‘A definition of patria as indivisible from personal honor’


Forty years ago, Miami was on fire:

On Thursday, December 4, 1975, a man walked into the building holding a cassette recorder that housed a bomb. He made his way to the back of the first floor and up the stairs, and placed the case on a filing cabinet outside the Homicide Office before exiting the building. Twenty minutes later, at 1:30 p.m., the bomb exploded.

“I was two offices down being shown how to handle a forged check,” Green remembers. “It knocked us out of our chairs and the ceiling tiles fell on us. I thought an airplane had crashed into the building.”

The explosion, which injured two secretaries but miraculously caused no deaths, followed a rash of similar bombs in Miami. In 1975, there were dozens of terrorist bombings in Dade County — up to 35 by some counts — mostly carried out by militant anti-Castro groups dedicated to the violent overthrow of the regime.

This was followed by the rise of Omega 7, a group responsible by its own admission for two deaths and over thirty bombings, including the 1980 assassination of Cuban attaché Felix Garcia Rodriguez in New York. This was followed by the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner resulting in the death of seventy-three people, for which spooks Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles were charged in Venezuelan court (Bosch was acquitted after a judge ruled the prosecution’s evidence inadmissible). I must point out that a Florida businessman lobbied President George H.W. Bush to refrain from deporting Bosch. The businessman was Jeb Bush.

Joan Didion got the Cuban ethos right in a book about Miami published twenty-seven years ago that no writer has improved on (David Rieff’s Going to Miami got close):

Some were American citizens and some would never be, but they were all Cuban first, and they proceeded equally from a kind of collective spell, an occult enchantment, from that febrile complex of resentments and revenges and idealizations and taboos which renders exile so potent an organizing principle…They shared a definition of patria as indivisible from personal honor, and therefore of personal honor as that which had been betrayed and must be revenged.

I am not creating a moral equivalence between the Castro regime and the most intransigent members of the old guard exile community; but when events like these made the newspapers and TV shows Cubans may wonder why they could never command national support for their cause. Ronald Reagan’s magic powers could not bewitch the American public into supporting any intervention, covert or overt, in Central America; we don’t like to read about dead nuns, Salvadorean death squads hacking village children to death, and the CIA’s bombing of Nicaraguan harbors. The Elian Gonzalez case marked the final recrudescence of Cuban exile militarism. The opening of diplomatic relations and death has helped.

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