attracting mate is via mail order? With all of the lovely and available Cubanas, this guy has to import an unknown and unattractive (the fiance was very unattractive) woman from the states? Maybe it would've worked had the male actor been played by a wickedly unattractive actor, but Banderas?

Also, Banderas is so nice that it seems almost impossible. I'm only guessing but I that running a coffee plantation is a hugely complex undertaking requiring many executive type decisions. But Banderas seems to float from one scene to the next as if he's a well-to-do guest at a fancy hotel. I don't think so.

The other is that the servants are all just so happy. Servants in that era were thisfar removed from slavery and hacienda labor was difficult. Banderas actually asks an especially giddy servant what's so funny, but we never learn. It reminds me of those American black & white movies where the servants always wore big grins and also seemed to be tad too happy. It seems inexcusable that today movie makers still portray black servants as giddy simpletons.

Finally, I would think that a successful business man in Cuba around the time of the Spanish-American War would be greatly affected by the colossal change in the country's politics, business and culture.

Even with its major flaws, I still recommend the movie. There's something about Angelina in almost any role, any movie that makes the experience worthwhile. I also do love that its set in Cuba. However, I really wouldn't mind watching a period Cuban movie with greater authenticity.


Dear U.S.Taíno Readers

For reasons still unclear to me, U.S. Taíno vanished two days ago. I still have not fully recovered from the horror of losing my U.S.Taíno, a weblog I spent hundreds of hours building into an attractive and informative site with over 100 posts, numerous links, reviews and a list of readers' hometowns.

Equally troubling is that neither Blogger, host for U.S.Taíno, or parent company Google, have responded adequately to my pleas for help.

As a result, I've been forced to start another weblog from scratch. I'm redoing those parts that can be replicated and I've begun the hugely labor-intensive effort to try to locate and/or recreate over 100 lost posts.And to add further insult to injury, the GoogleBloggerCorporation computers refuse to allow me the use U.S. Taíno (hence American Taíno).

How pathetic is that?

If anyone can provide me with any advice or assistance to help me retrieve my lost content, I will be eternally grateful.

U.S.Taíno (aka American Taíno)

The Rightwing's Winning Strategy on Immigration -- NOT!

The Republicans lost control of the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives, and they seem intent on adding to the list in 2008 election cycle.

Never-the- less, we're supposed to believe that the conservative meltdown has nothing to do with its stridency and intolerance, particularly as it relates to the issue of immigration?

That's the theory by John Hawkins (RightWing News) in the article The Great Illegal Immigration Myth of '06. published in the rightwing Human Events.

The good news for sensible Americans is that the rightwing is likely to believe Mr. Hawkins' myths, accelerating the nativists' demise. Americans do want a solution to immigration, but they do not want the chaotic interventions promoted by extremists pursuing an agenda ill-fitting for a great nation.

Yes, Messrs Hawkins, Buchanan and Tancredo, the recent defeats of harsh anti-immigrants politicians had nothing to do with their stridency on the immigration issue. The reasons incumbents Randy Graft and J.D. Hayworth lost had nothing to do with the central issue of their campaigns: extreme harshness towards Mexican immigrants. Furthermore, George 'Macaca' Allen didn't lose because he appeared to be a bigoted anti-immigrant. No, no, no.

Certainly, Buchanan, Tancredo and Hawkins are eagerly to tallying up all of their new adherents as a result of the recent Swift Company raids--a political action intended to re-cock the stunned promoters of "blackboot" solutions.

The huge drop in support for the Republican Party should be enough to cause its leaders and members to examine it's ways, and some of that is being done by its more thoughtful leaders. But thoughtful reflection doesn't appear to be within the capacity of the reactionary right. For example, Mr Hawkins can't fathom that losing almost half of the GOP's Jewish support in the mid-term elections was in anyway related to the party's harsh tone on immigration.

Mr Hawkins does allow that the right's views on immigration may have cost some Latino votes, but that the lose was negligible. Funny, but his own data shows that the GOP sustained a whopping 63% loss in Latino support between the '02 and '06 elections.

Finally, Mr. Hawkins points to Tom Tancredo's band of anti-immigrants and says it sustained only a small loss of its members. Really! But even if true, how's that worthy of a victory lap? Isn't that the group which believes America is bigoted and supports their cause? Isn't that the group comprised of members from safe conservative districts? And didn't one of its headliners, Pete King, almost lose to a relatively unknown Latino opponent in a nonLatino district? Instead of expanding, Tancredo's gang is contracting.

Mr Hawkins, the right's extremist views and actions on immigration and other complex issues are--as you proclaim--winners. Honestly, I don't understand why the Democrats are salivating at the prospect of a rematch in '08.

Keep up the good work, Hawkie! Pendejo!

New Year's Resolution: Up The Fight!

I stopped making New Year's resolutions awhile ago after continuously failing to keep them, but this year I'm making an exception.

2006 has been my most difficult year yet professionally. Believe it or not but helping people start schools for kids is a hugely controversial thing in NY--and I'm on the hit list.

Starting American Taino (originally U.S.Taino) is in part my way of saying that while they can hurt me economically (and they have), they will not shut me down.

Therefore, my resolutions:

1) Stay true to who I am. This means challenging people on the right as well as on the the left--especially on issues so important to the poor and families of color like education, political representation and economic reforms.

2) Leverage the American Taino experience into a powerful voice for U.S.Latinos and others on the Internet and related mediums.

3) Stay positive and optimistic about the future. It's far too easy to take one's eyes off the prize in polarized times. The left and the right are both guilty of using shrill and divisive tactics in their tired game of "king of the hill". The truth is that the sky is not falling and America is trending in a positive direction. The merchants of strife, inane policies and overheated rhetoric will be increasingly lose ground to sane, mature, civic minded class of leaders.

4) Inspire a sense of pride and optimism among people, especially among those of the working classes and immigrants. These really are the people that produce the country's wealth, bring new ideas, protect the country and give disproportionately to aid others. They are what keeps the American Dream alive for all.

5) Broaden my network. That is, develop an expanding network of individuals that are decent and forward thinking; value workers and entrepreneurs; celebrate; honor important traditions and celebrate diversity; focus on innovation and problem-solving; and are deeply committed to raising the quality of civic life through information, debate and choice.

These are tough resolutions and I'll need your help in carrying them out.


For the Love of Immigrants

All her life, Sascha Herrera wanted to be a dancer. She traveled to the United States from her native Colombia in hopes of reaching her goal and also mending a broken heart. When she arrived in Atlanta, she got more than she bargained for. Not only did she get to dance in a special holiday performance, but she found love in the process, married Georgia state Sen. Curt Thompson and lived happily ever after.That is, until she got a deportation notice from the Department of Homeland Security.

Click here for the rest of this timely and purely American story.

Then think about Sascha's story in light of the what's happening to so many others. For example, it's not known what's happened to all of the Latino men that were dragged away from their jobs and families in the government's Swift Company raids. Where are their advocates? Who's fighting to make sure that decent Americans know that loving fathers, brothers and husbands are being tortured and "disappeared" simply for trying their best to provide for their families.

But Sascha's case also speaks to the political and cultural changes happening in the South. Not only did a Colombian immigrant find a home in Georgia, but she also found love there with, well, a nonLatino. In the past, the immigrant girl would go to New York City or LA. Today, but today she's just as likely to be in Atlanta, Raleigh, Charleston and Knoxville.

And the Old South politician was not known for taking on the cause of immigrants, especially ones without papers. But in Sascha's case she has a rather prominent person as an advocate: her Georgia State Senator husband. Georgia has taken another step towards the New America.

Florida Governor Jeb Bush is another one of these new Southern men whose politics are decidedly better balanced as a result of getting to know (and even falling in love with) individuals that are immigrants.

There's another story a read recently that captures in real time the seismic changes happening in the South. In the midst of an anti-immigrant battle in rural Tennessee, a local man falls in love with an immigrant Latina. Unlike Sascha and the Georgia Senator, these two are nameless, the kind of people that live in hamlets we never visit. But there it's happening, too.
The fellow's a self-described "red neck" and former terrorizer of immigrants. He now confesses to having joined in dehumanizing and harassing the local "wetbacks" and "illegals".

One day things changed: The one-time hater fell in love with an immigrant Latina. He's come to know others in her community and he's found himself regretting making peoples' lives even more difficult. Increasingly, he finds himself defending the immigrants.

So while change is happening one-to-one, the federal government and some states (e.g., Massachusetts) and towns are storming in blackboots and forcing a growing circle of "desaparecidos".

Thankfully, Sascha has her advocate. But where are the advocates for the desaparecidos. They're worthy of America's love and protection, as well.

Photo: AP/Ric Feld
American Taíno



Your Blog is a much needed Taino information source. Yes, you are a true "Taino Warrior".

A. Vázquez

Pretty cool blog.

T. Lopez

The blog is awesome...so full of information.

N. Segarra

WOW!! This is really some good stuff. I enjoy reading your thoughts -- please keep sharing.

A. Scott

I am very impressed with all of the information and breadth of topics.

Dr. L. Valenzuela

I just wanted to say to you thanks for your postings. I do not have much time--with three kids and all, but I do want to stay on top of the issues in this world.

A. Sanchez

I find your blog to be very informative. Thank you!!

A. Veras

Great stuff!

Dr. F. Vásquez

You should write a book. A lot of Latinos feel disconnected from their roots and I believe a well written, fun book with facts, history and real stories from the memories of elders would be a big seller.

R. DeJesus

Too cool! I really enjoy reading your blog. It helps keep me on top of the political scene. Keep it up!

M. Vázquez