Friday, July 13, 2007

Simpaticos No More?

Because of history and geography and because we have more things in common that things that separate us, Americans and Latinos have been amigos for ages. Now we are not so sure.The overheated, hateful, anti-Hispanic rhetoric fouling the air around the public debate about immigration reform has left a bad taste in the mouth for millions of Latinos who no longer feel welcome in El Norte. And I'm not talking about undocumented Latinos who've seen their hopes of legalization dashed in a hail of misunderstanding and xenophobia. I'm talking about long-established American citizens and documented residents. . .Read my full column on the subject published in the New York Daily News July 11, 2007.

Friday, June 15, 2007

To Bee or Not To Bee

Bees are disappearing by the billions. Who will tackle all that pollinating American bees can't or don't want to do? Are we condemned to a world without flowers and fruits? Will the country fall prey to the Colombian gladiola cartel, be driven into foreign fruit dependency, international honey laundering schemes, wax contraband and artificial pollination?Read all about it in my NY Daily News column, Where the Bees Are, originally published June 6, 2007

Reggaeton Lyrics Demean Women

Since the Don Imus debacle, rap and hip hop have been under the magnifying glass for dissing women. Latinos should also do some soul searching about the vulgar, violent thugish reggaeton lyrics. Women have had it with this kind of language. Check out my Daily News column , "Revenge of the Muses" on the subject, published May 9, 2007.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Alberto Gonzalez and the Latino PMG Syndrome

Why have most of the major Latino organizations remained silent on the scandal surrounding Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez? They have an acute case of PMGS (Pero es Mi Gente Syndrome).

Check out my April 11 New York Daily News column on the subject:
Vaya con Dios Alberto Gonzalez

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Five Years After 9/11 . . .

Have We Changed?

By Dolores Prida

Since September 11, 2001 everyone talks about how we were “forever changed”. Some changes were immediately, painfully, apparent. There was a hole in our beloved New York’s skyline, and a larger one in our hearts. That first week, other changes were harder to see because of the tears that flowed unchecked for days.
I cried for Ann McGovern, my friend’s mom, who went to work that morning and never came back to see her lovely, just-born grandson Liam grow up. I cried for Edna Cintrón, my neighbor’s wife, who dispensed friendly smiles along with carnations at Sweet William’s flower shop. I cried for Edgardo Hernández, pastry chef at Windows on the World restaurant. I never met Edgardo. I never got to taste one of his lemon tarts. Nevertheless, I cried for him in front of a hand-made poster stuck on a wall in Times Square by hopeful relatives.
Then, I couldn’t see the changes because of the clouds of dust and smoke
hovering over ground zero. But I did see heroes and heroines. I saw fire and police men and women, paramedics, bus drivers, sanitation workers—usually invisible people we take for granted—save lives, dig for bones, keep the city running. They gave me a sense of normalcy despite the feelings of fear and vulnerability we all felt during those nightmarish first few days.
Yet, I still couldn’t see the changes the September 11th tragedy had supposedly brought about, because of the flags. There was a sea of red, white and blue hiding the horizon and distorting perspective. I was overcome with a terrible feeling. I didn’t know how to be an American during those days. For me, just waving the flag and singing “America the Beautiful” were the quick-and-easy, the cash-and-carry way to express patriotism.
It wasn’t enough. It wasn’t real.
I felt waving a flag wouldn’t make me see what I wanted to see. Waving a flag wouldn’t answer any questions: Where does the hate come from? Why did this happen? What are the wrongs we have committed and how do we right them?
Five years later, I’m still trying to see . . . waiting for answers. Five years later all I know is that there’s much we, as Americans, don’t know about other peoples and other cultures. We refuse to speak their languages. We don’t know, or don’t want to know, what makes them tick. Five years later we still think we can remake other people in our image and impose democracy with tanks and bombs. Five years later too many innocent lives have been lost. Five years later I still don’t feel bad for not waving the flag. But now I know I’m not alone.
I am an American. I love this city—my Nueva York. I love this country. And I know that being an American also means asking these and many more questions. I know that being an American also means embracing the world as it is and embracing change to make it better, not to make it as we want it to be.
Five years ago I found comfort and hope in these words. I still do.

Out beyond ideas of
Wrongdoing and rightdoing
There’s a field.
I’ll meet you there.

They were written by Jalaluddin Rumi, a 13th Century Persian poet born in Afghanistan. When he died, men of five faiths followed his coffin. He’s the most popular poet in the United States.
Ay, if only men and women of all faiths could find that field and meet and talk there—right now.
That would be a real change, for a change.

Published in the Daily News VIVA section
September 13, 2006

Columbus' Compass

A father’s dangerous journey from Cuba succeeded contra viento y marea

By Dolores Prida

In the summer of 1960, my father left Cuba in a rickety boat with 10 other people. It was supposed to be a short trip—90 miles or so to the Florida Keys—the same direct route that, in the years to come, hundreds of thousands of his countrymen would also take, leaving behind the turmoil of la revolución.
Yet, the journey was far from short or direct. The old compass he took along kept changing its mind as to where true north lied. After being lost at sea for almost a week, they finally came on shore halfway up the Florida peninsula.
For years, my father kept that compass, lovingly wrapped in an old t-shirt, at the bottom of his calzoncillo drawer. Maybe as a private, intimate reminder of the most macho thing he ever did in his life. Or perhaps as a good luck charm that, to compensate for its scientific inaccuracy, miraculously saved him from sailing straight into the Bermuda Triangle or the jaws of a hungry tiburón.
I always wanted that old, rusty brújula, which, because of its unknown origins and serendipitous guidance, I jokingly called “Columbus’ compass.” Yet, knowing what it meant to him, I never dared ask for it.
I wanted it not just because it was a great conversation piece about my father, the hero, or the anecdotal role it played in my becoming an American.
I came to see the compass as a symbol of the determination, grittiness and endurance of all who leave their homeland to seek a new life on foreign shores—solid proof that when you really want to get somewhere no amount of setbacks, miscalculation and misdirection can throw you off course.
My father was no Captain Courageous. His savvy about the ways of the sea was confined to weekend fishing trips among the mangroves surrounding our small town of Caibarién, in Las Villas province.
He was a charming, funny, silver-tongued salesman. As a young man, he was so successful in his first job as a traveling lamp salesman that, according to family lore, he once managed to sell two lamps to a peasant family that had no electricity in their thatched-roof bohío.
Yet, at age 45, he had the courage to navigate through rougher seas and start life anew. At the beginning his silver tongue was no help because he didn’t speak a word of English.
He de-veined shrimp and carted lobster crates in Florida, then moved to New York City where he worked two factory jobs and developed the calluses his elegant hands never knew before. When my mother, my two sisters and I joined him a year later, he had a fully furnished apartment ready to receive us in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
With time, he learned English and was able to go back to being a salesman at Don Manuel Store, his own small “clothing bodega” in Brooklyn Heights. He was a good salesman but a terrible manager. He never made any real money. I don’t think he knew how. But he knew how to enjoy the best of life—especially good food.
He became an American citizen and dutifully voted in every single election. He learned to drive at age 50 and always considered one of his greatest achievements that he never had an accident nor received a traffic ticket of any kind.
When he retired over 20 years ago, after my mother passed away, he want back to Miami to indulge in his passion for fishing. But he soon realized that, for a healthy 70-year-old there’s more to life than fishing, and he regretted retiring so “early.” Then he went for a different kind of fishing and caught a wonderful, devoted new wife who gave him a new lease on life that lasted for two decades.
Don Manuel, my dear lobo de mar, passed away on October 7 in Hialeah, Florida. He was 91 years old. His beloved Columbus’ compass has traveled northward again and now sits on a shelf in my house in East Harlem. It’s there to remind me of his journey. And mine. And where true north lies.

Published in the New York Daily News Viva section
November 15, 2001

Saturday, March 17, 2007