Apparently the most tragic event in the Florida straits over the past fifty years involves recreational swimmer Diana Nyad getting stung by a jellyfish.
From CNN to ABC, from NBC to CBS, from Reuters to the AP, from the Washington Post to the New York Times, it was “all Diana Nyad all the time” the past week. The swimmer failed on her fourth attempt to swim from Stalinist Cuba to Key West, was pulled from the water and has been featured and feted in print and on video practically non-stop ever since. If only Sir Edmund Hillary, Neil Armstrong and Ferdinand Magellan had gotten half the media laurels for their triumphs as Diana Nyad got for her flops.
Perhaps you will excuse the families of from 20-50 thousand Cubans who died horribly from dehydration, sunburn, drowning, machine-gunnings or were eaten alive by sharks on the exact (but NON-recreational) journey from issuing a hearty “Boo-hoo-hoo” for Diana Nyad’s little jellyfish bo-bo.
For over half a century tens of thousands of desperate Cubans have been crossing the storm-tossed, shark-infested, and Soviet machine-gunned Florida straits in everything and anything that floats—however precariously. Alas, no Shark cages and electronic shark shields have been available to people once richer than most Europeans who now consider toilet paper a luxury.
Many completed the hundred mile journey. Many more died horribly in the attempt. The horrifying estimates run from 20 to 50 thousand Cubans gone to rest in that watery “cemetery without crosses,” accompanied by utter silence from the media. In one day July 13th 1994 43 freedom-seeking Cubans drowned, 11 of them children. Carlos Anaya was 3 when he drowned, Yisel Alvarez 4. Helen Martinez was 6 months old.
For her showboating swims Diana Nyad proudly partnered with the regime responsible for this appalling economic and demographic disaster and those tens of thousands of horrible deaths. The woman actually flaunts her partnership with Cuba’s Stalinist regime. To wit:
“Millions of us worldwide, but especially here in the United States, have been fascinated by the mystique of this "forbidden" island so close to our shores,” wrote Nyad in the Huffington Post. “We are aware of the advanced level of medicine and general education on the island. We have installed proud posters of Che (Guevara) on our college room walls….as someone who grew up with many Cuban friends in South Florida, someone who has now visited Havana some 30 times…”
For the brain-dead: Castro’s KGB-trained apparatchiks don’t welcome you into their master’s totalitarian fiefdom 30 times if you're not blatantly helping the Communist regime.
Nyad claims she grew up in south Florida surrounded by Cuban exile friends. Can she be oblivious to why these Cubans showed up in such numbers so suddenly? Wouldn't her swim be a great way to focus some much-needed media attention on this "cemetery without crosses" and on the murderous oppression that drove so many to throw themselves into the sea on craft most of us wouldn't board outside a backyard swimming pool? (And I repeat: this unprecedented horror from a nation formerly deluged with immigrants.)
Prior to Castroism, Cuba, which enjoyed a higher standard of living than much of Europe and the 13th lowest infant-mortality on earth, was swamped with more immigrants per capita than the U.S. During the 1950s when all Cubans were perfectly free to emigrate with all family, and property and U.S. visas were issued to them for the asking, and flights and ferries ran daily from Cuba to Florida—during this entire period about the same number of Americans lived in Cuba as Cubans in the U.S. In 1953 more Cubans vacationed (then voluntarily went home) from the U.S. than Americans vacationed in Cuba. Alas, none of this features in The Godfather II. So it’s mostly unknown.
From this base Castro and Che created an island slum, sewer and prison ravaged by diseases unknown in Cuba since 1900, boasting the highest suicide rate in the hemisphere and repelling even Haitians. This after stealing $2 billion from U.S. businessmen, $25 billion from Cubans and being lavished with the equivalent of ten Marshall Plans by Soviet subsidies. This socialist economic feat defies not only the laws of economics but seemingly the very laws of physics.
Some U.S. officials very much in-the-know at the time of the Cuban Revolution do not blame the calamity exclusively on Cubans. “The U.S. owes the Cuban people a debt so tremendous that it can never be paid, even if some forthcoming administration wanted to.” This from rogue CIA right-winger E Howard Hunt, who worked in what came to be known as the Bay of Pigs invasion.
And yes, I wrote rogue right-winger deliberately. Far from the right-wing bunker of leftist lore, the CIA was always mistrusted by the Old Right as in fact a bunker of (mostly) Ivy League liberals. Recall the old Crossfire program, “From the Left Tom Braden and from the Right Pat Buchanan. Typically, Tom Braden was an ex-CIA officer.
“Me and my staff were all Fidelistas,” (Robert Reynolds, CIA’s Caribbean Desk Chief 1957-60)
"Everyone in the CIA and everyone at State were pro-Castro, except (Republican) ambassador Earl T. Smith. (Robert Weicha, CIA operative in Santiago de Cuba 1957-59)
"Without U.S. help Castro would never have gotten into power,” flatly testified former U.S. Ambassador to Cuba, Earl T. Smith during Congressional testimony in 1960.
The overwhelming majority of the south Florida Cubans Nyad (claims she) grew up around are today solid Republicans. This probably explains the media black-out on any interviews with so many people so closely associated with a Cuba to Florida journey. “Please move along! Obviously no human-interest element here!”
The Berlin Wall, (who approximately 200 people died trying to cross) has no end of commemorations. Anyone doing absolutely anything newsworthy around it immediately calls up a commemoration to its victims.
But as usual the Left’s premier pin-up boys (Fidel Castro and Che Guevara) get another free pass from the media.
Ignoring the thousands of dead Cubans is bad enough. But leave it to the Media to actually ridicule them. "Why did she [Elizabet Brotons, Elian Gonzalez’ dead mother) do it?” sneered NBC’s Jim Avila on April 8, 2000 in a live report from Havana. “What was she escaping? By all accounts this quiet, serious young woman, who loved to dance the salsa, was living the good life…An extended family destroyed by a mother’s decision to start a new life."
You read the NBC man right: “The good life.”
Humberto Fontova holds an M.A. in Latin American Studies from Tulane University and is the author of four books including his latest, The Longest Romance; The Mainstream Media and Fidel Castro. For more information and for video clips of his Television and college speaking appearances please visit www.hfontova.com.