Between 1960 and 1962 more than 14,000 Cuban children escaped Fidel Castro’s communist regime as part of an airlift known as Operación Pedro Pan. LORENZO PABLO MARTÍNEZ was one of these children. In CUBA, ADIÓS: A Young Man’s Journey to Freedom, Martínez vividly recounts his participation in a program that bridged two different cultures and achieved great political significance over the years. At eighteen, he forfeits a music scholarship to Prague to accept an unknown future of exile in America without knowing the language, money to pursue an education, or family to help. Plagued by guilt around his sexual identity and having to care for a younger brother, Martínez forges ahead to become the composer of his future; later he opens the doors that enable his sisters and parents to join him after a harrowing sojourn in Mexico City. With the same determination, he attends college and pursues a music education, obtaining a master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music, then a doctorate from Columbia University. Even after his music compositions are published and performed on television and at international festivals, Martínez feels restless and spiritually unfulfilled. Until, that is, he is able to define the true music of his freedom. CUBA, ADIÓS is a poignant, thoughtful account of one boy’s survival and self-acceptance, written with unflinching honesty and a wry humor.
Jordan Allott is Founder and Executive Producer for In Altum Productions, a Washington D.C based film and video production company. Through In Altum Productions, Mr. Allott has produced documentary projects with themes ranging from Catholic spirituality and religious freedom to Cuban and American politics. IAP has worked with organizations including: The George W. Bush Institute, USAID, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Pan-American Development Foundation and International Relief and Development, among many others. In 2010 Mr. Allott and In Altum Productions released Oscar’s Cuba, a 60-minute documentary about imprisoned Cuban human rights advocate and 2011 Nobel Peace Prize finalist Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet. The acclaimed documentary has been screened across Europe, the United States and South America, including during a 25-stop university tour. Members of Congress, ambassadors and mayors of U.S. and European cities hosted additional screenings. Mr. Allott’s work has been seen globally on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), CNN International, Telemundo and Univision and has been featured by media outlets globally, including the G. Gordon Liddy Radio Show.
Mr. Allott has also written opinion pieces for National Review, the Washington Times, the American Spectator and Catholic World Report. Additionally, Mr. Allott’s work has screened at several film festivals across the United States and Canada, including the Washington, D.C. Independent Film Festival. Mr. Allott is a 2012 National Review Institute Washington D.C. Fellow. Mr. Allott was born in Reading, England, received a B.A. in Political Science, Philosophy and Film from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and resides in McLean, Virginia.
Music provided by SugarCane Rush
Luis Gonzalez grew up in Culver City, California after his widowed mother of three fled Communist Cuba in the late 1960’s. Though he quickly assimilated into his new country and culture, and though he had no trouble mastering his new language, Cuba never left him. Cuba was always with him: inside him, driving him, calling him. He realized this more than ever when, in the 6th grade, he did his country report on Cuba and thus began a love affair with his homeland that continues to this day. It was only natural that Cuba should play a part in his writing, and even from grammar school age, Luis Gonzalez knew that writing was in his blood.
“I always loved to write, even as a young child, I guess I’ve always been an indie author because when I was in the third grade, after only having been in this country a couple of years, I wrote two stories. One was called The Magic Slippers, the other “The Dolphins.” I took sheets of paper that I folded over and stapled and not only did I write the stories, but I illustrated them and made the cover and everything for them. I still have these two first books of mine and I look back on them now and wonder, wow, I really always was a writer. To this day those two items remain some of my most treasured possessions for they provide a glimpse into the passion that helped shape the person that I am, and if I’m anything, I’m passionate, and if I’m passionate about anything, it’s writing.”
As someone who is deeply moved and inspired by politics and religion and the arts, it was no wonder that he came up with the idea for his novel, Luz, a story that grapples with all three realms. These days Luis Gonzalez calls San Francisco home where he lives with his wife and two of four daughters.
Music on the show by Terio.
Fidel Castro’s Revolution and takeover of Cuba began with rallies, parades, and promises of hope but instead the regime gutted the small nation’s system of enterprise and muzzled the dynamic Cuban culture that people enjoyed during1950’s. All symbols of Democracy and Capitalism were torn down and replaced with “Revolutionary Schools” established by the Communist regime to further enhance and spread their propaganda. Cuba’s religious leaders were excommunicated, imprisoned and murdered.
Traditions like the “Cuban Winter Baseball League” became Fidel’s props, instruments for social and economic control. News about kidnappings, murders and imprisonment of Cubans fighting to overthrow the regime became a part the country’s daily existence. It was clear that human rights had become a fairy tale that existed across the sea, in America.
After the failed United States led invasion at the Bay of Pigs, Castro’s oppressive grip on the island grew unbearable. Silvio watched in horror as his father’s attempt to maintain autonomy repeatedly ended in vain and his mother’s frustration with the new Cuba reached a tipping point.
But, the journey to Freedom would not be an easy one, their experiences along the way taught them to adapt and strengthened their resolve to find a new way of life outside their beloved Cuba. With the support of family and friends the Canto’s discovered and formed a new identity, they became “Cubanos in Wisconsin”
Check out Silvio Canto Jr on Blog Talk Radio as well for informative and thought provoking programming.
Guest Co Host: Monica Rosales of DocMiamo.org
Celebrating Life in Union is a story of human resilience, community, and brotherhood of a group of former Cuban political prisoners. Narrated by Andy Garcia and Writer/Producer/Director Gladys Bensimon.
Gladys Bensimon is an award-winning producer/director, and the President of HBR Production Company, a multilingual film and digital production company located in New Jersey.
Ms. Bensimon has worked in a wide range of genres including commercials, features, animated shorts, short narrative films and documentaries. Bensimon has won several awards for her bold animated short films and documentaries that she has written and directed. Her most recent achievement has been in the documentary category with political production Crossing Our Borders/Cruzando Nuestras Fronteras, narrated by Hollywood Actress Maria Conchita Alonso. The documentary received at multiple film festivals and won the award for Best Documentary at the Hoboken International Film Festival. The film has been featured on several top-tier media such as CNN, Univision, Noticias 24, Voz de Cuba, Dennis Miller Show, Fox News, EBTV, USA Today and more.
In addition to her 20+ years of producing and directing, Gladys Bensimon is also a published author. Her first published book, Paha Sapa: Black Hills that she wrote with Novelist Sheila Martin Berry into a book geared to a young audience. Paha Sapa: Black Hills has been translated to many languages and is now available at Barnes and Noble.com, Amazon.com, Borders.com, and more outlets. Her second book will be soon published as part of a series for young readers.
Barbara Rangel, Col Rojas granddaughter and grandson Silvio Gonzalez. Producer & Director Agustin Blazquez, Author, Brian LFrench, Musician, Steve Pichan and Humberto Fontova, author of numerous books and expert on Totalitarian and Dictatorial regimes. Col. Cornelio Rojas Fernandez born in Cuba in the 1900’s His aspirations were to become a military man like his ancestors, after graduation, he began his military career in Cuba’s National Police where he was a Captain, Commander then General Inspector of Cuba’s National Police. With hard work and dedication he became the Chief of Police for the Leoncio Vidal Regiment in Santa Clara. Col Rojas was a pillar of his community, known for his public service and philanthropy, Col. Rojas had a great heart and strong family values. In 1931, he fought for democracy against dictator Gerardo Machado as group leader under Manuel Balan. He came from a line of distinguished patriots, Mambises that fought in Cuba’s War on Independence against Spain. His father Lt. Col. Cornelio Rojas Escobar joined the war of 1895-1898 and his grandfather, Brigadier Col. Cornelio Rojas Hurtado was a 3 Star General that fought in the 3 wars: The Ten-Years War, The Small War and the War of Independence against Spain. When the war ended on 08/24/1898 he was promoted to Brigadier General, he died of natural causes at the age of 88. In January 1959 Castro imposed communism in Cuba and Col. Cornelio Rojas who was Chief of Police in Santa Clara, went missing. Later the family found out that Che Guevara, had occupied Santa Clara and had arrested him for being a high ranking officer. Meanwhile, the Rojas family receives a comunicado a “salvo conducto” from Guevara himself, explaining that no harm would come to Col. Rojas. On January 7,1959 only days after his capture, while the Rojas family was watching television regular programming was interrupted to exhibit the live execution of Col. Cornelio Rojas.
Agustin Blazquez – Cuban Filmmaker of Documentry “COVERING CUBA 7: Che Guevara. The other side of an Icon”
Brian Llyod French – Author of book “Mojito!”
On Friday, January 28, 2010, thanks to Director Keith Famie, three of my songs from the “Wars and Stripes” CD were chosen for use in his documentary “Our Vietnan Generation”. The premiere featured at the Fox Theatre in Detroit and honored Vietnam Veterans for their service. Songs used for the feature; “We shall never forget” (theme song), “Mikie’s Minutes” (tribute to Sgt. Michael Ingram) and “Look Away” (a music video reflection of the treatment of our Vietnam Vets upon their return to the States). I owe a debt of gratitude to Keith for including me in his extraordinary and important work! In October, 2010, Director Agustin Blazquez, chose “You don’t know Che” for his documentary, “Che; the other side of an icon” that premiered in Miami, Florida. A music video was produced as well intended to expose the true Che Guevara, right hand man and executioner for Fidel Castro. Past songs and CD’s are story based, American folk and rock genres and include “Ironman” (tribute to John LaPointe, an ironworker who volunteered his time to tear down the steel structures of the Twin Towers after the 9/11 attacks) and “Leavin’ Detroit” (a reflection on tough times and lost jobs in the Detroit auto industry).
Cecilia Rodriguez Milanes was born in New Jersey to Cuban parents. Author of “Marielitos, Balseros and Other Exiles” published in 2009 and most recently “Everyday Chica” Music and More 2011
As Latinos/as we struggle to define and redefine ourselves, works like ‘Everyday Chica” are indispensible in our search for a new identity. Although Cristina Milanes’s work is fresh and new, it brings an air of the old Country’s classical storytelling that has been lost through the decades. By listening to her poetry we become aware of our new identity being a mixture of the Ancestral Traditions and our New Reality to form who we are today…. The Universal Latina, we are the “Everyday Chica”
Cecilia loves to read and perform, especially with her musical collaborators Kevin Meehan, vocals and guitars and her husband Jorge Milanes, vocals and percussion.
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In her own words: I am very proud of my grandfather Col. Cornelio Rojas, he is my hero, he is the person that I admire the most in the world. I say that he is because even though he is deceased, he lives in my heart. He was executed in front of a firing squad by orders of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro for simply being a high ranking officer for the previous government. His execution in 1959 was very famous because he was executed without a trial, he was taken prisoner the beginning of Jan. 1959 and executed Jan 8th. When in front of the firing squad, he was asked if he wished to be blind folded, but he refused, instead he asked if he could give the firing orders which were granted.
Links mentioned on the show