The (Naked) King of Little Havana / Ernesto Morales

Source: The Independent (UK), Ernesto Morales, Miami, 16 June 2017 – When the lights and cameras went out, the choreographers of the event breathed a sigh of relief. Mario and Marco, both of Cuban descent, merged in a hug.

No child appeared to utter the alarm: “The king is naked!” This time the one humiliated would have been the President – who would like so much to be king.

But the stage, a Little Havana of arteries strangled by street closures, gates, cars with police lights, yellow tape, dust and vapors of dog shit, did not lend itself to bold and honest children.

The average age of the quorum of the President-King: 900 years.

The trait they all have in common: an anti-Obamaism comparable only in ferocity to their anti-Castroism, the overwhelming reason to welcome the President-King like a messiah from New York who comes, once and for fucking all, to sweep it all away.

Behind the pulpit of the President-King were the most Praetorian of the hosts, crowded together as best they could to catch the most advantageous camera angles. Man, nothing was missing: it was the day they’d dreamed of. The dismantling of a policy begun thirty months ago by Barack Obama, one that this Little Havana had identified as the alpha and omega of all possible evils: more repression in Cuba (without any evidence), more poverty for Cubans (despite Airbnb saying otherwise), more heat, more plagues of sparrows, more blisters on the feet of the peasants. Whatever.

And the President-King did not disappoint them. Far from it!

Although some of us, the self-marginalized among the troupe, still fail to completely understand why he did not disappoint them. Suspecting that we are passing through the gates of the inferno. That something is hidden from us. Something along the lines of, “And suddenly everyone will erupt in a collective anger and they will tell the President-King: This is a farce!”

The irreverent boy who will dare to shout to the President-King that his executive order, his policy review, his report on Cuba… that all this paperwork was naked.

The mockery is macabre. Not for me. I have cured myself in cynicism. But it is for the old man of genuine faith, who from a low-income apartment in Hialeah still dreams of doing justice to his executed father, his stoned mother.

The mockery is glaringly scathing: because it uses the weariness against a family dictatorship like gunpowder to gain subjects and followers. But this time without even pretending to fight against that same dictatorship!

“Effective immediately, I am canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba,” came out of the president’s oracular mouth, and the room, criticized by the monarch himself for its narrow space and medieval heat, erupted in applause.

From some corner of the stage the strategists smiled. These are: Marco Rubio and Mario Díaz-Balart. The men who knew how to sell to the President-King the essence of what he had to do to win blind, deaf but very talkative faithful in this Miami devoid of common sense. He just had to fake a change.

It was not necessary for the President-King to dance. Just let him say, “Watch me dance this mambo,” motionless from his podium, and everyone would see him cut a rug.

I am still disoriented.

The cruise ships will continue to dock in Cuban ports. American Airlines, Jet Blue, Southwest Airlines, will continue to land from San Antonio to Maisí. Cuban Americans will have no restrictions on the number of visits per year or amount of remittances per year, as it was under – Yes! Really! – the iron fist of George W. Bush. The embassies will continue, both of them, on their sites. The diplomatic dialog will continue. The “wet foot/dry foot” policy will continue to be a thing of the past. Cuba will not once again be placed on the list of countries that sponsor terrorism.

One by one, without exception: all the elements of the Obama era regarding Cuba. Untouched. Intact. The icons of tropical Obamism, immovable.

“But to say that you dance the mambo, Mr. President, you have to play some music,” they told him. And then to the beat of the worst violinist who ever struck a chord in Little Havana, the President-King said that it will not be possible to trade with the military, and that the gringos must stay within the 12 categories already established to travel to the Island. (They didn’t even bother to remove one category or another, make it more difficult, less broad, the tickets more elusive!)

There was no need. The objective was already achieved: to enchant the plebs thirsting for magic, tricks, illusion.

Before ending the event, the President-King – for whom Cuba is only a reference to the site where, in 1995, he wanted to plant another of his pharaonic hotels – allowed himself a license: to praise the neighborhood. “I want to thank Little Havana.  Havana, we love.  Do we love it?  Would you move anywhere else?  You wouldn’t move to Palm Beach, would you?  No.  No way.  Little Havana,” he said.

And they all laughed, pleased.

All good, except for the detail that 99.99% of the amused crowd does not live in Little Havana, one of the most impoverished, violent, dirty, forgotten places in metropolitan Miami, and a place where now there are fewer and fewer Cubans – they’ve moved to Hialeah – and more and more Central Americans. Wow, a community of “bad hombres,” according to the peculiar reductionism of the President-King.

Miami attended the “Bufo” theater this Friday. To the barbarism of political laughter where the one who dazzles always wins and puts one over on the dumbest. The Miami exile community, to which I belong, is still the dunce of the class.

But a dunce who does not even dare to shout at the King that he forgot to put on his clothes.