Latin America

If you want to get a sense of how complex racial identity is in Brazil, you should meet sisters Francine and Fernanda Gravina. Both have the same mother and father. Francine, 28, is blond with green eyes and white skin. She wouldn't look out of place in Iceland. But Fernanda, 23, has milk chocolate skin with coffee colored eyes and hair. Francine describes herself as white, whereas Fernanda says she's morena, or brown-skinned.

Tiffany Madera / Courtesy

 

They call themselves ABCs: American-born Cubans. Well before Cuba and the United States began to normalize relations this year, a crop of younger Cuban-Americans were working to engage the communist island.

Many Gen. X-ers, in particular, have challenged their parents and communities' wishes in an attempt to lift what some artists and writers have been calling the “emotional embargo” on Cubans on and off the island. 

The Ybor City Chamber of Commerce is using renewed relations between the Obama Administration and government of Cuba to re-establish the link between the “Cigar City” and Havana.

Larry Wilder is chairman of the chamber.  He said Havana and Ybor are a natural fit since the Cuban capital pretty much gave birth to Tampa's cigar industry when so many cigar workers moved here in the late 1800s.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

Five years ago today, Wyclef Jean – the Haitian-American hip-hop star whose 2004 hit song mused, “If I was President” – revealed in an interview with me that he was actually running for President. Of Haiti.

Rebecca Blackwell / AP via Miami Herald

OPINION

You don’t need to be a detective to know that the Dominican Republic has already begun deporting Haitian-Dominicans.

International media report this week that tent cities are sprouting up at towns like Anse-à-Pitres on Haiti’s side of its border with the D.R. This morning I spoke by phone with Mia Pean, a Haitian-American relief worker who lives near Anse-à-Pitres. Her organization just received a group of Haitian-Dominican youths who say they were deported from the D.R. a few days ago – even though they claim they were born there.

Marco Ugarte / AP

COMMENTARY

Once again, Donald Trump’s got it all wrong.

Mexican immigrants aren’t the problem. Mexican officials are.

Especially all the Mexican officials who live deep inside the pockets of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the world’s richest and most wanted drug kingpin. Thanks to them, El Chapo, or “Shorty,” was able to waltz out of Mexico’s most secure penitentiary through a mile-long escape tunnel that’s already being called one of the country’s engineering marvels.

COMMENTARY

It’s one of those photos that cries out for a thought bubble.

During Pope Francis’ visit to Bolivia yesterday – the second stop on the Pope’s three-country tour of South America this week – left-wing President Evo Morales offered him an unusual crucifix that depicts Jesus nailed to a hammer and sickle. That is, Jesus laid out on the international symbol for communism.

Francis reportedly muttered to Morales, "Eso no está bien." Translation: We are not amused.

Here's something you don't see every day in Washington, D.C.

Standing just a couple of blocks from the U.S. Capitol, a group of Peruvian highlanders, draped in handwoven cloths and ponchos in all the colors of the rainbow, pray to Mother Earth, to the mountains, to the spirit of their ancestors. They offer wine, incense and flowers. Their wish is that their alpaca "cover the earth like the grains of sand by the ocean."

Ramon Espinosa / AP

On Wednesday, President Obama announced that the U.S. has agreed to formally restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, which were severed 54 years ago.

It is the first major piece of the plan Obama laid out on December 17 to normalize ties with the communist island.

The U.S. and Cuba have also reached an agreement to reopen embassies in each other’s capitals. Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to be in Cuba to open the U.S. embassy.

Jeff Bottari / AP

Commentary

Like most attention-craving clowns, Donald Trump has to turn up his asinine rhetoric on a regular basis.

Last week, while announcing his presidential run, he hurled uber-asinine insults at Mexico – calling migrants from our southern neighbor “drug dealers, rapists and murderers.”

We should of course condemn the Comb-Over King for that kind of anti-Latino bigotry.

But I gotta admit: Part of me also wonders if The Donald might be doing Mexico and Latin America a strange but welcome favor.

Mario Mendoza Cabrera / AP

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.

Arnulfo Franco / AP

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.

Organization of American States

Let’s say the U.S. representative to the Organization of American States – the Washington-based diplomatic body that embraces the western hemisphere – appears on a television talk show. And let’s say he makes this neanderthal remark about members of a rival political party:

“When a sniper shoots them in the head it makes a quieter sound, like a click, because their cranial cavities are hollow, so the bullet passes through faster.”

Flickr

We know that Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is crying wolf when he claims – over and over and over – that the United States is plotting to carpet bomb his socialist revolution.

HBO/YouTube

Kudos to British comedian John Oliver for his hilarious smackdown of Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa this week.

The host of HBO’s satirical “Last Week Tonight” skewered – impaled, really – Correa and his juvenile social media war against anyone who dares criticize him. Oliver told the infamously thin-skinned presidente to “stop Googling yourself” and advised him that “being a world leader might not be for you.”

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