Sep 26, 2007

I do... but I don't

I do remember it was good to see and listen some classic Cuban boleros, el lechón asado en la caja china, the boy practicing baseball, the references to Pedro Pan, and even better the asere. Seeing Néstor Carbonell again is always a good relief for any woman's set of eyes, considering the good memories you can revive if you have seen "The Lost City".

"Cane"'s premiere last night gave me a quick feeling that Cubans and Cuban-Americans actually exist in this country's society.
But then, in a matter of seconds, I started having second thoughts.

With so many excellent Cuban and Cuban-Americans actors out there, why did CBS chose actors whose best accent does not remotely sounds like the Cuban-Americans? No offense; I like their performances and I believe they are very good actors. But I just can't buy it. Did anybody in CBS ever though about Andy García, for example? (And I bet here the ratings and the money wouldn't be an issue)

Then, my seconds thoughts started to disturbing me with more complex issues: I know is a soap-opera, and a business that is meant to make money.

But the media is also the mirror that societies use to get other's images. And I definitively don't like the mirror that CBS decided to use with "Cane", at least in the first show.

I don't want this country's society --who is already chronically ill with a lot of misconceptions about Cuba and Cubans-- to start thinking that all Cubans that came in rafts in 1994 are murderers or gangsters that see committing crimes as a form of "resolver".
Do we really need to repeat the Mariel story?

Back then, it's true that Castro's government blackmailed Cubans already living in the US when they went to get their relatives out of that hell. It's true that, in order to have the government releasing their families to come in their boats, they were forced to accept an excessive number of additional passengers, most of them taken out directly from prisons and psychiatric hospitals.

But it is not true that all Cubans that came to the US in the Mariel were criminals or crazy. Most of them were hard-working individuals looking for freedom, that later helped to shape Miami as the city that is today, and not the monte y potrero that used to be in those years.

And going back to my second thougths with "Cane", neither is true that all Cubans that came in the 1994 boat lift are criminals or pandilleros. For Christ sake! there are not even pandillas in Cuba, in the same way we see them here or in other Latin American countries! (At least until 2001, when I left).

But that's the image that "Cane" threw into the air, with the subliminal message that all media products always carry on.

The image of Cubans only being good for making lechón asado en caja china, being hot-Latin-lovers all day long, and the images of us saying phrases we don't even say, but that's not important... right CBS and "Cane"creators and producers?

It looks like they thought: "they all speak Spanish, they all speak English with strong accent, they are all immigrants, they are all working to make Miami another third world city (rings the bell, Mr. Tancredo?), what the heck!, we can just go ahead and threw them all in the same pot, because they are all the same."

But we are not.
And allow me to make something clear: this is not a discriminatory statement; it's just a matter of historical responsibility.

Yes, being cultural and historically responsible should be include in the code of ethics of the US mainstream media, even when we are talking of soap operas.

But I guess that money always rule. That's a cold fact.
And there isn't much that this cubanita in the Midwest can do about it.

Around here, I'll need to continue explaining --using as much politeness and I can gather-- that we are refugees, not immigrants; that yes, my first language is Spanish but I can't tell you from what part of México I am because I am from Cuba; that I do speak English but in my house we speak Spanish and my son is being raised to be bilingual (and trilingual if possible); that I do dance salsa pretty damn well, but I also hold degrees from two universities, in Cuba and in the US; that indeed my husband tried to make here in a home-made raft five times, but that does not make him a criminal or a scum and list goes on, and on, and on.

And we'll all need to keep on going with those explanations until the American mainstream media decides to hold its professional ethics a little bit higher. Trust me, CBS, just a little bit higher would make a huge difference.

FYI: Since I never act they same way the government I escaped from, I always give people the benefit of the doubt. (Again, it's that law school's seed still alive in me).
I'll try to keep watching the show to see how the story unfolds. But I also want to do it because in the future, when I talk about it, I want to have all the facts to support my views. It's the only way that I can avoid using the same lousy shortcut of stereotypes, like CBS is doing with "Cane".


The Hen said...

How do you spell paquete? I hated it. Yet, like a bloody car accident, I could not look away. Urgh. Que mierda.

MM said...

Exactly like you did. Tremendo paquete. Any Cuban that respect him/herself just a little would be offended by way we're being labeled in "Cane".
And I couldn't stop watching either...are we becoming masoquistas or what???

Val Prieto said...

Great post,MM! Couldnt have been said any better.

Anonymous said...

I thought the same thing, about the balsero. About the cuban accent, I really don't mind,they are great actors, I didn't mind when andy garcia played an italo-american, so I don't mind when a non-cuban plays a cuban, I feel honored. Love your blog!Sigue escribiendo.
-cubanita en canada-

Claudia Fanelli said...

Hola! Great blog! I posed a question on mine about how Cubans would like to be portrayed- if you get a chance, please share your thoughts- I'm sending it all to CBS. :-)

Sigue blogeando-