When Cuban bikini maker Victor Rodríguez visited Miami this month, he was on a pilgrimage – not just for bathing suits but for bandwidth.
The most important stop on Rodríguez’s schedule was lunch in Wynwood, Miami’s high-tech district, with Mel Valenzuela, who owns the online swimwear store Pretty Beachy.
As Valenzuela showed Rodríguez how to do business online, his awe-struck expression seemed to evoke José Arcadio Buendía in “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” who when he first touches ice declares it “the great invention of our time.”
Back in January, a Venezuelan security chief arrived in Washington, D.C. But he hadn’t come to rant at U.S. officials. He was there to sing to them. He had details about the allegedly epic ties between his country’s ruling socialist revolution and South American drug traffickers.
May 20, 1985: Ronald Reagan was president. Madonna was topping the charts. And Radio Martí went on the air.
The Miami-based, federally-funded station began beaming Spanish-language news and entertainment into communist Cuba 30 years ago today. It was a sort of tropical version of Radio Free Europe – a Cold War effort to transmit information beyond the control of the island's totalitarian Castro regime.
The Caribbean is known for blue water, white beaches – and red ink. The region is home to seven of the world’s 10 most indebted nations.
But the Caribbean’s worst crisis involves a U.S. territory: Puerto Rico, whose debt is a staggering $73 billion.
That burden now threatens to financially sink the island of 3.5 million people – and that in turn promises to drive more migration into Florida. Puerto Ricans are the state’s fastest-growing Latino group, especially in the central I-4 Corridor.
Zoo Miami's mediagenic spokesman, Ron Magill, is a celebrity in Latin America thanks to his appearances on Spanish-language TV. But Magill had no idea he was famous in Cuba – until he finally visited the island last month.
Communist Cuba is still a controversial subject in Miami. And because he’s such a high-profile Miami-Dade County employee, Magill had been hesitant to go there. But like so many Cuban-Americans, Magill resolved to see where his late Cuban father was from when President Obama announced last December the U.S. and Cuba were normalizing relations.
En un lugar de la Mancha, de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme...
Somewhere in La Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember...
-opening to "Don Quixote"
Anyone who’s grown up under communism can appreciate Cuban émigré Erisbel Tavio’s taste in books.
To survive totalitarian governments, and occasionally stand up to them, it helps to be a little insane. And there’s no more heroic nut in all of literature than Don Quixote, the protagonist of the classic novel of the same name by Spanish author Miguel Cervantes.
Argentine-born Pope Francis knows it’s not enough to be the first Latin American pontiff. He also has to make that mean something.
So far he has. He’s condemned the region’s still epic inequality, he's tried to mediate the unholy mess in Venezuela – and most famously he's brokered a rapprochement between the U.S. and Cuba that could thaw a century of bitter mistrust between Washington and Latin America.
Venezuelans are emigrating in droves to South Florida, and it’s not just because Venezuela’s economy is collapsing. Public security has imploded too: South America’s most oil-rich nation has the worst murder rate on the continent.
The homicide crisis has gotten so bad, in fact, that some of the most frequent victims today are the very people who are supposed to fight it: the police.
Cuban President Raúl Castro was the longest speaker at last weekend’s Summit of the Americas in Panama. At age 83, he was also the oldest.
And that matters as the U.S. and Cuba normalize relations after a half century of cold war – a process that on Tuesday led President Obama to remove Cuba from the State Department’s list of terrorism sponsors.
It matters because President Obama says his new engagement policy isn’t meant to change Cuba overnight. It’s meant to help the U.S. influence democratic change once Castro’s generation of hardline communists is gone.
Starting today, Miami is the home of yet another major hemispheric gathering. The International Economic Forum of the Americas has moved one of its biggest events here - from a South Florida neighbor.
The International Economic Forum of the Americas, or IEFA, has become a key platform for issues affecting the Western Hemisphere. The Montreal-based group used to hold its annual World Strategic Forum in Palm Beach County. But it aims to raise its profile now by taking advantage of Miami-Dade’s more Latin American atmosphere.
Imagine a U.S. President came to the Summit of the Americas and, while criticizing the government of a certain oil-rich South American nation, remarked that he does enjoy Venezuelan salsa singers like Rubén Blades.
He’d be the butt of jokes on late-night Latin American TV – because Blades is Panamanian, not Venezuelan.
The Summit of the Americas kicks off Friday evening when the hemisphere’s heads of state inaugurate the two-day gathering in downtown Panama City. But while there a host of issues to discuss, all eyes are on just two guys: President Obama and Cuban leader Raúl Castro.
Here’s the conventional line you're hearing about President Obama and this week’s Summit of the Americas:
Up to now, Obama had been doing many smart things to improve dysfunctional U.S.-Latin American relations. On issues like immigration, the drug war and especially Cuba – in December he announced the U.S. would restore diplomatic relations with its cold-war communist foe – a gringo president was finally getting it.
President Obama heads this week to the Summit of the Americas in Panama where he’ll meet with the hemisphere’s other heads of state. But Obama first travels on Wednesday to Jamaica – where Caribbean leaders may be happier than usual to see him.
Guennady Rodriguez may be a Cuban émigré, but his musical tastes aren’t exactly counter-revolutionary.
Inside his apartment near Miami International Airport, Rodriguez likes to pull out his guitar and strum tunes by Pablo Milanés, a Cuban troubadour who’s considered a favorite of the Castro regime.
It’s when the 33-year-old Rodriguez puts on a suit and tie and goes to work in downtown Miami that his break with Havana becomes obvious. Rodriguez is a senior sales executive at a large international company that organizes corporate events.