Fabiola Santiago

Ted Cruz & Marco Rubio aren’t the Cuban dream team

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"Y’all know how to make a Cuban feel welcome.” — Ted Cruz in Miami

Don’t let the machine-gun-bacon enthusiast fool you.

The senator from Texas has no idea what a Miami welcome feels like — or he might have judged his appearances less generously. Reactions may have been polite, but by our standards of warmth, the temperature was tepid.

“You go, Ted!” some shouted, prompting Cruz’s manipulative remark at Miami Dade College, home to scores of the undocumented he’d like to wall off.

I’m one of you, Cruz was saying, but we know better, don’t we?

Miami’s native son, Marco Rubio, a climate-change denier, isn’t faring any better in the popularity department. He may scoop up some Jeb Bush votes, but he won’t win Florida.

At his rally Wednesday at Milander Stadium, where the Hialeah Senior High T-Breds play to big crowds, Rubio couldn’t even pack the end-zone. There were cheers, but his run-of-the-mill line “I’ll end Obamacare!” was laughable given the geography. Hialeah leads the nation in Obamacare enrollments.

Cuban Republicans aren’t over-eager tea party darlings. Though conservative on foreign policy, on social issues they resemble their Democratic counterparts. They’re OK with gay marriage, even if they had to be coaxed to get there. They believe in helping the less fortunate and fought for Medicaid expansion. They favor immigration reform that puts undocumented on a path to citizenship. There are ultra-conservative Cubans who are homophobic and discriminate against other Latinos, but they’re a minority.

Most of all, Miami Cuban-Americans don’t hide roots to gain acceptance of the mainstream. You can’t sound like a cubano arrepentido, a denier of your heritage, and get a rousing welcome.

Cruz doesn’t speak Spanish, not even the mangled version the younger generation barrels through out of love for heritage and elders. When a reporter asked Cruz if he wanted to say something in Spanish, he walked away. We’re proud of our bilingual city — and we give points to visitors who make an effort to recognize our language abilities. Ask your tea party buddy, Gov. Rick Scott, who scored precious re-election votes speaking unintelligible Spanish in Hialeah.

Cruz has no empathy for undocumented immigrants, nor for the Cubans on the island who’ve pinned hopes on better relations with the United States. Cruz and rival Rubio are so obsessed with their hatred toward President Barack Obama that they haven’t noticed that notable Republicans also support rapprochement.

No matter how good a face they want to put on their campaign path through Miami, they have little chance of winning Florida.

For a sampling of a proper Cuban welcome, they’d have to go back to when Cubans flooded the streets of Little Havana during President Reagan’s historic visit in 1983. He was their president. He, who granted amnesty to millions of undocumented Central Americans. Rubio and Cruz are Cuban-Americans whose parents and grandparents benefitted from America’s generous heart and were admitted into the country under generously created and bended rules.

Now they want to rule over a country that closes the door on others seeking refuge. In Miami, we have one word for that: Feo. Ugly.

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