Fabiola Santiago

You bring out the Cuban in me, Randy!

Orlando Ortega, originally from Cuba but living in Spain, wraps himself in the Spanish flag after winning the silver medal for his adopted nation in the men’s 110-meter hurdles at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Orlando Ortega, originally from Cuba but living in Spain, wraps himself in the Spanish flag after winning the silver medal for his adopted nation in the men’s 110-meter hurdles at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil AP

Dear Randy,

What a sweet name for such a nasty character.

For me, it conjures the infectious loud laugh of a football player I knew in high school, a friend during a time when I was still privately heartsick over losing country and family but reveling in the adventure of becoming an American.

It’s not every day that you see a committed soldier of the failed Cuban Revolution with an American name like Randy, a throwback to the time when Cuban culture flirted with Americana, and it was oh, so fabulously chic. With that name, Randy Alonso, you’ve had to work overtime to climb the Cuban government’s career propagandist ladder to host “Mesa Redonda,” the national television talk show used to indoctrinate Cubans on what they’re supposed to believe.

Branding to demean is your signature talent. You’ve dubbed us “the Cuban mafia in Miami” and referred to us as gusanos — worms — but never the butterflies we became when we began to visit the island laden with gifts and began to subsidize families to the tune of hundreds of million of dollars a year. It was the Cuban people who nicknamed us the latter, their crafty humor intact despite the bitter lies pounded into their psyche.

And now, suffering from a bout of Olympics sour grapes, you’ve coined a new term to diminish exiles, immigrants, defectors and hyphenated Cubans around the world: excubano.

The motive for your trantrum and odious comment? Runner Orlando Ortega, who won a silver medal for Spain and, in victory, the Cuban native refused to wrap himself in the Cuban flag. Your disdain only grew as more Cuban athletes living as far away as Turkey to Azerbaijan won more medals for their adopted countries, and they had nothing but praise and gratitude for the refuge and acceptance. No win was sweeter than Danell Leyva’s two silver medals in gymnastics for the USA — Matanzas' loss and Miami’s gain. I felt double the dose of hometown pride.

Embracing as our own those who gave us refuge from oppression doesn’t make us any less Cuban. Wasn’t the most heralded Cuban of them all, Jose Martí, an exile in the United States for many years?

How little you know us, Randy.

If being Cuban is measured by succumbing to the subhuman category the Cuban government has created for you, then luckily, no, I’m not that kind of Cuban. I live in a country where I’m not banned from hotel and beaches, as native-born are in Cuba. I live in a city where I can buy a ticket to sail along Biscayne Bay on a tour boat full of tourists who can’t wait for the stop in front of a Star Island home to scream and wave: “Gloria! Gloria!”

That would be the cubanaza Gloria Estefan who has taken Cuban music all the way to Broadway and the Billboard charts. Believe me, she is no ex-Cuban.

You, unfortunately, have to live on an island where foreigners are kings. They enjoy your hotels, your tours of those beautiful archipelago islets on the Camagüey coast — the ones that not even the Cuban woman who sells the tour tickets can visit. You, “real Cuban,” live in a national prison where your musicians have to pay tribute to the comandante if they want to get top bookings on their own turf. The repressive government you defend is master of all things, even the culture you’re allowed to consume.

By supporting a government that demeans Cubans who don’t think like them, by trying to paint us as the enemy at a time many Cuban-Americans are building even more bridges, you, Randy, are the pauper who serves them.

When I travel abroad and people ask me where I’m from, I say proudly: The Independent Republic of Miami. They always want to know more: Where am I really from? I’m Cuban, I say with equal pride.

But you really want to know how Cuban I am, Randy?

So Cuban that the other day, I angered some of my people when I said that Cuban supporters of Donald Trump suffer from supremacy syndrome — and they let me have it. I was treated to one of those hideous things you invented on the island, the acto de repudio. The act of repudiation against me, however, had something yours lacks: Internet access, zero violence and international cachét — the glamour that comes from being castigated all the way from Paris. To be worthy of repudiation by the author of a classic Cuban novel — a writer I defended when other Cubans called her a vulgar Communist — is the ultimate Cuban experience.

Such is the glory of democracy. It has room for everything, something a repressed person like you, who accepts his master without question, wouldn’t understand. I’m so damn Cuban that I feel empowered to criticize us — without losing an iota of my “Cubanhood” — when we lose our way and support an unhinged cretin. And so American that I’m willing to die defending their right to disagree with me.

If I weren’t so Cuban, I would have kept that to myself, written theses lines with the intellectual serenity of my American persona.

But, Randy, you bring out the Cuban in me.

I’m so Cuban — and I’m surrounded by so much cubanía every day of my American life in Miami, capital of Cuban exiles — that sometimes, to tell you the truth, it smothers me.

But to my great fortune, I am Cuban-plus, and like the Olympic athletes, I’m free to escape into the embrace of another land I love.

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