The Latin Grammys and the Post-Castro Generation

It's hard sometimes to tell that the Cold War is over, especially if you've had your eye on Miami these past few weeks.

The latest made-for-TV controversy in Florida has to do with the news that the Latin Grammy awards are being switched back to Los Angeles this year.

The show was scheduled to air live from Miami on September 11. But Latin Grammy executive C. Michael Greene told reporters he was worried about anti-Castro protesters disrupting the show.

Greene has cause to be concerned. Two years ago, demonstrators tossed eggs, batteries, soda cans, along with a slew of obscenities, at music fans during a performance in Miami by the Cuban band Los Van Van.

And let's not forget the months-long spectacle orchestrated by anti-Castro activists during the Elian affair. Elian, you'll remember, is the boy whose father wanted him returned to communist Cuba after the child's mother drown at sea trying to escape to the United States. The boy's relatives in Florida resisted until federal agents took him by force. Cuban exiles were outraged.

The immediate impact of Greene's decision to pull the show from Miami means the city's tourism industry is out about $35 million. The incident has also given Miami another black eye, thanks again to far-right, anti-Castro groups.

There's also a greater underlying drama playing out these days in South Florida. While Miami's anti-Castro groups will claim victory in their latest battle against all things communist, their fight is part of a waning and increasingly irrelevant war.

In recent weeks, a clear split has emerged between old guard elements of the U.S. anti-Castro movement and a younger generation of Cuban American leaders who know that new times require new thinking. More than a dozen hard-line activists recently quit the board of the powerful Cuban American National Foundation -- upset over the group's broadening and softening agenda.

Meanwhile, younger Cuban American leaders, like the Foundation's current chairman Jorge Mas Santos -- his father founded the group -- and Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas lobbied hard to bring the Latin Grammy's to Miami. There is word that several Cuban performers might appear at the event, though none are scheduled to be on-stage.

In Cuba, major change is also underway.

Left to fend for himself after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Castro is slowly loosening his grip on the Cuban people. He's still a dictator and an avowed communist, but economic pressures have forced him to temper his arrogance and turn to private foreign investors for help. And while the Castro government still controls the press and virtually all political discourse, religious and artistic expression is expanding.

Not to mention, Castro's getting old. He just turned 75. He may be a superhero to communist loyalists, but he's not immortal. The laws of nature dictate that one day Castro will die and Cuba will face even more change.

In the meantime, hard-liners in the Cuban exile community should face the music, accept that their own demise is coming, too, and make way for the post-Castro generation.

James Garcia is editor and publisher of PoliticoMagazine.com. E-mail him at Politico1@aol.com.

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