Fred Thompson Finds His Inner Exile Soul

Fredthompson_2 Fred Thompson, the former actor and Senator running for president, scolded Michael Moore for taking 9/11 workers to Cuba for treatment as part of his upcoming documentary, Sicko.

Writes Thompson: "While this p.r. stunt has obviously been successful — here I am talking about it — Moore’s a piker compared to Fidel Castro and his regime. Moore just parrots the story they created — one of the most successful public-relations coups in history. This is the story of free, high quality Cuban health care."

Michaelmoore The punchline is Moore's response: "In light of your comments regarding Cuba and Castro, do you think the “box upon box of cigars – Montecristos from Havana” that you have in your office have contributed to Castro's reported wealth?

Gentlemen, welcome to the minefield of exile politics.

The Police Invited to Play in Cuba

The_police From FOX News:

The Police may be giving their Cuban fans a free show this Christmas.

The super rock group, which recently reunited for a sell-out world tour, has received an invitation from the Cuban government to perform there in December.

Che Photographer's Work on Display

Cheguevara FIU's Frost museum recently featured some of the work of Alberto Korda, the photographer who shot this now-famous photograph of Ernesto "Che" Guevara.

What do you think?

Miami Sound Machine Reunion!

Gloriaestefan In a rare revival, Superstar Gloria Estefan will reunite with the Miami Sound Machine -- Latin pop's original crossover group -- to rock the AmericanAirlines Arena Saturday in a charity concert for Zo's Summer Groove, as part of Miami Heat Star Alonzo Mourning's charity fundraising. The concert will benefit several local charities, including the Overtown Youth Center and Honey Shine Mentoring Program. Said Gloria in a written statement: "I feel honored and privileged to have been invited to participate in ZO's Summer Groove.   I am very impressed with the Overtown Youth Center he has created in Miami; I think all that he is doing is for a great cause and it will make a difference in all of the kids' lives."

For more information:

El Barbaro Del Ritmo

Benymorehoycomoayer The Spam All Stars jam every Thursday at Little Havana's Hoy Como Ayer, site of the former Cafe Nostalgia. At the back of the dark, smoky club, a light shines on a painting of Beny More, el Barbaro del Ritmo. There's something to be said about listening to one of the freshest sounds in American music in a venue that isn't afraid to honor the beasts of beat from the past. I shot this picture Thursday night. Beny was as Cuban as they come.

But Spam All Stars are an American band, made up of a mix pan-Latin immigrants and U.S. born musicians, creating music only a singular American city like Miami can produce. Here's to America on the Fourth of July. And here's to Miami, a deeply American city.

Cuban Government Programming For Rent in Hialeah

Tamarasaavedra Nostalgic for some Cuban TV programming? Look no further than Hialeah's L & J Video on 9th Street. The video rental store offers dozens of reruns of Cuban television shows, cartoons and movies. I met a store employee, Tamara Saavedra, while reporting the story on Cubans who have come to South Florida since 2000. More Cubans have come to the area in the last 6 years than during the entire Mariel Boatlift.

At L & J, as in a few other video stores in Little Havana and elsewhere, you can check out the police series, Operacion Coraje, produced in Cuba and run on state TV. Or the communist cartoons of Elpidio Valdes. New arrivals flock to the store to rent out the videos, hoping for a little nostalgic comfort in their new country. People who rent the videos are not necessarily supporters of the Cuban government. It's just that nothing else on video reminds them so much of home. Saavedra, 31, has a 15-month-old daughter and lives in Hialeah with her husband. She says her communist sister, a musician, is happy in Cuba because they've sent her around the world to perform. But she left because she couldn't stand the poverty, the lies and the oppression. Photo of Saavedra, 31, above. 

Cuban videos for rent:

Puntoycoma Operacioncoraje

Cuban Music Titans

Leyendas WPBT Channel 2 will broadcast Leyendas: The Legends of Cuban Music, an original WPBT production on Wednesday, June 14 at 8 p.m.. According to the news release, the one-hour documentary "celebrates one of the most vital elements of Cuban culture - its music - and pays homage to the men and women who shaped its infectious sounds and irresistible rhythms. One-on-one interviews include living legends Israel López “Cachao,” Generoso Jiménez, Bebo Váldez, Olga Guillot, Olga Chorens, and many others.  Interviews, anecdotes and archival images, underscored by the sensuous cadence of Cuban music, depict a pivotal era in music’s history.  These artists’ accomplishments paved the way for contemporary performers Emilio Estefan, Paquito D’Rivera, Arturo Sandoval and Willy Chirino, all interviewed on-camera." Photos: Cachao, Guillot, Benny More, Cruz.

Cachao1 Olgaguillot Benymore Celiacruz

Homage to Cachao

Israellopezcachao_1 Written under the influence of Cachao at the Arturo Sandoval Club Thursday May 18.

    You get the feeling that a beast of beat was placed by the hand of Chango or Yemaya or Jesucristo on this earth in this club and before the worshipping eyes of humans sipping Pinot Grigio and mojitos to make them understand that music and art and age and the beat of city rhythms transcend the clouds of politics and problems and distinguishes the artist from the disarray in the lives of mere humans. Cachao sitting onstage 87 years young and bumping his hand and rod on the acoustic bass cannot be of this world.

   That Kool Aid everyone else drank was rejected by his convictions for music, bass, audience, crew, loose change, delight. He stoops over on his stool, conversing with his bass, coy and glancing over at Federico Brito as his violin cries to life. The two duel onstage and carry on their joke and rivalry on for the audience that whistles and wows and gawks as the tiny laser of eely silver slices from the stage and Cachao looks over. That violin punctures the delicate night, and eyes water. noooooo! It’s too sad, too quiet, too down for Miami, for this place. Cachao won’t have it. His fingers gong and pound power into the throat of bass, a bombing throttle, and the joy leaks from their serious showdown and Federico and Cachao smile at each other and everything is settled in the Arturo Sandoval Club. Cachao, 87, 8 –7 three years shy of four score and seven, sits in old age on stage and there is nothing on earth, not the atom or gun or document that can ever obliterate the notes he spills into the atmosphere.

   Cachao, blessed by a holy pulse, you bang your digits on metal strings and people wail, Cachao, in your old age you’ve got the world’s attention and you flash a smile for the goons out here wondering in awe what water you drink from, what place you seek sanctuary, what women you keep with, old Cachao, man you are no saint of art, no monk of modern ways. No sir, mischief winks in your cosmos. You drift hypnotized as bass consumes your mood, and the audience gasps. Your heads slumps softly over your wooden first love, the glow of stage lights snows over your shoulders. It’s almost like your band mates think maybe this is it, maybe your mind has drifted too far this time, maybe your age is taking you too far from their rhythmic lassos and you are too distant beyond their range, too far gone to bring you back. But suddenly as though with an afterthought, your thumb bumps a string and your fingers tumble into place and suddenly you pluck the perfect note, you find it loitering on your instrument, the ideal tune that Mozart or Beethoven would have written on paper, suddenly Cachao, you smile all teeth and your guayabera frames your forearm as you get the crowd high on bass notes, the drug you deal in beats.

   Cachao is back on earth, and he’s in charge on stage, taking control of the band, which everyone thinks is falling apart but is actually wandering in melodic indifference until the master gets back to the planet and si, Mami! Si Papi! He’s back and the music thunders to life with cymbals spilling incredible rhythmic gossip into Miami people lucky enough to get soaked in it, lucky enough to towel-dry brows before Cachao.

   He cradles the bass and fondles and slaps it, his belly so stiff and settled that it makes him look like his instrument. He scowls and frowns and grimaces at his bass, this sculptured, polished beauty that drives him insane, gives him a reason to look forward to another night, that he scolds and slaps around when its rebelling, yes a man with his fist clenched only for love and trying to study it all in her flowing strings. When it's all over bandmates come to him and lock arms to help him offstage, his footing shaky in his twilight, and he arrives back in Miami, banished back to mankind before the next show blasts him back to rapture.

Naked and Torn

Nakedandtorn Saw this painting at Cuba Nostalgia last weekend. A naked woman standing proud before a blend of the American and Cuban flags, her vulnerability evident as she is torn between loyalties to two cultures, yet showing poise even as she is  humiliated.

Bay of Pigs Vets Raising Cash

Bayofpigsvets_1Bay of Pigs Vets manned a booth at Cuba Nostalgia, trying to raise money for their new museum. The group recently honored the 45th Anniversary of the failed invasion.

Paul Crespo, conservative commentator on WQBA, is spearheading the fundraising.


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