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Tonight President Obama spoke at the McKale Center at the University of Arizona in Tucson during a memorial service for the victims of Saturday’s tragedy. We think he did an exceptional job, taking the time to detail the stories of the victims who died from this murder before focusing on how this tragedy will affect the nation. As the President said: “it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.”

So to the President, we say: you did an outstanding job in promoting the desire to #bcivil. And just don’t take our word. Here was a tweet posted by Stephen Hayes, senior writer of The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine.

 

What follows is a partial transcript of the President’s speech:

 

You see, when a tragedy like this strikes, it is part of our nature to demand explanations – to try to impose some order on the chaos, and make sense out of that which seems senseless.  Already we’ve seen a national conversation commence, not only about the motivations behind these killings, but about everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health systems.  Much of this process, of debating what might be done to prevent such tragedies in the future, is an essential ingredient in our exercise of self-government.

But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.

Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding.  In the words of Job, “when I looked for light, then came darkness.”  Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.

For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack.  None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind.

So yes, we must examine all the facts behind this tragedy.  We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of violence in the future.

But what we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another.  As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility.  Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.

After all, that’s what most of us do when we lose someone in our family – especially if the loss is unexpected.  We’re shaken from our routines, and forced to look inward.  We reflect on the past.   Did we spend enough time with an aging parent, we wonder.  Did we express our gratitude for all the sacrifices they made for us?  Did we tell a spouse just how desperately we loved them, not just once in awhile but every single day?

So sudden loss causes us to look backward – but it also forces us to look forward, to reflect on the present and the future, on the manner in which we live our lives and nurture our relationships with those who are still with us.  We may ask ourselves if we’ve shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to the people in our lives.  Perhaps we question whether we are doing right by our children, or our community, and whether our priorities are in order.  We recognize our own mortality, and are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame – but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in bettering the lives of others.

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For a full list of chapters, click here: Table of Contents

October, 1968

Part 1
Depending on who you talk to, the conception of Franky Benítez occurred on the night of Columbus Day (if you are Italian) or on the Day of the Race (if you are Puerto Rican). Franky entered this universe at exactly 7:32 pm inside Suite 1805 of the Caribe Hotel, just hours after Francisco Antonio Benítez met Linda Marino for the first time.

It was a chance occurrence, one that never would have happened if Francisco Antonio had never gone to the Caribe Hilton that afternoon with his best friend from engineering school, Charles Wilson. Carlitos, as he was called by his classmates, was a redheaded Puerto Rican whose American parents moved from Missouri to San Juan in 1936 to supervise the modernization of several sugar fields. Carlitos spoke English like Harry Truman and Spanish like the great Muñoz Marín. Every summer, his gringo freckles and pale skin would turn as red as raw meat, and he spent most of his time sipping local beer under the shadow of palm trees. Francisco Antonio, with his darker, caramel skin and black curly hair slicked slightly and parted to the right, met Carlitos one night in a pool hall outside of school. They played until dawn and then found a breakfast shack that served fried eggs and rum. Ever since that day, they forged a girl-chasing partnership that spanned the Condado section of San Juan. With Carlitos’ impeccable English, their partnership flourished, and the outdoor pool bar of the Caribe Hilton was their prime afternoon hunting area.

When Francisco Antonio and Carlitos reached their usual corner seats, Manuel, the hotel’s bartender, had already shaken two wet vodka martinis on the rocks and placed them in front of the two young men. They clinked their glasses before raising their drinks to their lips. The icy vodka mix cooled their throats from the October sun. Carlitos and Francisco Antonio perked up and turned their attention to the lounging tourists sprawled around the hotel’s glimmering pool.

At that very same moment (proving that chance had indeed brought Franky Benítez into this universe), Linda Marino was strolling towards a pool cabana directly in front of the bar with Eva Santiago, Linda’s best friend from nursing school in Manhattan. The girls had just completed their degrees in June of that year, and before moving on to hospital work back at home, Giovanni Marino had decided that they visit Puerto Rico for a weekend before the New York winter arrived. He had arranged for the entire itinerary, and even though Eva’s family was from Puerto Rico, it would her first time visiting the island and the first time both the girls flew in an airplane.

The Santiagos moved from the island to New York in 1942 to find jobs in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and Eva was born in the South Bronx three years later. She lived a Newyorican life: relatives speaking broken English, oily marinated foods frying up in cramped city kitchens, crucifixes hanging over every bed, and scratchy mambo songs playing on hi-fis. Her scarlet black hairdo was short and almost masculine, yet her curves suggested that she was truly an island girl with a backside that could shimmer to a pulsating beat all through the night.

When compared to Eva’s fuller body, Linda Marino was as skinny as a pencil. Her most prominent features were her light hazel eyes. Her chestnut hair came down to the top of her neck and her emerald green two-piece bathing suit complimented her fragile yet athletic frame. Just like the partnership of Francisco Antonio and Carlitos, Linda and Eva spent their last year in nursing school frequenting every Irish pub in Hell’s Kitchen. Linda would lead them into the pubs, no cash in their purses, and they would spend hours drinking with any boy or man who would pay for their drinks.

One night it got so rowdy and joyous with two Fordham Law students that Linda tore a STOP sign from West 52nd Street and wore it around her neck, using a wire hanger she found near a sewer gutter as a necklace. They laughed so hard and made so much noise that a cranky Jewish hermit from a nearby brownstone called the police, and a patrol car came within minutes. Once Linda mentioned Giovanni’s name, the cops drove the girls back to the nursing school and did nothing, leaving the two Fordham Law students drunk, lonely, and ten city blocks away from their apartment.

(Credit: burningsettlerscabin.com)

Part 2
While Francisco Antonio gulped the last of his drink, he nudged Carlitos on his arm and pointed his chin towards the girls, as they placed their towels on two blue and white plastic lounge chairs and pulled out two packs of Virginia Slims from their beach bags.

“Say something,” Francisco Antonio said to Carlitos. “Say something in English.” Although Francisco Antonio was educated in private schools all his life, when compared to Carlitos’ English, Francisco Antonio still sounded like a peasant.

Carlitos held his hand up, ignoring Francisco Antonio. He turned to Manuel: “Send two piña coladas over to those two right there.”

(Credit: flickr.com)

Manuel nodded and went to work. The first piña colada ever served in the world was on August 16, 1954 at the Caribe Hilton’s Beachcomber Bar. Manuel’s former boss, Ramón “Monchito” Marrero, had spent three months blending, shaking, and mixing tropical ingredients like a mad surgeon until he finally perfected the recipe: light rum, pineapple juice, cream of coconut, and crushed ice, all blended together to produce the island’s favorite tourist drink. After Monchito passed, Manuel took over the Beachcomber and was said to be the best piña coladaist in San Juan. Within minutes, he was serving Linda and Eva two colossal glasses, garnished with fresh pineapples and maraschino cherries.

“From the gentlemen over there, señoritas,” Manuel said as he placed the drinks on the table next to the lounge chairs. Carlitos started to head over with Francisco Antonio right behind him, Eva and Linda looking through Manuel to see if this visit would be worth a free piña colada.

“Ladies, welcome to the El Caribe,” Carlitos said. “I am Charles and this my good friend, Francisco Antonio.”

“Wow… your English is good,” Eva said. “You Puerto Rican?”

Carlitos laughed, along with Francisco Antonio, who was also noticing the crevice in Linda’s bathing suit that ran around her thigh. “I am, born and raised by two wonderful American parents from Missouri. The red hair is just part of the disguise. And this is my good friend, Francisco Antonio. Now this is a real Puerto Rican.”

Francisco Antonio, distracted, looked up from the crevice of Linda’s suit. “A pleasure to have you here, ladies. Your names?”

“I’m Eva, and this is Linda,” Eva said, while Linda smiled and sipped from her piña colada.

“Linda? You know that means ‘beautiful’ in Spanish?” Francisco Antonio blurted.

Eva rolled her eyes, while Linda sneered.

“No? Really? Where do you think we come from? Indiana?” Linda said. “We’ve heard Spanish before. We’re from Manhattan, West Side. I get that all the time.”

“Sorry,” said Francisco Antonio. The Prince was wounded.

“Hey, forget about it. Come on, sit with us. Grab a drink,” Eva said. “You guys smoke? We only have these, but we can probably get some real cigarettes.”

Carlitos nudged over next to Eva, while Francisco Antonio pulled up a chair to the left of Linda. Manuel had already brought another round of drinks, some Marlboros, and an ashtray. Carlitos took a CH matchbox from the glass table and lit the cigarettes for Eva and Linda. He then took one for himself. For all that liquor that Antonio drank in his young life, he had never had a cigarette and he never would.

“You don’t smoke?” Linda asked. “I don’t know many guys who don’t smoke. Hey, whatever. Here’s to ya.”

Francisco Antonio shrugged, took a sip from his second martini, and for some strange reason, stayed quiet and silent. Even though he had met American girls like Linda before, this time his stomach curled with excitement. This skinny little woman from New York with the playful sneer had made the Prince of Puerto Rico suddenly shy and nervous. He knew the only way to shake off this feeling and find himself again was to keep drinking. Liquor always hid his fear.

“Manuel, another round!”

Linda curled her lip in pleasure and smiled at Eva. This guy with the caramel skin and his redheaded friend were going to get them drunk, and Linda had no problems with it. Just like Hell’s Kitchen.

By the fifth martini and sixth piña colada, the conversation among the four flowed comfortably. They shared their histories, their passions, their dreams and their futures. They talked about the Beatles, the Stones, Hector Lavoe, and RFK. There was no talk of fear or doubt or worry or frustration. These were kids in their early twenties drinking and feeling the power of never finding failure. At one point, Francisco Antonio got so wired up from his drinks and their talks that he ordered Manuel to get the hotel’s guitarist immediately. When he did arrive, Francisco Antonio stood up and belted “Guantanamera” in a tenor voice that had the girls shrieking with delight.

As the sun set to the west of the Condado lagoon, Manuel’s blender kept whirling at a constant pace. The new friends slurred their words more and more, yet they laughed nonetheless. After the another round, Carlitos hinted that they take the party back to their hotel suite and order room service, and the girls, blushing a bit from this rather obvious suggestion, agreed.

“We’ll go,” Linda said, “but at least let us change out of these bathing suits before we eat. Do you guys have a change of clothes?”

“No,” Francisco Antonio said, “but we know the bellman here. Chuchi can get us the clothes. Hey, Manuel, put that on it the tab and give us two more Bacardis to bring with us?”

So they packed up, took the rum from Manuel and weaved their way through the hotel lobby’s dinner crowd and into the elevators. Right then, Eva, her mind soaked in frozen pineapples and coconuts, grabbed Carlitos by the waist and slobbered all over his mouth. Linda let out a belly laugh and Francisco Antonio joined her.

Then, it happened, another chance occurrence caused from all the liquor, the nicotine and conversation: both Linda and Francisco Antonio reached out for each other’s hands at the very same time.

“Want to have some fun?” Francisco Antonio said.

“Sure, yeah, let’s have some fun,” Linda said as the elevator’s ding signaled the end of their journey.

An hour later, the arrival of Franky Benítez into this universe was official.

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A former boss at the Boston Globe told a group of young reporters once that stories never go away immediately. They only get stronger and then eventually they disappear. Every story has a cycle. What you do with that cycle is the key.

If you have followed our blogs for the last month or two (and many of have, and for that we thank you), we have been closely following and covering through social media the post-show reaction to CNN’s “Latino in America.” What we found was that a groundswell of sentiment that found the show a bit unbalanced and weak in trying to portray the complexities of US Latinos had emerged online, in places like Twitter, Facebook, You Tube, and several Latino blogs. We also found that a “perfect storm” was brewing, as thousands and thousands of people called out CNN for the perceived hypocrisy of heavily promoting a “Latino in America” event while still having its one of its personalities, Lou Dobbs, continue to tweak the feelings and passions of the country’s largest-growing population. It made for riveting “appointment social media” among a large group of Latino influentials who have strong online presences.

The result? The story, even though it appeared to have “died” in the mainstream media, it didn’t in the social media, and on November 11, Lou Dobbs left CNN. To many, it was a victory, simple as that. And yes, within the last 24 hours, those same Latino influentials announced the outcome as if they won the 7th game of the World Series. Yes, outside of the large organizations that were trying to push Dobbs,  individuals online also acknowledged the feeling of relief and joy. They told their friends, who told their friends, and then, the story was complete.

So, what can we take out of this? Here are our 5 lessons:

1. Social media can impact change. Simple as that. People needed a forum to react to CNN, outside of CNN.com, and they did. People got passionate, people contributed. That is the power.
2. No story is “dead” unless you say it is. Unlike major media organizations, individuals who use social media to, in effect, become their own news stream to their friends, have the same editorial power to end the story. News and information have been deconstructed. Now, anyone can be a provider of information and opinion.
3. Blogs are not dead. This one is so true, it hurts. We were blown away by the traffic we received once we started discussing “Latino in America,” CNN and the Dobbs issue. Our blog became a destination for this information, and from the search items we get every day, it still is a destination.
4. Once you commit, commit. The downside to all this is that once you are committed to story, you better stick to it. Just like a news organization, you HAVE to cover it, no matter the angle. Besides providing updates about CNN and Latinos, we also tried to create our own niche with “Latino Success Stories.” That simple idea turned into a niche for us, and now, whenever people search for these types of stories, our blog comes up first in the rankings.
5. Traditional media can only engage so much. There is something to be said about the way the Dobbs thing was handled last night. The video strove to be earnest, yet it felt like typical PR and damage control. You can fire me, CNN, but I won’t apologize. We saw more comments from people who saw through that and these comments were outside of the official channels of major news organizations. The real conversation is happening in the online living rooms, kitchens, and bars of the Internet: the social media sites that connect us all. And unlike the offline world, these comments can be searched by millions, categorized, analyzed, and ranked. THAT is the difference, and the paradigm HAS shifted.

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Dobbs on Video


This is the video of Lou Dobbs saying goodbye.

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Well, it appears that the constant pressure from several Latino organizations and the viral movement that is Basta Dobbs has achieved results, as there are now reports that controversial CNN commentator Lou Dobbs is leaving CNN. This story will continue to develop, as reported both by the Huffington Press and the New York Times.

Here is a link to the Times Blog: Dobbs to Depart CNN.

Yes, the power of social media does work. Never in our experience have we seen such a vocal and organized online movement by US Latinos. Social media has the power the change things, and no matter where Dobbs ends up, tonight feels like something positive has been accomplished. Now let’s hope we see a more accurate focus on Latino issues in the mainstream media.

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As we continue to view what the web is saying about “Latino in America” and the post-show reaction, we will try to keep you posted about some of the content we find.

Here is one we found a few days back from El Vocero Hisapno.

It starts likes this:

“Latinos en America” A Small Caress After a Thousand Slaps in the Face

Several organizations that defend the right of immigrants have initiated a series of protests against CNN’s Lou Dobbs. The reason behind these protests, the ardent campaign implemented for years during his program by the popular TV personality against Latino immigrants. He (Dobbs) has gone from accusing Latinos of using government resources that should only be used for/by American citizens, to pointing them out as dangerous terrorist that put in danger our national safety.

For more about what El Vocero Hispano has to say, visit this link: El Vocero Hispano

In addition, it appears that the Basta Dobbs has gotten more than 100,000 signatures according to this report: Basta Dobbs Gains More than 100,000 Signatures.

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We want to take a moment and dedicate this ViavViernes to the amazing job that @GlobalHueLatino did to share these “sobremesa” interviews of Soledad O’Brien and her thoughts about “Latino in America.” We think this is a fabulous way to share the discussion and issues, and we hope that what has occurred the last few weeks will led to more open and authentic solutions to the many challenges of what it TRULY means to be “Latino in America” in the 21st Century.

See the videos below and let us know what you think?

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For more information about these videos, this EXCELLENT blog from GlobalHue Latino sheds more light: Sobremesa with Soledad O’Brien.

¡Que viva viernes!

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