Thursday, December 20, 2007

Carlos Otero en la yuma

Is Cuban Miami becoming more moderate politically?

If you want to argue the affirmative, you can cite data from this poll or anecdotes from stories such as this one from the Sarasota Herald Tribune (sub. req’d), citing pro-engagement sentiments among Cuban Americans of different generations.

If you want to argue the negative, you can cite the fact that Miami sends only hard-line legislators to the U.S. Congress. The community may be changing, but it’s indisputable that the new moderation has yet to make an electoral difference at the federal level.

And what does the interesting case of Carlos Otero tell us?

Otero, a famous television personality in Cuba, traveled to Canada with his family and last week entered the United States. No sooner had he crossed the border, it seems, than the entertainer signed a contract with Miami’s Channel 41.

If you roam the Spanish-language blogs, you’ll see that his defection sparked all kinds of questions. Why was he allowed to travel to Canada with his entire family? Es confiable? Can he be taken seriously when he says that his doubts about the communist system were triggered by watching Channel 41, and not by a life’s worth of experience living inside that system itself?

I don’t know Mr. Otero, I don’t know his work, and I don’t know the answer to those questions.

But what is clear is that these questions, and a comical recent call for a boycott of Channel 41 and a competing station that show too many ex-officials of the Cuban government, were cast aside completely by Channel 41.

That station’s management made a quick business judgment regarding their audience.

Clearly, they calculated that what matters to their audience is that Otero is a good entertainer. And that the audience will not hold his life and work in Cuba against him. And perhaps that a part of the audience will tune in because they enjoyed him on Cuban television. And that if Channel 41 didn’t sign him, someone else would.

That is a market response to the Cuban American audience that would not have occurred, I think, even a generation ago. It focuses on an audience of more recent immigrants that don’t reject everything about Cuba today, and probably don’t consider themselves exiles.

It’s not a predictor of political change, but I think it does mark a difference.

And Mr. Otero, welcome to America.


Alex said...

You are right it's a sign that Miami has changed. I trace that change all the way back to the Los Van Van concert and protests, in which many recent arrivals who wanted to see their favorite band saw many exiles yelling insults and pelting them with batteries and water bottles. It was an awakening to many and it showed us there was a divide -and most of the recent arrivals decided not to go along.

In the ten subsequent years you have seen change to the point that Orishas, a band whose members openly support Castro (while living in France) performs at La Covacha to a packed audience and no protesters outside. Same with Habana Abierta, which performs in Cuba. Some local TV and radio shows are practically copies of what their hosts and performers used to do in Cuba. And stores in Little Havana stock "En silencio ha tenido que ser" and other old regime-produced TV series which are openly anti-exile propaganda.

The interesting and telling part is that many of the paranoids who criticize 41 and the others for having ex-G2 agents and the like in their shows, when they do it they are very knowleadgeable of who goes and what they say. That tells you THEY are also the audience and watch every "A Mano Limpia".

As for Otero, couldn't stand him in Cuba, can't stand him now. Especially if he pulls the "I couldn't say what I really thought" act. (Arturo Sandoval did the same, just watch that horrible HBO movie). One thing is to say "I waited until I could travel with my family" which is true, quite another is to claim political persecution when you were the Johnny Carson of Cuba, lived the good life and enjoyed "untouchable" status. One day we'll have Randy Alonso asking for political asylum and forgiveness.

Seriously, when did Otero opened his eyes? Enjoy the Channel 41 contract and welcome to the land of opportunity, but drop the act. It's not needed anymore and it's offensive to those who were and are persecuted.

Tomás Estrada-Palma said...

I suppose Mr. Otero was providing for his family the best way he could under the socialist circumstances. Before I'd hit him with a rock I'd remember how I might selfishly protect my wife and kids in the same situation. But now that his family is here let's see what he has to say for himself. Maybe he's a closet libertarian who will now rail against big government?

Phil Peters said...

Mr Estrada Palma, that would be nice, we could use one of those in the Republican Party.

Anonymous said...

Thanks of a very interesting analysis. I can tell you that from talking to a great many Cuban exiles over the years - there's one sentiment I hear over and over again regarding Cuban officials or state media personalities who defect: The idea that these folks defect when it's convenient for them financially and never once - as far as I can recall - have any of them issued an apology for their actions in Cuba.

Never once have they taken responsibility for helping to prop up the regime that continues to oppress their very own brothers. Do with that what you will - it's merely an interesting point of view I've heard expressed on any number of occasions.

I am not familiar with Otero's work either, and don't want to cast judgment on him for that very reason.



Alex said...

That's not accurate. At least one, Osvaldo Rodriguez, author of many songs praising the Revolution, apologized publicy in a letter published in the Miami Herald.

Besides, how far does the need to apologize go? Because almost everybody in Cuban American media, notably Armando Perez-Roura, at some point supported the regime.

Anonymous said...


As I said: "as far as I can recall"

Thanks for the head's up on Rodriguez.

As far as how far the apologies need to go - I'm not sure - I get the impression from a lot of folks however, that the former regime supporters tend to be to quick to white-wash their involvement. Of course, there are two sides to every coin and I tend to think the exile community needs to be careful with regards to how far the condemnations go. For example - are you going to lambast a comedian simply because he appeared on Cuban state television?



Anonymous said...

Excuse my ignorance, I've been to Cuba a few times and I'm trying to figure out who this guy is. What was the show he hosted?

leftside said...

I wonder how Alexei Ramirez will get treated in his first trip to Florida (my White Sox just signed him!!)? He has gone further than Otero and stressed that he is not a defector. I greatly admire the integrity of those who do not pander to los exilos as soon as they get here, though that would be much easier (Isaac Delgado comes to mind as well).

Anonymous said...

I heard the name Ramirez but don't know anything about him, what's his story?

It will also be interesting when the U.S. plays Cuba in Soccer in Florida, I forget the date, but it's in the first few months of 2008.

Also, still interested in getting a reply on just who Otero is and what his show was.

Anonymous said...

Hey guys, for those without access to channel 41 all Carlos Otero shows are available in high def here: