Out of the Humidor
From the Print Edition:
Ernest Hemingway, Jul/Aug 99
I was truly amazed at your recent issue of your magazine and to see on the front cover the words: "Cuba; is it time to end the embargo?" What was more amazing was to have my own family's house, that once was a place of human warmth, love, laughter, sorrow and happiness, taken from us only to see it as a bed-and-breakfast catering to tourists.
I am referring to your section on where to stay on page 120. The house I am referring to is the Hotel Conde de Villanueva. That Spanish merchant you mention is Adolfo Ponce de Leon Conde de Villanueva, a direct descendant of Juan Ponce de Leon and my great grandfather. When I saw this I sunk in my chair and cried. It was tragic to see my family's home portrayed as a tourist hot spot while my family had that very "hot spot" ripped from them, only to be thrown like a whirlwind into a foreign and strange land. I am very proud to be an American, mind you. I was born and raised in this country, a product of the revolution, but I take no pride in seeing that, at the expense of countless families like mine and our American freedom, a government like the Cuban government is glorified as a tourist hot spot. Remember it is a tourist hot spot at our expense.
For you to even consider that your issue is not political in nature is both insulting and condescending to the Cuban exile community and myself, a Cuban born in America. You mention very clearly that you hope your issue at least stimulates dialogue between the two nations. Again, the very nature of such an event will never happen, and if you would have put yourselves in the exile community's shoes and truly feel their pain you probably would have reconsidered another Caribbean destination as part of your exposé. Japanese Admiral Yamamoto said it best after bombing Pearl Harbor: "I think we have awakened a sleeping giant." In the exile community you have done just that.
As you know, in journalism, research is the key to a feature story. You both failed in researching the myth behind the taboo that is Cuba, and the [story of the] exile community. To think that my generation longs to go to Cuba is correct, but a Cuba free of Fidel and his band of hoods. Would you visit the same people who took everything away from you and your family and forced you into exile? For us it would be like traveling back in time to Nazi Germany and visiting the people who put your family in restricted neighborhoods before they were forced into exile or sure death if they had remained. You have no idea what your exposé has done to this community that represents about 3 million people throughout the United States. To see in the pages Raul Castro and his band of hoods exemplified throughout--I am sorry to tell you, but you failed in your research. In business, I learned a long time ago to put myself in my clients' shoes. You did not do that. Are we not your clients? Are we not your subscribers?
Our freedom of speech bled and given to us by our Founding Fathers is a true and blessed gift, not to be wielded at a whim without care of the consequences to others. We respect that freedom you and I have a right to have. This is why I am writing you.
The Cuban exile community truly deserves an apology from you because of the nature and content of your exposé. Trust me, it hit too close to home.
Francisco J. Ponce de Leon
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