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Cuban Film Shows Raw Side of Life in Havana
yahoo.comnews ^ | July 29, 2003 | Anthony Boadle

Posted on 07/31/2003 3:32:55 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife

HAVANA (Reuters) - The characters eat black beans and rice in silence, bathe with buckets and cycle miles to work against a backdrop of the crumbling beauty of their city.

A 79-year-old woman sells peanuts to make ends meet. A hospital employee becomes a transvestite cabaret dancer by night, a doctor doubles as a clown after work and a railway repairman plays the sax in an Adventist chapel.

"Suite Habana" documents a day in the life of a dozen Cubans who struggle with the harsher side of life in revolutionary Cuba. The adults don't smile or utter a single word throughout the 80-minute film.

The melancholy documentary directed by Cuban filmmaker Fernando Perez -- a rapid sequence of images, sounds and music -- is the talk of the town this summer in Havana.

The film has packed the city's Charles Chaplin theater for five weeks, drawing tears and standing ovations from audiences stunned by the frank portrayal of their day-to-day lives.

"It shows the reality of my country that is never seen on television. It's a very raw look at difficulties that exist," said university lecturer Oscar Gomez as he left the theater.

Some Cubans were surprised President Fidel Castro's government allowed exhibition of a film that focuses on the daily grind of life under tropical socialism.

While criticism of the island's one-party political system is not permitted, Cuba has tolerated films that satirize bureaucracy such as "Guantanamera," "Alice in Wonder Village" and "Death of a Bureaucrat." "Strawberry and Chocolate," which criticizes discrimination against gays, was in 1995 the first Cuban film to receive an Oscar nomination for best foreign film.

The public debate over "Suite Habana" was no less surprising given the country's media are controlled by the state.

Ruling Communist Party newspaper Granma praised it as "one of the most important films in the history of Cuban cinema."

The workers weekly Trabajadores said Perez' images "speak of the daily feat of existence, of how one can live in poverty without losing dignity or renouncing one's dreams."

The official view is that the film accurately portrays the stoicism with which "habaneros" put up with social hardships that the government blames on four decades of "economic blockade" by its archenemy the United States.

FEW SMILES, REAL LIVES

In his sermon on a recent Sunday, a Catholic priest urged his parishioners to go and see "Suite Habana" for its "eloquent and revealing images of daily life in Cuba today."

The only character who smiles in the film and appears to live a carefree normal life is Francisquito, a 10-year-old boy with Down Syndrome.

The only appetizing food shown in "Suite Habana" is in meals made with hygienic care by an airline catering firm for passengers on planes that few Cubans get to travel on.

Jorge Luis, 42, cries with his family in a searing airport scene as he departs his homeland and boards a charter flight for a new life in Miami, where most Cuban exiles live.

"This film touches us so deeply because it represents Cuban reality, the love between Cubans and the constant drama of separation," said Carlos, a museum employee. "It is difficult to dream in Cuba, but nobody can take dreaming away. The message of the film is that one should never give up one's dream."

The director stressed he had total freedom to make "Suite Habana" and has not had a single complaint from the government.

"Eighty percent of Havana lives like this. Many bathe with a bucket, with no running water. I did it for eight years," said Perez, son of a postman who dreamed of being an astrologer.

The filmmaker earns 400 pesos a month, equal to $15, from the state cinema agency and got a bonus in dollars during filming with Spanish producing company Wanda that funded the production and holds the international rights.

"Suite Habana" will be shown abroad first in Spain, at the San Sebastian film festival in September, and then in France, Austria and Switzerland.

"It is not a film of smiles. The characters are real people who act out their lives that are full of difficulties, but they are characters that dream," Perez said.

The documentary returns again and again to a statue of John Lennon sitting on a Havana park bench honoring the Beatle who wrote "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one."

During a tropical downpour, the camera focuses on Lennon's soaking glasses. "He seemed to be crying," one film-goer said.

The film ends listing each character's dream. The peanut lady, Amanda, says she has no dreams left.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Crime/Corruption; Cuba; Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; Government; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: communism; documentary; havana
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The filmmaker earns 400 pesos a month, equal to $15, from the state cinema agency and got a bonus in dollars during filming with Spanish producing company Wanda that funded the production and holds the international rights.

I wonder what cut of the profits go to Fidel Castro.


People walk on a street lined with crumbling buildings in downtown Havana, July 28, 2003. A movie called 'Suite Habana,' made by Cuban film-maker Fernando Perez, documents a day in the life of Cubans who struggle with the harsher side of life in revolutionary Cuba. (Rafael Perez/Reuters)


Cuban street artists on stilts walk into a building as a woman stands nearby in downtown Havana, July 9, 2003. A movie called 'Suite Habana', made by Cuban film-maker Fernando Perez, documents a day in the life of Cubans who struggle with the harsher side of life in revolutionary Cuba. The movie is said to speak of the daily feat of existence, of how one can live in poverty without losing dignity or renouncing one's dreams. REUTERS/Claudia Daut/FOR STORY CUBA-FILM

1 posted on 07/31/2003 3:32:56 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
Paul Harvey read this story yesterday on his noon program.

I personally wish they would show this film in Hollywood.

2 posted on 07/31/2003 3:37:27 AM PDT by Miss Marple
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
One of the great crimes of American liberalism is its adoration of Fidel Castro ("Dr. Castro" per the New York Times.) The reign of this monster has been justified by Cuba's "high literacy and free health care." This means literate to read only Marxist propaganda and health care that no American liberal would willing choose for himself.
3 posted on 07/31/2003 3:51:28 AM PDT by Malesherbes
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
The Cubans rose up in a revolution and placed Castro in charge. Where has that courage for revolution gone? At one time I would have said we should help, that was before we lifted the yoke of Saddam Hussein off the shoulders of Iraq and get kicked in the teeth for it every day. If these people dont like Castro, let them remove Castro. Why should the US go there get soldiers killed and then have the citizens turn on us?
4 posted on 07/31/2003 4:05:14 AM PDT by sgtbono2002
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To: sgtbono2002
Why should the US go there get soldiers killed and then have the citizens turn on us?

You obviously don't know very much about Cuba.

5 posted on 07/31/2003 4:17:44 AM PDT by Texas_Dawg ("...They came to hate their party and this president... They have finished by hating their country.")
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To: Texas_Dawg
Remember the Bay of Pigs? The Soviet empire fell without a shot, this will too. Or they can keep bathing in buckets for all I care..Iraq taught me a lesson too.
6 posted on 07/31/2003 4:46:08 AM PDT by singletrack (..............................................................................)
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To: sgtbono2002
that was before we lifted the yoke of Saddam Hussein off the shoulders of Iraq and get kicked in the teeth for it every day.

I've been reading lots of articles saying we are very much appreciated in Iraq by the average citizens and their leaders.

7 posted on 07/31/2003 4:51:59 AM PDT by Tribune7
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To: singletrack
Remember the Bay of Pigs? The Soviet empire fell without a shot, this will too. Or they can keep bathing in buckets for all I care..Iraq taught me a lesson too.

I'm not arguing that the U.S. needs to militarily intervene in Cuba. I don't know anyone who is. My only point was that if someone thinks Iraq and Cuba are even remotely similar or that Cubans would respond the same way as a very small percentage of Baathist Iraqis have, then that person just isn't very bright and defintely knows nothing about Cuba and Cubans.

8 posted on 07/31/2003 4:56:40 AM PDT by Texas_Dawg ("...They came to hate their party and this president... They have finished by hating their country.")
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
a doctor doubles as a clown after work

What's the big deal? The US has clowns doubling as Democrat Presidential candidates!

9 posted on 07/31/2003 5:01:16 AM PDT by verity
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To: Texas_Dawg
You are right I dont know much about Cubans. I cant see why a country that rose up against Batista, hasnt the courage to rise up against Castro. Was the standard of living under Batista as bad as it is under Castro? I submit it wasnt.
10 posted on 07/31/2003 5:33:14 AM PDT by sgtbono2002
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To: verity

Nothing says communism like a good Cuban

11 posted on 07/31/2003 5:36:24 AM PDT by Puppage (You may disagree with what I have to say, but I will defend to your death my right to say it)
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To: singletrack
Iraq taught me a lesson too.

Just curious as to what that lesson is.

It seems to me that the Iraq thing is still playing itself out. If you believe Time magazine it might seem like a failure........But in fact, the Iraqi people are afraid that the U.S. may leave prematurely and give Iraq back to the thugs who have been running it.

Once the thugs in Cuba are gone, the Cuban people are going to go banannas making sure that they don't come back.

12 posted on 07/31/2003 5:43:36 AM PDT by Tom Bombadil
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To: sgtbono2002
I cant see why a country that rose up against Batista, hasnt the courage to rise up against Castro.

A couple things: 1) The "country" did not rise up against him. Some very intelligent thugs were able to rally enough people to overthrow a very weak, poorly-run government. And this was 50 years ago when many poor Cubans had no idea what Communism was other than that it sounded nice. They no better now and Castro has had to imprison and execute thousands that were once considered from his main support areas (i.e. the Afro-Cubans).

2) The Batista government that Castro overthrew was not nearly as tyrannical as his and therefore not willing to execute and imprison innocent people in order to keep an iron fist rule on the country.

Was the standard of living under Batista as bad as it is under Castro?

No.

13 posted on 07/31/2003 5:49:58 AM PDT by Texas_Dawg ("...They came to hate their party and this president... They have finished by hating their country.")
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To: sgtbono2002; Texas_Dawg
Was the standard of living under Batista as bad as it is under Castro? I submit it wasnt

No. My in-laws escaped from there in '62 when they were in their young 20's. Havana was beautiful. They called it "Paris on the Carribean." Today, Cuba is much different. For example, Havana is crawling with prostitutes. In the 50's girls were not allowed to go on dates unless their father or brother came along as a chaperone.

The Cubans did rise up. They were promised air cover by Kennedy who supplied a carrier. Che and Fidel were pissing in their pants and would not commit their troops against the uprising until it became quite clear that Kennedy had backstabbed the insurgents. They were slaughtered. There was a very poignant thread a while ago about how the Admiral on the carrier literally cried and begged for "Just one plane Mr. President".

The only one who has been able to kick out the communists in street to street fighting has been Franco. His reward-constant bashing by the liberals and those who are ignorant of the hell Stalin unleashed in Spain.

There was a Franco in Cuba-he was shot somewhere in the swamps.

14 posted on 07/31/2003 7:07:54 AM PDT by MattinNJ (As soon as we could see out of our big black eye, man, we lit up your world like the 4th of July)
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To: MattinNJ
Today, Cuba is much different.

I was all over the country in early April '03. Cuba makes the worst parts of Mexico I've seen look like Heaven.

15 posted on 07/31/2003 7:11:47 AM PDT by Texas_Dawg ("...They came to hate their party and this president... They have finished by hating their country.")
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To: Texas_Dawg
Ironic, because Cuba used to be heaven on earth from what I have heard.
16 posted on 07/31/2003 7:27:47 AM PDT by MattinNJ (As soon as we could see out of our big black eye, man, we lit up your world like the 4th of July)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
"Socialismo es Muerte"
17 posted on 07/31/2003 7:30:16 AM PDT by Semper Paratus
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To: MattinNJ
Maybe the Cuban people have to wait for Castro to die for things to get better.
18 posted on 07/31/2003 7:33:58 AM PDT by Ciexyz
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
>>>>>>The official view is that the film accurately portrays the stoicism with which "habaneros" put up with social hardships that the government blames on four decades of "economic blockade" by its archenemy the United States<<<<

Surprisingly, there is a truth in this. Uncle Sam is directly propping up Castro with the ecconomic blockade. If there were no sanctions, if Juan working in Goodwrench was making $2 per hour and Jose working for Castro $15 a month, Castro's regime would topple like a deck of cards.

Cubans are prisoners of both Castro and The United States.

19 posted on 07/31/2003 7:34:24 AM PDT by DTA
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
I will have a 3 day party when the sob castro makes his trip to hell.
20 posted on 07/31/2003 7:38:08 AM PDT by gedeon3
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To: DTA
Uncle Sam is directly propping up Castro with the ecconomic blockade

And that is what Castro wants. Everytime there has been momentum towards reviewing the embargo he does something to stop it. He needs the embargo as an excuse. Castro will be dead before you see US business in Cuba.

21 posted on 07/31/2003 7:40:55 AM PDT by Semper Paratus
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
Just another example of the "Worker's Paradise" known as Cuba. Communism is death for human dignity and freedom.
22 posted on 07/31/2003 7:40:59 AM PDT by OldCorps
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To: Ciexyz
Maybe the Cuban people have to wait for Castro to die for things to get better.

They couldn't get worse-but I would like to see him get a lead injection from some SPECFOR insert team. Of course thats easy for me to say sitting in my cushy office ;-)

23 posted on 07/31/2003 7:42:54 AM PDT by MattinNJ (As soon as we could see out of our big black eye, man, we lit up your world like the 4th of July)
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To: DTA
Uncle Sam is directly propping up Castro with the ecconomic blockade.

There is no blockade against Cuba; every other country in the world does business with Castro.

If Cubans don't have Made-in-China toothbrushes or Made-in-China toilet seats is not because the Cuban government cannot buy those items in America.

The only blockade I have seen is against American companies by large retailers like Walmart and Target. As a matter of fact, I have tried to buy Made-in-USA toothbrushes and Made-in-USA toilet seats, and I cannot find any American products in Walmart or Target.

If there were no sanctions, if Juan working in Goodwrench was making $2 per hour and Jose working for Castro $15 a month, Castro's regime would topple like a deck of cards.

There is a little problem with your argument, since it has already been tried in Cuba and failed. There are many private companies that have invested in Cuba, and that did not help the Cuban economy; the US is not the only game in town. The foreign companies pay to the Cuban government the serfs' wages, and the serfs get paid whatever amount the Cuban government deems appropriate.

In your scenario, you seem to suggest that American companies will be able to hire any Cuban at will and pay Cuban workers better wages. Did I understand you correctly?

Furthermore, American companies have done plenty of business with Cuba; for instance, GM, not GM Detroit but GM anywhere else. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, GM Argentina supplied Cuba with a large taxi fleet. As a matter of fact, “Chevy” became almost synonym with taxi in Cuban slang. Did that improve the economic condition of the people?

In the Bible, there an Egyptian king that dreams about fat cows and scrawny cows. Even after devouring the fat cows, the scrawny cows remain as lean and mean as before their eating binge. In Cuba’s case, any amount of economic profit is quickly eaten by the choking socialist system and corrupt officials.

Whether the US companies are allowed to do business directly with Castro or not, the situation in the ground will not change much until there is openness in the economic field. Every time Castro allows a little free-market experiment, Cubans are regaled with abundance of foodstuff and basic supplies; then Castro changes his mind and goes back to his Stalinist background.

The only way a communist country can prospers is by keeping the communist ideology in check and allow a capitalist system to flourish next to a dictatorial political system, such as China. Otherwise, any foreign investment has little chance of helping the average serf.

24 posted on 07/31/2003 8:11:10 AM PDT by george wythe
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"Coconut" taxis in Havana
25 posted on 07/31/2003 8:15:18 AM PDT by george wythe
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Cyclists in Havana
26 posted on 07/31/2003 8:19:07 AM PDT by george wythe
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American cars have survived 44 years of communism; unfortunately, Havana is crumbling
27 posted on 07/31/2003 8:23:27 AM PDT by george wythe
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To: Texas_Dawg
The "country" did not rise up against him. Some very intelligent thugs were able to rally enough people to overthrow a very weak, poorly-run government

Financed and backed by the U.S. Government. Eisenhower expressed surprise and dismay, when Castro announced that he was a Communist.

28 posted on 07/31/2003 11:13:29 AM PDT by itsahoot
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To: itsahoot
Financed and backed by the U.S. Government.

Uh huh. I thought Batista was financed and backed by the U.S. Government as well.

29 posted on 07/31/2003 11:16:58 AM PDT by Texas_Dawg ("...They came to hate their party and this president... They have finished by hating their country.")
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To: Texas_Dawg
Uh huh. I thought Batista was financed and backed by the U.S. Government as well.

As he surely was. The term "Two Faced" comes to mind.

30 posted on 07/31/2003 11:19:38 AM PDT by itsahoot
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To: itsahoot
As he surely was. The term "Two Faced" comes to mind.

Whatever. You probably don't think we landed on the moon either.

31 posted on 07/31/2003 11:24:55 AM PDT by Texas_Dawg ("...They came to hate their party and this president... They have finished by hating their country.")
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To: itsahoot
I remember reading just prior to 911 castro was in Iran bragging they were going to bring America down on it's knees !
32 posted on 07/31/2003 11:27:14 AM PDT by f.Christian (evolution vs intelligent design ... science3000 ... designeduniverse.com --- * architecture * !)
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To: MattinNJ
The only one who has been able to kick out the communists in street to street fighting has been Franco.

Don't forget Pinochet.

33 posted on 07/31/2003 11:29:17 AM PDT by dfwgator
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
Ruling Communist Party newspaper Granma praised it as "one of the most important films in the history of Cuban cinema."

Communists love misery wherever they see it.

After all, if they didn't have misery to blame on someone else, what would they have?

34 posted on 07/31/2003 11:30:13 AM PDT by Scott from the Left Coast
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To: Semper Paratus
Castro IS the embargo.
35 posted on 07/31/2003 11:30:26 AM PDT by dfwgator
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To: george wythe
Damn, Havana looks more and more like Warsaw right after WWII.
36 posted on 07/31/2003 11:31:08 AM PDT by dfwgator
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To: DTA
"Cubans are prisoners of both Castro and The United States."

Cuba has trade with the other 190+ countries in the world. They have access to everything. The US embargo should have little affect. Please explain why it does...

37 posted on 07/31/2003 11:35:11 AM PDT by cibco (Xin Loi... Saddam)
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To: Texas_Dawg
I was all over the country in early April '03

Did you get the chance to speak with any locals? If so, what impression did you come away with?

38 posted on 07/31/2003 11:38:58 AM PDT by RoughDobermann (Who are you tryin' to get crazy with, ese? Don't you know I'm loco?)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
Some Cubans were surprised President Fidel Castro's government allowed exhibition of a film that focuses on the daily grind of life under tropical socialism.

That's only for today. Tomorrow, you're all (the filmmakers and the audiences who came to see this film) under arrest.

39 posted on 07/31/2003 11:40:02 AM PDT by lowbridge (You are the audience. I am the author. I outrank you! -Franz Liebkind, The Producers)
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To: Ciexyz
I have a theory about Castro that I'd like to share with all of you. Simply put, I believe that Castro was involved with the assassination of JFK. The "coverup" that resulted in the wake of JFK's death was because of the fact that our intelligence community quickly figured out that Cubans were involved in the hit, as proxies for the Soviets. I'm guessing this was all sorted out within 48 hours of JFK's death.

The big question at that time was: What do we do about this? What do we tell the American people and the rest of the world? Remember, this was not long after the whole "missile crisis". The world was on a nuclear hair trigger. Did we want to risk the possibility of global thermonuclear war, or were we going to go with the "lone nut" explanation, and then quietly go about hitting the bastards back where it hurts?

There is a reason that we have normalized relations with China and Vietnam, and not with Cuba. It is because China and Vietnam do not have the blood of an American president on their hands. America will normalize relationships with Cuba within a month after Castro dies, IMHO.
40 posted on 07/31/2003 11:40:30 AM PDT by Elliott Jackalope (Formerly Billy_bob_bob)
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To: Luis Gonzalez; Cincinatus' Wife
BTTT
41 posted on 07/31/2003 11:42:03 AM PDT by Cultural Jihad
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
"Eighty percent of Havana lives like this. Many bathe with a bucket, with no running water. I did it for eight years," said Perez, son of a postman who dreamed of being an astrologer.

Anyone can be an astrologer. All you need to do is memorize the 12 zodiac signs and spout gibberish about long journeys and career changes.
42 posted on 07/31/2003 11:42:34 AM PDT by Xenalyte (I may not agree with your bumper sticker, but I'll defend to the death your right to stick it)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
Huh? How can this be? The Cuba I saw in Die Another Day showed an island full of HAPPY people dancing in the streets and food stalls full of lots and lots of fruit hanging everywhere for the taking. Also the Cuban hospital in the movie was so technologically advanced that people came from all over the world for treatments there. The Cuba I saw in that movie showed Cubans enjoying un GRAN FIESTA!!!
43 posted on 07/31/2003 11:43:45 AM PDT by PJ-Comix (He who laughs last was too dumb to figure out the joke first)
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To: RoughDobermann
Many. And keep in touch with several. Cubans hate Castro overwhelmingly. There are a few who will support him and the Communists to the end with their voices, but even these will not fight for Communism once Castro is gone. Cuba will be democratic and a good friend of America's within our lifetimes (once Castro is dead). A few decades from now (maybe, much sooner) it will be the most popular destination spot for Americans in the Carribbean.
44 posted on 07/31/2003 11:47:17 AM PDT by Texas_Dawg ("...They came to hate their party and this president... They have finished by hating their country.")
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To: Xenalyte
Anyone can be an astrologer. All you need to do is memorize the 12 zodiac signs and spout gibberish about long journeys and career changes.

Of course. This probably means he dreams of being able to do it for money. Like a psychic. The stuff is all bunk to me of course, but what a great country we live in where people can get others to pay them for such nonsense. This man will never get to unless Castro dies in his life.

45 posted on 07/31/2003 11:50:56 AM PDT by Texas_Dawg ("...They came to hate their party and this president... They have finished by hating their country.")
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To: Texas_Dawg
Thanks, that's what I figured. I've never been there, but I remember flying over Havana en route to Grand Cayman. It looks so beautiful from the sky...
46 posted on 07/31/2003 11:54:27 AM PDT by RoughDobermann (Who are you tryin' to get crazy with, ese? Don't you know I'm loco?)
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To: RoughDobermann
It looks so beautiful from the sky...

Geographically it is. Architecturally it once was as well. Now it looks like a hurricane came through and no one cleaned up or fixed anything afterwards. The horrors of communism are impossible to really describe. One has to see them in person and hear the stories just to get a tiny feeling. I still can't even imagine what it must be like for those people to live there. I've seen the slums of Mexico City and I would live there in a heartbeat (and it doesn't get much worse than that in the West) before I would live in the average Cuban situation.

47 posted on 07/31/2003 11:58:10 AM PDT by Texas_Dawg ("...They came to hate their party and this president... They have finished by hating their country.")
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
The Incomparable Raul Capablanca

48 posted on 07/31/2003 12:07:38 PM PDT by Skooz (Tagline removed by moderator)
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To: dfwgator; Texas_Dawg
Don't forget Pinochet.

Pinochet was a true hero. However, his task was a piece of cake compared to what Franco did. I would put Franco and Pinochet in the top 5 leaders of the 20th century along with Reagan, Thatcher and (begrudgingly)Churchill. I base my criteria on defeating communists, improving economic conditions and improving personal freedoms.

49 posted on 07/31/2003 12:17:41 PM PDT by MattinNJ (As soon as we could see out of our big black eye, man, we lit up your world like the 4th of July)
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To: sgtbono2002
Before you go making arguments, you should take the time to learn at least a bit about what you are talking about.

Do you know what happens when unarmed people take on communists?

Do you have any idea of the history of the Castro "revolution"?

50 posted on 07/31/2003 12:51:05 PM PDT by Luis Gonzalez (I am legion.)
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