Maggie Alarcón

what goes around, comes around… hopefully

In ACLU, History, Politics, US on February 22, 2018 at 4:23 pm


Margarita Alarcón Perea


I guess I really must be old for my age as someone very dear to me once accused me of being. Must be, since I can still remember a time when going to school in New York City was a simpler thing. Back then, the only perils we had were young people taking to the streets in protest of the Viet Nam war, an active peace movement, loud music, long hair, black power, sex, drugs and rock´n´roll.

I went to U.N.I.S., a private international school born from  the concept of a United Nations organization striving for peace and good will all over.

It was by all accounts a very, very long time ago.

Back in UNIS in my day, you´d get suspended for numerous activities. Namely chewing gum, cutting class, running in the halls, or the infamous and ever present smoking in the stair well (Marlboros not weed). People would get into arguments, take them outside the school boundaries and if they were caught in ear shot or eye shot of any member of the UNIS faculty, you´d better believe those kids would have their parents marching up Waterside Plaza the following day.

We had hoodlums, we had bullies, we had loons. We even had kids who got themselves expelled for all sorts of inappropriate behavior. We had other schools and stories from other schools that would make ours look saintly, which in part it was. But those stories were about smoking pot, sneaking in a beer or two, playing hooky, maybe just maybe a switch blade once in a while.

Some of the public schools in the city were considered dangerous, with an overwhelming amount of reckless behavior among the students, but going through a metal detector was something NO ONE would have even dreamed of back then.   And there were guns. Heck, the country was fighting a war in southeast Asia and to no lesser extent in the streets of the US.

But when those guns came back home to haunt the status quo, in flagrant acts of protest against, forms of oppression, racial discrimination, misogyny, xenophobia, economic subjugation and were in the hands of black America, then a solution was found.

“In October 1966, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale formed the Black Panther Party for Self Defense as a small community organization based in Oakland, California. Its members — including the 30 people who would travel to Sacramento the following May — believed that black Americans should exercise their constitutional right to defend themselves against an oppressive U.S. government. At the time, California lawmakers were trying to strip them of that right, and the Black Panthers wanted to tell the U.S., and the world, that they found this unacceptable.”

Hence the Mulford Act was born. It not only took away guns from the streets but stipulates quite clearly that there is “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons”. It goes on to include that carrying guns is a “ridiculous way to solve problems that have to be solved among people of good will.” Governor Ronald Reagan, later President of the United States, stated the following before signing the bill into law back in 1967: [the Mulford Act] “would work no hardship on the honest citizen.” And back then, the NRA, agreed.

Today, we saw Mr. Trump, proposing to arm teachers as a solution to a problem that has nothing to do with insanity, because as he has himself said just an hour ago, these perpetrators “are cowards”. Yes, Mr. Trump, for the first time I must agree with you. They are cowards.  But cowards aren’t necessarily mentally ill, the mentally ill don’t care about right or wrong, they don’t care about heroism or weaklings; they don’t regularly take other lives, they take their own. People who open fire on school children, teenagers, young adults and teachers or against peaceful protest marches in the South aren’t crazy or deranged, they are evil.

So, turning schools in the country into de facto combat zones is NOT the solution and cannot be the solution.

In 1967, in the midst of what could have been the closest thing to another civil war in the US, the solution in one State was an Act that took guns away from the “honest citizen” because there was no reason to be carrying a loaded weapon. What could possibly be the reason today, unless we accept the cruel reality that back in ´67 in California, guns were taken away from the Black Panthers and today, they would be taken away from white supremacists that far from being mentally ill are clinically unstable because the country they live in has vestiges of trying to be multicultural, multilingual, multiethnic, multigender, multi anything and everything under the sun.

We need more of those young kids protesting down the streets and keeping politicians in Town Hall meetings and on Pennsylvania Avenue in check, this is the new tomorrow that just might pick up from where those Panthers left off and armed, or unarmed if we’re lucky, make the change that matters.

Un niño llamado Fidel

In Cuba, histo on February 2, 2018 at 4:30 pm



Margarita Alarcón Perea

Fidel Angel Castro Díaz-Balart era exactamente la sorpresa que uno se esperaría. Muy como su padre, su voz era suave y gentil y su sonrisa genuina y penosa, porque a diferencia de lo que muchos quieren pensar, los Castro distan mucho de ser bombásticas presencias sobrehumanas, son, en el sentido más puro, un toque de distinción y clase.

Hoy me he pasado la mejor parte del día recordando la primera vez que lo conocí. Fue hace muchos años cuando nuestro amigo común, Hermenegildo Altozano García-Figueras, nos presentara durante un almuerzo. Ya él y Fidelito, llevaban meses de una amistad que ha durado hasta… bueno, hasta siempre.

Recuerdo en una ocasión hace unos años que me lo tropecé y me comentó, “!por tu padre ni te pregunto, almorzamos casi todos los días juntos!”

Rompía con los estereotipos a diario. Con fluidez en inglés, ruso y español, capaz de hablar de ciencia, el medio ambiente, filosofía, citar a los clásicos, disfrutar de las artes, también se valía en la política y el ingenio. Recuerdo en una ocasión, como demostró esto, en presencia de alguien que no sabía bien como hacer referencia al entonces congresista por la Florida, el Rep Lincoln Díaz-Balart, Fidelito, simplemente dijo con un poco de cara de exasperación, “si, lo sé, no importa, dilo, mi primo…”.

Una de las últimas veces que coincidimos fue durante la fiesta por el cumpleaños de la Reina Isabel en la Habana. Yo estaba ahí con el agregado defensa del Reino Unido para la región, y cuando este, el Col Patrick Brown lo identifico a lo lejos me pidió que se lo presentara. Nos acercamos y así hice. Intercambiaron amabilidades y recuerdo que Fidelito hizo un chiste sobre mi inglés y habilidades como traductora. El Col Brown se quedó muy impresionado y quiero pensar que agradeció el golpe de realidad durante el cual había conocido a alguien tan terrenal que rayaba en lo surreal. Pero así era el. Así son las mentes brillantes, simplemente surreales. Bellamente surreales.

Su muerte, tan inoportuna, pero que debe respetarse. No hablamos de un hombre que jugaba al poder, no era un hombre que se beneficiara de mucho más que su propia habilidad de luchar por el mejoramiento humano a través de las ciencias.

Y si, cuando se le acercaban a que hablara sobre su padre, era parco en sus comentarios, pero después de todo, era su propia persona, o como bien dijera el mismo “yo soy yo y mis circunstancias.”

¡Pero como amaba a su padre! Solo había que oírlo hablar de él, o haberle visto la cara aquel diciembre de 2016.

Siempre le estaré agradecida a mi amigo abogado español por eso, me dio la oportunidad de conocer y poder compartir de a ratos con una de las personas más encantadoras que he conocido. Por qué el primogénito de Fidel Castro, está muy lejos de lo que aquellos con frialdad de corazón y alma podrían imaginarse. Era, muy como su padre, tímido, de hablar pausado, muy culto, digno, gentil, inteligente y con un excelente sentido del humor.

Descansa en paz con las grandes mentes que nos han dotado de hermosura y bondad al mundo, querido buen hombre, enorgulleciste a tus padres, a tu familia y a Cuba toda.


A boy named Fidel

In Cuba, Fidel Castro Ruz, Health, life, Politics on February 2, 2018 at 3:24 pm


Margarita Alarcón Perea


Fidel Angel Castro Díaz-Balart was exactly the surprise one would expect. Much like his father, his voice was soft and gentle and his smile genuine and shy, because unlike most would prefer to think, the Castro´s are far from over powering bombastic larger than life presences, they are, in every sense, a true touch of class.

Today I have spent the better part of my day remembering the day we first met. Many years ago, in Havana, thanks to my dear friend Hermenegildo Altozano Garcia-Figueras, who introduced the two of us over lunch. He and Fidelito had met months before and developed a friendship that has lasted till … well, forever.

I remember on one occasion a few years ago laughing when after bumping into him he commented, “I won’t ask you about your father; we have lunch together almost daily!”

He would break molds and stereotypes. Fluent in English, Russian and Spanish, capable of speaking about science, the environment, philosophy, quote the classics and enjoy the arts, he was also proficient in politics and spunk. On one occasion proving this when in his presence someone didn’t know how to relate to the Cuban American Congressman then Rep Lincoln Diaz Balart,  Fidelito said with a slightly exasperated look on his face, “yes, I know, its OK,  go ahead, say it, my cousin…”

One of the last times we coincided anywhere was during the QBP here in Havana. I was there with the then defense attaché of the United Kingdom to the region and when he, Col Patrick Brown recognized Fidelito from afar, he asked if I would introduce him. We walked over to him and I made the introduction, they exchanged a few pleasantries and Fidelito made a joke regarding my English and translation abilities.  Col Brown was quite pleased and I think also appreciated the reality that he had met someone who was so completely down to earth it was almost surreal. But that was him. Brilliant minds are like that, just surreal. Beautifully surreal.

His death is ever so untimely, but, definitely to be respected. This is not a man who played the power game, this was not a man who benefited from much other than his own ability to strive for the betterment of mankind through science.

Yes, when approached to speak of his father he would be sparse in his comments, but after all, he was his own person, or as he once said “I am myself and my circumstances”.

But how he loved his father so! You really just need to hear him speak of him, or have seen his face in December in 2016.

I will always be grateful to my Spanish lawyer friend for that, he gave me the chance to meet and have the opportunity to share small talk and a joke or two with one of the loveliest people I have ever been able to share moments with. Because Fidel Castro´s first born, “Fidelito” the diminutive in Spanish for a boy named “Fidel”, was far from anything anyone with a cold heart could possibly imagine. He was, much like his father and namesake, shy, soft spoken, very cultured, dignified, gentle, intelligent to no end and had quite a sense of humor.

Rest in peace with the great minds that have graced this earth, dear sweet gentle man, you made Cuba, your parents and your family proud.