Fabiola Santiago

Fabiola Santiago: When Che and soccer mix, an apology suffices

Marcelo Claure’s tweet from Havana.
Marcelo Claure’s tweet from Havana.

Nothing perks up my anthropological interest like another fool falling for the mythological Che Guevara image fabricated in La Habana and exported to the world like a runaway marketing cliché.

The list of the duped is star-studded.

Most notably, given Guevara’s documented racist comments against blacks, rapper Jay-Z was photographed dangling multiple gold necklaces over his Che T-shirt and cluelessly rapping away: “I’m like Che Guevara with bling on /I’m complex…”

If you’re Cuban, after puking at the glorification of a foreign adventurer who led executions in your homeland and Jay-Z’s insensitive flaunting of wealth in a poor country, you’re laughing your heart out, thinking, “Jay-Z must be … asthmatic!”

It’s a throwback to a popular joke on the island inspired by the indoctrination of children in school who are made to chant every morning: “Pioneers for communism, we will be like Che!” Someone acquainted with the guerrilla warrior’s medical history of troubled breathing whispered into the annals of popular Cuban culture: “Asthmatic!”

Humor is an effective tool of survival.

Enter into this playground Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure — an investor in David Beckham’s proposed soccer stadium next to the often-empty Marlins one in Little Havana — and no ordinary fool. He was in Havana to sign a deal with the Cuban government to provide roaming cellphone service on the island. Routine news in these days of rapprochement, but then, all too enthusiastically, Claure tweeted the tribute image of Guevara at Revolution Square.

“Hola Cuba,” Claure wrote with the photo, “Happy to be here in La Havana, Cuba.”

You could hear the collective gasp in Miami. Like the time bad boy Miami Marlins Manager Ozzie Guillen told Time magazine that he admired the longevity of Fidel Castro.

One could make the case that the two-time World Series-winning Marlins team that we knew and loved started to go downhill after Guillen brought up Castro. No matter how much the known louse — but winning manager — insisted that he actually hated the dictator, and apologized for his insensitivity, he was out of there.

But in this case, just as the Claure-induced political theater began to emerge on Twitter — Miami-Dade Commissioner Xavier Suarez pointed out that Claure (or his cellphone?) couldn’t even spell “La Habana” right, and Republican U.S. representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo also chimed in to protest — the scrimmage was over.

Claure deleted his tweet and apologized.

The pro-free-speech crowd half-heartedly objected, defending Claure’s right to post anything he wants, but with no takers for a duel, it was over.

Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado — who as the anti-Communist warrior “Tomasito” of Cuban radio in previous decades might have condemned Claure — was happily plugging the stadium and the School Board involvement in the deal on FM radio.

Claure’s apology is “good enough, and people will understand,” Regalado told the Miami Herald’s David Smiley.

There’s a precarious deal on the table — and we may hate Che, but we love our sports stadiums more.

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