Jun 26, 2007

My reasons... written by someone else

Why I'm trying really hard to be bilingual and want my children to be bilingual?

Why I don't like (and I mean I REALLY don't like) Tom Tancredo or Lou Dobbs?

Why I regret my Dad didn't taught me to speak Czech as he does?

Why I regret I didn't attend the local school when I lived in Libya —yep, right there, in the middle of the Sahara desert— so I could have been learning Arabic, a wider one that saying: "malelé" and "Sal-al-Malecum"?

Why I've been encouraging MDH to speak in Russian to Nicolás, so he could improve his chances to learn a third language?

Why, if I still live in Colorado when Nicolás start school, he won't be attending the local school district that recently banned all forms of bilingual education, switching to spend their budget money in their tops administrators' salaries instead of teachers and a cultural diverse curriculum?

Why I've loved so much the challenges I've faced during the almost three years I've worked in a Spanish newspaper in a profoundly divided community; where I even had to explain to some coworkers, how I can read Newsweek and a José Martí article printed from the Internet, at the same time, in my lunch breaks?

Carlos Alberto Montaner just wrote it for me.

Here, he explained the reasons with such clarity, I don't even need to quote him.

And he was the one who taught me, during my first interview for a project at J-School, that being able to read, speak and write English is crucial for any journalist now days, in order to keep up with the latest information on topics such as technology and politics.

Montaner was SO right.

Now, I see it is also crucial to keep up with the things that not-so-open-minded people are talking about us; the ones that encourage and support bilingualism, diversity and bicultural (or more) backgrounds.

Jun 22, 2007

Vilma, the Washington Post obituary and the shame on journalism

When the editorial pages editor at the Greeley Tribune sent me the Washington Post obituary on Vilma Espin, I first blew off the air on my lungs and thought to myself, "No comments. It's worthless".

But then, the journalistic ethic in me subconsciously kicked my butt and I replied to her something like:

—Please, don't believe everything you read about Cuba. Sometimes, it is just a plain lie. She was just another one from the "aparato" that passed away. There are still thousands of huge and really concerning problems affecting Cuban women and, neither Vilma or anybody else has done anything to solve them. And they never will—.

Then she replied back admitting she was ready to believe up front everything the article said, and thanked me for being in the newsroom to always provide a different insight on Cuba's reality.

And she was right.
I ALWAYS LIKE TO PROVIDE A DIFFERENT INSIGHT WHEN THE TOPIC IS CUBA. That's why I couldn't follow the "no comments policy".

So, searching online for the link to the article, to post it here, I found Adams' Berstein email and, in another ethical journalistic moment, decided to write him this:

Dear Mr. Berstein,

I am Cuban, and a fellow journalist in a Spanish weekly newspaper in Colorado.
And, after reading your article on Vilma Espin, I have to tell you I'm so ashamed and upset to even think you are a journalist as I am.

Thousands of questions piled up in my mind while I was reading, but one was on top ALL THE TIME: Where are his journalistic ethics? Where did he forgot the story balance we learned in J-school?

What's wrong with the Washington Post editorial board?

What's wrong with the whole word when the topic is Cuba?

Why he didn't include ONE SINGLE SOURCE OR REFERENCE from someone having a different opinion on throwing off flowers and compliments on a person that was just another part of a dictatorship where women are USUALLY THE MOST AFFECTED?

In Cuba, women are dying —literally, dying— in domestic violence incidents and Vilma never recognized the issue or did anything to change it. She never advocate for the mothers, wives, sisters and daughters of the political prisoners, nor even she did it for the Cuban women who are against the Castro government.

She never said a word about the high abortion rates in the country, about the teenagers becoming sexual attractions for the tourists, about not even having free access to the sanitary pad every women needs once a month.

She never did a single thing about that. And you just extended her indifference and the indifference of all the Americans that think like you.

That's not fair.

That's not your job as a journalist.

And at this moment, I am very ashamed to share this profession with you.

# # # # #

Later, I realized I forgot to make clear for him a little detail: I know this first hand. I'm not talking from a hot sidewalk debate in Miami. (By the way; I love you Miami!!!!And I love the coladas en el Versailles and the super hot debates about Cuba in that sidewalk).

This is not B.S.
I left Cuba merely six year ago.
Hell if I know what I am talking about!

I don't know if he'll receive it. I don't know if he'll read it, or even paying attention to what I said. But, at least for today, my journalistic ethic was left intact. I just did what I thought, as a reporter, it's the right thing to do.

Jun 21, 2007

Las paticas más ricas del mundo

Estas son las paticas más bellas que ojos humanos han visto.
No lo dice Cristóbal Colón; lo digo yo, Nicolás' Mom.

Y con este calor, ¡cogen una pestecita!

Las cosas que tiene la vida... pero eso pasa cuando una se convierte en mamá y se da cuenta que el mejor momento de cualquier día pueden ser los pocos minutos que se pasan jugando con tu hijo, acabado de despertar.

Que conste que las piernas gordas las sacó de su madre; modestia aparte.

(Espero que cuando tenga una hembra las saque igual, y no las de la tía Marlén)

We're famous!

We are f-a-m-o-u-s.
And, as cubanita de pura cepa, I'm gonna brag about it!!!

Uno, dos y tres, que paso más chévere, que paso más chévere, el de mi conga es...
(This is a typical song from the Cuban carnival's, and I'm singing it because I'm celebrating the spreading of my blog content through the Cuban blogosphere in the United States.)

Here is what Marc Marsferrer, a fellow journalist and blogger from Uncommon Sense, has to say about us, and all the Cuban mommy's blogs waving all over.

He wrote: "Some of us blogueros may by "rabid," but not these ladies — unless, of course, they are writing about cooking or raising their kids. They never run out of great stories. Their humor and their passion are infectious.

And I thank him a lot for his words.

It all came up while I was reading an article at Babalú about Sicko, the new Michael Moore production, a few days ago. And I just started writing my thoughts about him and his recent work —that I haven't seen yet and I don't know if I ever will.

This blog was created —and still is— to be an online memory for my son. But the issues about Cuba are too close, too fresh... they still hurt me so much... That's why I've just realized that the journalist inside me will never be able to turn that page about Cuba when writing.

That's how the category "La Esquina Caliente" was born in this blog. And it's not exactly to write or read about baseball.

So, whenever your are mentally ready know the truth about the life in Cuba, please, come back here. I've commited myself to do my best to spread my humble experiences.

Jun 19, 2007

Y dale con Michael Moore...

Now, with Sicko, is time for him to idolized Castro and his regimen; again.
If he likes the health system and Castro so much, why he does not move to Cuba?

Not as an American enjoying the good sided of the Cuban apartheid; but as a regular Cuban worker —without a job in the tourism, not in the government or military and without family living abroad and sending him dollars.

Como diría mi mamá, "es muy fácil nadar fuera del agua"...
(it's very easy to swim when you are outside the water —or something like that)

He does not know about my sister in law's son, who died of a repairable heart disease, after an unsuccessful surgery, because the medical equipment need to test him was in the Cira García Clinic (the ones for those who paid in dollars for "the best health care in Latin America"). There was another one in the hospital used by Castro and his buddies; none of arrived on time —through personally asked favors— to the hospital were the boy was.

The horror is that the boy's Grandma, an U.S. naturalized citizen living in Miami, arranged everything to bring him to do the surgery here. The Cuban government need a letter from a Cuban doctor stating that they didn't have the resources to perform the surgery in order to issue the humanitarian visa.

In theory, they have everything, including those equipments. And signing such a letter would be an automatic sentence for any cardiologist. None did it. And the boy died when he was five, in the so call health care paradise.

Moore and the thousands that think like him, don't not know that between 1990-1992, when Tíototo (my uncle) was battling kidney failure —as the result of a very long and consuming diabetes— some sort of shot he was supposed to received at every dialysis was being sent to Cuba by my half siblings and their mother; from Germany.

Neither they have been informed of the tuberculosis, dengue and all emerging epidemics my cousin, a doctor, have been seeing among her patients.

They don't know that she was demoted from her director position when she refused to take disciplinary actions against the OB doctors because around 10 newborns died at the hospital. Instead, she dared to say the it was not the doctor's fault, that the poor conditions in the OR and other problems in the hospital led to those babies death.

Have they heard that AIDS and HIV patients are confined in a few clinics in the outskirts of Havana? In Cuba, nobody has civil rights, but those patients are in a worst position.

They don't know that either.

Please, whoever hit the mouse and ended up in this blog, follow the advised posted at Babalú:

Don't believe everything you hear or see on the screen.

Latin Business Chronicle reports:

In Sicko, the new movie by controversial writer-director Michael Moore, there is brief, 15-minute segment showing September 11 rescue workers getting treatment in Cuba. The movie, scheduled for a U.S. release next week, is aimed to be an exposé of the deficiencies of the U.S. healthcare system and the Cuba segment indicates that the Caribbean island has better healthcare than the United States.

Latin Business Chronicle asked several Cuba experts for their opinion on how good the Cuban healthcare system is and how it compares with the U.S. healthcare system.

"After many years of increasing disrepair, the Cuban health system is now in crisis," says Jorge Salazar-Carrillo, a professor of economics at Florida International University and expert on Latin American economies.

In reality, Cuba has three types of health systems, argues Jaime Suchlicki, the director of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami and a leading expert on Cuba. One for the Cuban military, members of the Communist Party and leaders of the government. A second one is for foreigners who pay in dollars or foreign currency and a third one for the general Cuban population.

"The first two are excellent, with modern equipment and availability of medications," he says. "The third, which is for the majority of the Cubans, is a veritable disaster with poor equipment and few medications and in many instances without the availability of Cuban specialists."

Salazar-Carrillo agrees. While Cuba has a high ratio of family doctors per inhabitant, the actual offer for ordinary Cubans is low. About half of the doctors are being exported to the poor countries of the world for hard currency (mainly Venezuela), while a similar portion is at the service of the Cuban Armed Forces and their families, he says. "Thus, at present the real availability to the populace is meager," says Salazar-Carrillo. "Cuba does not train the standard proportion of specialists."

However, Cuba does rank well in international surveys on mortality, maternal mortality, and life expectancy, points out Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, a professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco. "Cuba ranks near the top on all these parameters in all of Latin America and I believe similar to the U.S. or just below," he says. "These are results obtained by addressing the basic public health issues of infectious disease control, basic nutrition and care for the high risk infants."

Nevertheless, even the official statistics are showing a worrisome trend. "For many years now, Cuba has been reported in the international health statistics as deficient in proteins and calories, even using the mendacious Cuban statistics," Salazar-Carrillo says.

This should not be surprising since milk is only distributed in Cuba to children under seven, those infirm, or over 65, he points out. "In the last decade and a half there have been several epidemics and the island is on the watch list of infectious disease specialists," Salazar-Carrillo says.

Keep reading... there is more here.

Jun 18, 2007

Good news in the horizon

Hello everyone, especially my Nicolasín —whenever you read this post—.
It's been a few days since my last post. Busy days, actually. We're teething, meaning we are sleepless in Greeley.
Father's Day: barbecue and dominó con los Ramírez, atracón de pastelitos de guayaba, coco y guayaba & queso... reason to write another post with some pics...

But I have very good news to share... soon, I'll be joining the side of the "former-reporters-working-Moms", not to quit being a working Mom, but to go into a whole new field: health care and cooking classes.

Don't worry, they are not tied together.

I just got an exciting work offer as cultural care coordinator, alas, leading the programs to teach cultural competence and diversity among the staff in a family clinic associated with Poudre Valley Hospital... and I am SO ready to accept it.

The advantages are so much, that I won't even list them. Above all, Nicolasín, his Pampers and my own sake will get the most benefit from this career change.

And the second experiment is the Cuban cooking classes program —whose presentation flyer and draft I just finished— that I'm planning to proposed in local markets and restaurants, in the same town where my new job will be.

Last week I received my Cocina al Minuto from amazon.com, along with another book in English, so the next step is going to Kinko's to print out the program presentation and voilá...a tocar puertas para vender my own business idea.

Please, wish me luck in both endeavors.

Jun 11, 2007

Tarán!... llegaron los pastelitos de guayaba

They were delicious. They were extremely sweet. The pastry was toasty, crunchy, with a light buttery flavor. The smell, OMG!, that Cuban smell took over my great room (kitchen, living room, dining room and office), and it lasted almost the whole day.

I know I went above and beyond con la guayaba, but they were sooooooooooooooooooooo GOOD.
You know whom I'am talking of, don't you?
Please, roll the red carpet, porque los pastelitos de guayaba llegaron a Colorado.

Marta, from California, we owed you all the copyrights, but the recipe was too tempting to go into ethical considerations.

Yesterday, I finally decided we'll forget dieting, and all the "going back to you pre-pregnancy weight" stuff to try the recipe I've discovered a few weeks earlier in Marta's My Big Fat Cuban Family.

So I went to King Soopers, chased an employee through three isles, asked him if they have the PepperRidge Farm puffy pastry sheets (I had it written in a corner of my reporter's notebook, so misspellings couldn't get in the way between my so dreamed pastelitos and I), he took me to the freezer and... I saw the cute white boxes with red letters. Bingo!

Then, went to La Tienda Amarilla (the official name is Wholesale Food Outlet and it's basically packed up with Mexican food, but after a few explanations about Cuban desserts to a very nice young woman that works there, and some special orders, now it's also packed up with GOYA products) and bought my guayaba. Two packs, just in case I mess up one.

Finally, yesterday afternoon, my kitchen goes like this:

  • Yo: Nicolás, cómete el puré, no te metas los dedos en la boca cuando estás comiendo...
  • Mi mamá: ¡Muchacho, no hales más el mantel que le vas a acabar el centro de mesa a tu madre!.. Él lo que tiene es sueño, por eso se está dando tanta lija para comer...
  • Mi esposo: Mami, ¿falta mucho para el almuerzo?
  • Mi mamá: Iván, ¿te frío un bisté?
  • Iván: No suegra, que seguimos con la dieta de la sopa y la ensalada (¿?) Mami, ¿qué es eso que huele a plástico quemado?
  • Yo: Papi, no se quema nada, es que acabo de encender el horno para hacer los pastelitos de guayaba, de la receta que te dije que encontré en el blog de la señora cubana que vive en California...
  • Iván y mami, los dos al mismo tiempo: ¿!Qué!? !!!¿Pastelitos de guayaba?!!!

Y se hizo la luz.
And the light —in the form of golden pastelitos de guayaba— was made.

Now we're all with a very unconfortable burnt tongue, because we couldn't wait for the pastelitos to cool off after I took them out of the oven.

Voilá! It was like Prom for my oven.

First time in almost two years that I've used it.
(FYI, in Cuban houses in the U.S. —because in houses in Cuba they barely have a stove, nor they are going to have an oven— the oven is a very loved gadget. It works perfectly to hide the ugly pots where we fry the platanitos maduros, and it is also wonderful to the plátanos to ripen, before we fry them in the "always-hidden" pot.)

PepperRidge Farm guys... where are you? Where can we light you a candle.

Jun 7, 2007

The smell of Cuban stuff

(Esta es la calle Isabel Rubio, la calle principal de Guane. La casa de abuela Paula estaba como en el centro, a la izquierda, con un portal de lado a lado).

I know it might sound odd, but the way Cuban things smells is very special; it's unique.

And even when most of us —specially Cubans living far away from Cuba— may be take those smells for granted every day, they are part of our identity. They have followed us wherever we have gone. They are stuck in our memories, in our houses and, ¡sobre todo en nuestras cocinas!

There are not Glade, AirWick or any of those nice-fragances-new-diffusers that can take away the smell of a pierna de puerco que se está asando en una cazuela, or the sticky aroma of the sofrito para los frijoles negros.

I, for example, live by the memories of the smells in my abuela Paula house, in Guane. It doesn't matter that the town is in casa de you know who, almost where Pinar del Río ends, and closer to México that to Cuba itself. But I love it.

Even today —Abuela Paula passed away when I was 13, and still living in Cuba. I couldn't go back to Guane after she died. I think Mom and I made a quick-adventurous trip, but we stayed in someone else's house — I just can not imagine going to Guane and not walking from the portal, thought the hall, knowing that at the end, abuela would have the usual café acabado de hacer, the leftover of malangas con mantequita de puerco, and the bread.

!OMG, that bread! I remember she called it "pan the manteca". I don't why, but it was soooooo delicious! Nothing to compare with the prepackaged-weird-tasting bread we used to be fed in Havana in those years.

Now that I'm consciously trying to think about it, I can not describe the smell of abuela Paula house.
It was warm, and mixed with the crispy white linens and ropones de dormir, and the galán de noche flowers that were always sneaking through the huge living room window.

And the smell of the recently hosed down bricks in the floor of the portal!
Impossible to describe.
Impossible to forget.
Impossible not to imagine if my Nicolás would have had the chance to thrive to hit he road and go to Guane the way I always did.

Only if he would have had the chance to try the café con leche y pan con mantequilla sentado en un taburete en la mesa de la terraza, or getting his first tasting of café, on a pacifier holded by those old, arthritis deformed and working hands of abuela Paula.

Only if...

Jun 5, 2007

My first editorial column

Nicolás, aquí mami empieza a pegar la colección de cosas que ha escrito que estoy guardándote en algún rincón de la red, para que puedas leerlas cuando seas grande.

Pienso que te resultará más interesante que leer un diario "a la antigua", no crees?

Anyway, hasta el 5 de junio del 2007, tu mami no tiene una palm ni ninguna de esas cosas supertech que probablemente a ti te encantarán. (Malamente me acabo de estrenar con un chocolate, y casi no le he puesto canciones). Que conste que yo tengo my little black book, where I write my stuff for the day and usually pretend that I never forget to actually, take a look inside.

Here my first "official editorial column", the one that Nancy Nemec, the editorial editor from The Greeley Tribune asked me to write the day we first heard the news that Fidel estaba boqueando.

Will good finally come to Cuba?
By Mailyn Salabarría
--published by The Greeley Tribune on August 6, 2006


Jun 4, 2007

Bison's pics @ Terry Ranch

These are the American buffaloes (Bison Bison) at Terry Ranch, in Wyoming. The one at front is the leading bull, a 16-years-old huge animal. They even had a one day old baby, a yak —a model of bison from the Tibet) and one with white spots: a cross between a bison and a Longhorn Texas bull. Wow!

I learned from the guide that bisons can not be heard with horses, like they would do with cows. Bisons usually charge at the horses and kill them. These herds are kept in the ranch 100 days or so a year, the rest of the year they are just roaming in free range.

The ranchers put the water in their way, they smell it and then, migrate in the water's direction, while everyday, ranchers put the water closer to the ranch. Interesting, humm?

¿Se imaginan esos búfalos roaming free en los campos de Cuba? De los pobres infelices no quedarían ni los pelos que largan en el invierno.

Getting out there...in the ranch

Last Sunday, we went with some friends (Cubans from Miami & Cayo Hueso that we found living in a town 20 min. from our house... but that story is for another blog) to a bison ranch north of Greeley, close to Cheyenne, in Wyoming.

It was a relatively short trip —an hour on I-25— but my car was fully loaded with stroller, sweaters, water, a cooler for Nicolasín with puré de malanga, jugo de mango (home made, by abuela Miriam), baby formula, water, compota, etc, etc, etc...you know, por si acaso.

We took a train ride around the ranch (Terry Ranch) and it was nice. The weather was so great!!! Since I moved to Colorado I've learn to appreciate and praise the weather sooooooo much!!!!

Anyway, I saw bisons, up-close and personal, for the first time in my life, along with camels, cows, donkeys, miniature horses and even a wild red fox that has her family in the middle of the ranch. Oh! they also have ostriches!!The male was so scary...

Meanwhile, Nicolás decided he needed to spent most of the afternoon sleeping in his car seat, with Mami by his side. So, basically, the tour was for MDH and me, and our friends.

(FYI, I'm trying to upload pics from the bisons...but this computer tienen un mal de sambito and I don't know what's wrong with her).

We ate at the restaurant and tried the bison meat. For the record, I just tried a bit. Didn't like that much, especially after seen those majestic animals so close. ¡Me dio una lástima! In a future blog I'll explain my metamorfosis after "Fast Food Nation".

I know, I know... in Cuba we have been meat-starved for more than 40 years, therefore, we are supposed to be law-mandated-carnivores...but I couldn't help it!

And... (here comes the last "and"), I got upset with the waitress at the restaurant.

First, for some reason I don't know, she assumed we were worried about the prices —even though almost everyone at the table speaks English— and we acknowledged, from the very beginning, that it was REALLY expensive.

So, Maritza, my friend, bit her tongue and explained her we were worried about the size of the steak, not the prices. I mean, we are Cubans, but that does not automatically make us cavemen.

Then, she wanted us to eat the meat ON HER COOKING TERMS. C'mon! I know the difference between a meat medium cooked and a steak that is rare!!! Hellooooo, I've been a waitress too!!!

There went the plates to the kitchen again.

She insisted we ate the barely cooked meat because, according to her, bison meat does not have almost fat and if you cooked too much, it will be an official suela de zapato. But, el bisonte que me tocó yo creo que tenía el colesterol alto, porque mi bisté tenía una pellejera, que para que les cuento!!!

And last, but not least, I think she become upset when she heard us speaking Spanish. Poor thing!

End of the day: we came back home, montamos la mesa del dominó, and played until 9 p.m.

Jun 1, 2007

The Cubans are coming!... through online blogs!

I've been thinking for days that I have to share with whoever eventually would read these posts about the wonderful blogs hosted by Cubans and Cuban-Americans that I've get attached to.

My favorite so far?
My Big Fat Cuban Family
The blogger, Marta Darby, is a Cuban that fled the island with her parents when she was young, and ended up settling down in California.
The best thing about her blog? It's not just her posting and stories, it's like a virtual meeting place where you can travel through the lives of many Cubans, living all over the U.S.

Got any babies? Click in the link to visit Bilingual in the Boonies
and take a look at some "Los pollitos dicen pío pío" kiddos designs. (What is the Boonies anyway?)

If you are strong enough to dive in deeper waters, then jump into Babalú
Heck of hot topics you'll find there!, especially if you really enjoy political debates "A la Cuban".

And please, do not allow yourself to miss the Cuban recipes. You know, modestia aparte, it's not because is my homeland food...but it is just SO good, you really shouldn't miss it.

Marta, when I grow older, I wanna a be a blogger like you. OMG! Tengo tanto que aprender (I have sooooo many things to learn!).