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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

I Was Wrong

About five or six years ago, I wrote that the Cuban crisis, which began when this 70-something woman was in high school, finally was over.  I based this on the fact that my Arkansas sister went there with the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce.  I said that when Arkansans report enthusiastically on their trip to Cuba, everything is over but the shouting.  These farmers and business folks aimed to sell small tractors and rice to Cubans.  Yes, Arkansas is a big rice producer, and the Cuban diet depends on it.  They were developing a market that would benefit both nations.


And then Donald Trump was elected – or more truthfully, the archaic Electoral College put him in the White House.  He hypocritically stirred his base by objecting to Cuban "communism," while having no problem at all with bigger "communist" nations such as Russia and China.  You may have noticed, for example, that every other thing you buy at Walmart is made in China, but when have you ever seen something made in Cuba?  We couldn't buy their cigars or rum anymore, and it was ordinary Cubans who suffered because of Trump's embargo on trade.  Worse, because of his policy pronouncements, families in the US no longer could send money, medicine, or other needed goods to the island. 


Immigrants of various origins have been doing that for centuries.  The result consistently has been enlightenment in the Old Country -- and eventually, a reduction in poverty that meant less reason to leave home.  Most people prefer to live in their homeland:  it is poverty and violence that motives them to move.  If we truly wanted to reduce immigration, we would invest in incentives for people to stay home. We would build factories in Latin America and trade with them, not try to beat them with barbed wire.


We also would acknowledge the fact that for more than a century, beginning with the Mexican War of the 1840s, we have sent troops to interfere in Latin America, while they never have done that to us.  Especially since World War II, our intelligence agencies have helped aristocracies retain power against the poor.  We have done this in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Columbia, and more. And there is strong evidence that the area's current drug lords initially were funded by our CIA.  So: no more interventions, no more military aid, no more training of mercenaries in the US, and certainly no more embargos of civilian goods.  Instead, invest in the things that women want for their families.  That will bring peace and democracy.




There's no really good substitute for that word, so I'll use it again:  there's great irony in the fact that law enforcement's first use of Florida's "anti-riot" bill was against right-wingers, not the intended leftists.  Encouraged by Governor Ron DeSantis, the Republican legislature adopted this first-numbered bill, HB 1, in response to the protests (mostly in other states) that followed the fascist murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.


House Bill 1 intended to take the side of the police vs. political protestors.  It authorized the arrest of anyone attempting to block traffic or demonstrators who use physical force to make their point.  The law went into effective on July 1, and just weeks later, was used when people committed to the overthrow of Cuba's government blocked major Tampa streets.  Two young men of Cuban heritage were arrested when they fought officers who were trying to keep them off of the interstate.  Such is their respect for law and order.  Like the January 6 attack on the Capitol, these are people who believe that might makes right – even as they "defend democracy" with authoritarian tactics.


It is a given among mainstream media that Cuba is not a democracy – and the routine jailing of political opponents makes that seem true.  At the same time, why are we virtually the only nation in the world with this belief?   Last month, the United Nations voted – for the 29th time – on the economic embargo of Cuba.  The tally was 184-2.  The two were the US and Israel, which depends on the US for military aid.  Those who call for US intervention in Cuban affairs should pause to consider this lopsided world opinion. 


I think intervention would work out about as well as the 1961 CIA-sponsored invasion of US exiles at Cuba's Bay of Pigs.  And about as well as Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and more.  The United Nations should be the world's policeman, not the United States.  We are not the world's only democracy, and it is past time that we put the burden on others. 




-Ron DeSantis's people seem to be doing about as well as Rick Scott's headline-making administration did with expressway tolls.  I got a bill the other day that acknowledged my $4.77check for usage in June.  It properly subtracted that and added a $2.50 administrative fee – and, with no use reflected for July, the total I owed was $9.27.  Say what?

-Similarly, I frequently am astonished at the so-called cartographers on the internet who don't seem to know or care about reality.  Did you know, for instance, of the town of Youmans, supposedly east of Plant City?  Adamsville lies between Gibsonton and Apollo Beach and appears in equal-sized print.  "East Tampa" is well out of the city's boundaries, south of Progress Village and parallel with Riverview.  Who makes these maps?

-The Tampa Bay Times ran a story about rising rents, and everyone knows about the rise in prices for houses.  It is getting to the point that our young people can't afford to live where they grew up.  I'm not sure what to do, but rent control seems to work in other cities.  Let's implement anything that rewards natives and longtime residents for our investment in the community – the very investments that now attract inflation-causing newcomers.

-You may recall that I've written before about rearranging states to reflect common interests.  New York City, for example, should be a state that includes suburban Connecticut and northern New Jersey.  Some readers thought I was joking, so I was gratified to see a piece in the New York Times headlined, "America needs to break up its biggest states."  Noah Millman did not exactly make my point of uniting common interests, but instead focused on demographics.  "Since 1980," he wrote, "about 40 percent of America's population growth has accrued to only three megastates:  California, Texas, and Florida… The four largest states by population make up one-third of the entire US – more than the smallest 34 put together."  A task force anyone?




HCC Ybor always has prioritized the arts, and I was heartened to see that its theater has reopened. At various dates and times from July 29 through August 8, it will feature a one-woman show titled "Mrs. Bliss's Titanic Adventure."  Directed by James Rayfield, the one-hour play features Bridget Bean, who also wrote the innovative script.  It will vary a lot from the popular movie, Titanic, as Mrs. Bliss is not wealthy, but instead a working-class immigrant.


It already has played in Orlando and Sarasota.  The Orlando Sentinel said:  "Bridget Bean deftly weaves historical information about the ill-fated voyage with a personal reflection on life's unexpected turns… Her delivery is engaging, her anecdotes amusing and her musings poignant."  A Sarasota magazine, SRQ, declared:  "Bridget Bean sets the bar high with an imaginative and semi-autobiographical odyssey through her life, the cold black water of the Atlantic and even time itself… culminating in the honest and hilarious baring of an odd soul on a universal journey."


It is part of the "Tampa Fringe Festival," in which more than a dozen companies will perform during the last week of July and the first week of August.  Please look it up and support Ybor City's creative souls.  And the reviews from elsewhere make me long for the days when Mother Trib regularly reviewed everything.  Plays, concerts, movies, and even television got thoughtful consideration from writers such as Kurt Loft and Walt Belcher.  I wish we again had a major newspaper to bind us together.



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