Hispanic, Latino, and New York-Style Pizza — by David Pereda

What do Hispanic, Latino and New York-style pizza have in common? They are all terms invented in the United States. While New York-style pizza was invented in the Big Apple by Italian immigrants in the early 1900s, the terms Hispanic and Latino were invented by the US government fifty years later. Shocked? A popular email much-forwarded on the web a couple of years ago, titled I am an American of Cuban Descent, and Proud of it, categorically states, “There is no such thing as a ‘Latino’ race, and there is no such thing as a ‘Hispanic’ race. Both terms are contrived and used solely for census purposes.”

There is no country named Latinia and no country named Hispania either. The closest we can come to a similar word to Hispanic is Hispaniola, the name given by Christopher Columbus to one of the islands of the Caribbean.

So, technically, there should not be a Hispanic or a Latino literature. Following in the great tradition of the United States of inventing new names, I propose the term Lat Lit to encompass what heretofore has been considered Hispanic or Latino literature.

I confess I like the term Lat Lit. It’s compact enough to use on Twitter without wasting valuable space spelling out words. It has a catchy sound. Spoken quickly and repeatedly, it mimics the creaking noises of one of those low-riders you’d find in LA — or the machine-gun bongo beat of the salsa music you hear in Miami nightclubs. Say Lat Lit aloud five times fast, so you know I’m telling the truth.

Now that we have settled on the appropriate term, let’s move on to the next step. Let’s define what Lat Lit is. We’ll begin the process by ruling out what it isn’t. As Sherlock Holmes once said, and I’ll paraphrase quite freely here, “Once you rule out the impossible, what you have left, as improbable as it may appear to be, is the truth.”

Let’s try to eliminate the impossible then, so we can uncover the truth.

Is Lat Lit Hispanic or Latino Literature?

An internet search uncovers a dizzying assortment of different descriptions for Hispanic and Latino literature. The result is additional confusion instead of clarification. A monumental compendium of more than 100,000 pages titled Latino Literature: Poetry, Drama and Fiction, catches my attention. The cover describes the term Latino as a sum of heterogeneous parts encompassing “all citizens of the United States whose heritage is Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central American, and South American.” It goes on to explain that “the majority of Latino Literature is in English.”

Further, in an attempt to describe the diversity of the compendium, it adds: ‘Mexican American prose tends to reflect social themes, given the migratory patterns of mostly agricultural workers with minimal formal education. The wave of Cuban immigration after the Cuban Revolution in 1959 brings the nostalgic voice of an educated middle-class. Nuyoricans, the large contingent of Puerto Rican immigrants in New York, add to the mix their verve and creativity, freely using a mixture of English and Spanish. Salvadorans, Nicaraguans, Dominicans, and other Central and South American immigrants write about the social upheaval in their countries.”

While impressive in the quantity of authors represented, I conclude Latino Literature is limited in quality. Missing from the selection are many of the most famous Latino writers, such as Ciro Alegria, Jorge Luis Borges, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Julio Cortazar, Ruben Dario, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Also absent from the collection are some of the better-known contemporary Latino writers like Junot Diaz, Isabel Allende, and others.

I find Alexander Street Press’ explanation of the diversity of its writers incomplete and disappointing too. There’s much more to Mexican American prose than social themes. And Cuban immigration after the Castro revolution has had more than one wave, including the well-publicized marielitos in 1980 and the constant stream of balseros still arriving on Florida shores today. Regarding the prose of Cuban American writer, it has long ago been divested of that “ predominantly nostalgic tone” and morphed, like the Cubans themselves, into all known American non-fiction and fiction themes and genres — such as thrillers, crime, mystery, mainstream and even erotica. As far as what other central and South American immigrants write about, the topics vary by culture but are definitely richer and more varied than “social upheaval in their countries.”

So Lat Lit is definitely NOT Latino Literature either, at least not according to the definitions found on the Internet.

What is, or could be, Lat Lit then?

Here’s my proposed definition. Lat Lit is a popular, accessible and all-inclusive term with the following four main characteristics:

  • Encompasses all known prose genres — including but not limited to non-fiction, fiction, poetry and plays, be it in print, e-book or film — as well as poetry
  • Applies to authors meeting one or more of these requirements: (1) were born in a Spanish-speaking country; (2) have at least one ancestor who was born in a Spanish-speaking country; (3) are naturalized ctizens of a Spanish-speaking country; or (4) write about topics of interest to people who come from a Spanish-speaking culture
  • The writing is in English, Spanish, Portuguese or Spanglish
  • Spain, Portugal and Brazil are included in the list of Latin countries

My rationale for this definition is as follows: in our modern and constantly evolving internet age, parochial definitions are no longer valid. Language and literature should be fluid, organic and innovative, and open the literary path for others to follow — and not the other way around.

So why not use a contemporary term like Lat Lit, more akin to Twitter, Facebook and the rest of the social media?

Next time someone patronizes you by reciting a long list of obscure authors with a Spanish surname and then chides you because you know nothing about Latino literature, consider answering this: “Latino literature is an archaic term – confusing, stuffy and old-fashioned. The new term is Lat Lit, Dude.”

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David Pereda is the award-winning author of seven novels, dozens of articles and a handful of poems. His latest thriller, Twin Powers, published by Second Wind Publishing in February 2015, has received rave reviews. Here is the Amazon link to Twin Powers, so you can check it out: http://www.amazon.com/Twin-Powers-David-Pereda/dp/1630661112/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1425253277&sr=1-2&keywords=twin+powers. For more information on the author, visit www.davidpereda.com

Five Decades of Cuban Migration Waves to South Florida — by David Pereda

In these days when the United States and Cuba are in the process of reopening diplomatic relations after decades of political confrontations, Cuba, again, has become a popular topic in the media. Whether you are pro or against restoring relations, it cannot be ignored that the event marks a historical landmark in the love-hate relationship between the two countries. It’s been more that fifty-five years since Fidel Castro overthrew Fulgencio Batista on January 1, 1959, initiating an onslaught of Cuban migratory waves that totally changed South Florida. While many of the participants in the first, and perhaps the most transcendental, migratory wave are now dead, the economic, political, and artistic impact of those early pioneers, and the ones who followed them, cannot be ignored. Political and business leaders, college presidents, well-known artists and entertainers, TV and film stars, and award-winning writers have emerged from within the melting pot of those waves. Two of the candidates for the next U. S. presidential election are Cuban Americans – and both of them, surprisingly to many, vehemently oppose the reopening of diplomatic relations with Cuba. Whether we agree or disagree with them, I believe it would help to understand the thinking of the Cuban population in South Florida if we analyze the sequence and content of those historical migration waves.

According to immigration records, there are more than one million Cuban exiles living in the United States nowadays, most of them residing in South Florida. These exiles arrived in the United States in several distinct waves.

The first wave occurred after the Cuban revolution of 1959 led by Fidel Castro. Most of the exiles at the time were highly educated and many had money, properties and businesses already established in the United States. The majority of them arrived in Florida with the idea that the Castro government would not last long and their stay in the United States would be temporary. Mixed with that first wave, but independent of it, was a significant immigration wave that occurred between November 1960 and October 1962 when over 14,000 children, ages 6 to 17 were sent to the U.S. by their parents in “Operation Peter Pan” (Operación Pedro Pan). These children were taken out under the care of the Catholic Church and placed in foster homes throughout the U.S until they could be reunited with their parents. While many of the Peter Pan children ultimately reunited with their parents, not all them did. During my years living in Miami, I was befriended by a couple who met as Peter Pan children, fell in love, married, and had children. Although they lived a happy and successful life, they never reunited with their biological parents.

Another wave, mostly a mini-wave within the first wave, began in 1961 amid the nationalization in Cuba of educational institutions, hospitals, private land, and industrial facilities. Additionally, the Castro government began a political crackdown on the opposition by either incarcerating opponents of the regime or executing them. At this point, Castro had gone from a self-proclaimed, non-communist freedom fighter to a self-proclaimed Marxist-Leninist.

From December 1965 to early 1973, under the Johnson and Nixon administrations, the twice daily “Freedom Flights” (Vuelos de la Libertad) from Varadero Beach to Miami were the only way to escape out of Cuba. It became the longest airlift ever to take political refugees out of Cuba and transported nearly 300,000 Cubans to freedom with the help of religious and volunteer agencies. Flights were limited to immediate relatives, with a waiting period anywhere from one to two years.

The Mariel Boatlift, one of the most significant and documented wave of exiles, happened between April 15 and October 31, 1980, during the Carter administration The mass boatlift occurred after six Cubans crashed a bus through the gates of the Havana Peruvian Embassy and requested asylum. When the Peruvian ambassador refused to return the exiled citizens to the authorities, Castro removed the Cuban guards from the embassy, basically opening the door to the 4,000 plus asylum-seekers who stormed the embassy within the next few days. Embarrassed in front of the world media, Castro stated, “Anyone who wants to leave Cuba can do so” and declared that those who were leaving the country were escoria (scum).

Castro’s comment resulted in an unprecedented mass exodus through the port of Mariel, where an improvised flotilla of Cuban exiles from Miami in small pleasure boats and commercial shrimping vessels brought to the United States family members and other Cuban citizens who wished to leave the island. Within weeks, 125,000 Cubans reached US shores despite Coast Guard attempts to stem the movement.

As the exodus became international news, Castro emptied his hospitals and had prison inmates rounded up as “social undesirables”, including criminals, 1,500 homosexuals and 600 mental patients, and forced to take them among the political and economic refugees. The Cuban Communist Party staged meetings at the homes of those known to be leaving the country. People were intimidated by these “repudiation committees” where the participants screamed obscenities and defiled the facades of the homes, throwing eggs and garbage, for hours. Labeled as “traitors to the revolution” those who declared their wish to leave became the targeted victims of the attacks, their rationing cards were taken from them, their jobs were terminated or they were expelled from schools or university.

The first chapter of my romantic suspense novel, However Long the Night, the story of a family of Marielitos forced to leave Cuba to begin a new life in the United States, describes in detail that turbulent period of time. You can read that chapter here:

http://www.amazon.com/However-Long-Night-David-Pereda-ebook/dp/B00770C59K/ref=pd_sim_sbs_351_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=11E27C3DKW

The scale of the exodus created political difficulties for the Cuban government, and an agreement was reached to end the boatlift after several months. As many as 40,000 of the refugees were believed to possess criminal records in Cuba. In the end, only about 1,800 of the refugees were classified as serious or violent criminals under U.S. law and denied citizenship on that basis. The majority of refugees were young adult males, 20 to 34 years of age, from the working class, skilled craftsman, semi-skilled tradesmen and unskilled laborers who took advantage of the opportunity to leave Cuba without the hindrance of the oppressive Cuban regime.

The U.S. Department of State, in a website section entitled “Cuba: U.S.-Cuba Relations,” last updated Jan. 20, 2001, explained the exodus, at least partially, as follows: “In the 1980s… U.S.-Cuban relations shifted to include immigration…when a migration crisis unfolded. In 1980…the Cuban government allowed 125,000 Cubans to illegally depart for the United States from the port of Mariel, an incident known as the ‘Mariel boatlift.’ In 1984, the United States and Cuba negotiated an agreement to resume normal immigration, and to return to Cuba those persons who had arrived during the boatlift who were ‘excludable’ under U.S. law.” If anyone was sent back to Cuba because of the “excludable” clause that information has been kept either secret or hidden.

During the past decades, exile waves have consisted of balseros (rafters), who have braved the rough seas in homemade rafts. As a result of bilateral migration accords between the two governments, in September 1994 and May 1995, the status quo of U.S. policy toward Cuban migrants was altered significantly. The U.S. granted Cuba an annual minimum of 20,000 legal immigrant visas and, at the same time, determined that Cubans picked up at sea would be sent home just as any other group of “illegal” immigrants. As a result of these migration agreements and interdiction policy, a “wet foot/dry foot” practice toward Cuban immigrants has developed. Those who do not reach shore (dry land), are returned to Cuba and only those who meet the definition of asylum refugee are accepted to eventually be resettled to a third country. Those Cuban rafters who do reach land are inspected by Department of Homeland Security and usually are allowed to stay in the United States. From May 1995 through July 2003, about 170 Cuban refugees were resettled in 11 different countries, including Spain, Venezuela, Australia, and Nicaragua.

The State Department’s request to monitor the fate of the immigrants returned to Cuba to ensure that they were not subject to reprisals, has noted that since March 2003 it has been unable to find any information about the returnees.

If you are attracted to Cuba and its people, you might be interested in reading my Havana Series of thrillers featuring the peripatetic doctor, Raymond Peters, and the beautiful but lethal Cuban assassin, Marcela. Great portions of the books take place in Cuba, often in locations unknown to tourists, as well as in other exotic places, such as Dubai and Mexico. Here is a link to the last installment of the series, Twin Powers, published earlier this year by Second Wind Publishing.

http://www.amazon.com/Twin-Powers-David-Pereda/dp/1630661112/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1427924837&sr=1-2&keywords=twin+powers

Below, also, are links to the first two thrillers of the series.

http://www.amazon.com/Havana~-Killing-Castro-David-Pereda/dp/1770650385/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436047842&sr=1-1&keywords=havana

http://www.amazon.com/Havana-Top-Secret-David-Pereda/dp/1926647904/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1436048056&sr=8-1&keywords=havana%3A+top+secret

The reopening of diplomatic relations with Cuba may open the gates for another large Cuban migratory wave to the United States. It might also encourage many Cuban Americans, eager to recover a past their parents lost but never forgot, to migrate to Cuba in search of a national identity. Who knows, maybe the next flood of migration waves will not be from Cuba to South Florida but from South Florida to Cuba as Cuban exiles accompanied by Cuban Americans return home to establish businesses and reconstruct a run-down country. The next decade of U.S.- Cuba relations promises to be, if nothing else, quite exciting.

Author Notes: I have borrowed heavily from various sources to write this blog, among them the book Let the Bastards Go by Joe Morris Doss, Time magazine, The Miami Herald, and Wikipedia.

Setting the Scene: The Importance of Location in Fiction by David Pereda

Indigo Sea Press Blog

My latest thriller, Twin Powers, was officially released by Second Wind Publishing, at the annual Book’Em event held at the Robeson Community College in Lumberton, North Carolina on February 28th. I was part of a three-person panel titled, Setting the Scene: Backdrops. I had great colleagues on the panel, a smart moderator, and a fantastic group of attendees who asked a number of insightful questions about the subject that I’d like to share with you.

  1. What is the location for Twin Powers, and why did you select that particular location?

There are three key locations in Twin Powers — Havana, Miami, and Dubai. Since about 60 percent of the book takes place in Dubai, I’d say Dubai is the principal location. I chose Dubai for several reasons: one, the villain is an Arab Sheikh from that city; two, my familiarity with Dubai and its…

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The Cuban Connection in my Writing — by David Pereda

Indigo Sea Press Blog

People often ask me at book readings or during blog tours, “Why do you write so much about Cuba?” “Is it a place that intrigues you?” “Do you have a business connection?” “Do you have a personal nexus, perhaps a wife or a girlfriend in Cuba or from Cuba?” “Have you ever visited Cuba?” “What is it about Cuba that stimulates you to write all these books with a Cuban background?” “What inspires you the most to write about Cuba?”

The answer is simple — and it’s personal, not business. I am Cuban.

Most people don’t know this, so this might be news to many of you.

Much like Cid Milan, the main character in my book However long the Night, I arrived in the United States — Tampa, Florida — when I was nineteen years old. Like Cid, I left a girlfriend behind named Sonia. Unlike the Sandra in…

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