A Fine, Blurred Line: Carnival’s US-to-Cuba Cruise In May “Doesn’t Feel Right”

Commentary6 years ago7 min readAnthony Calatayud

In case you haven’t yet heard, news broke on Tuesday that Carnival Cruise Lines was granted U.S. approval to expand their business by sending cruise ships from Miami to three Cuban ports beginning May 1st.

Many in the political arena may tell you how this is a great or bad idea depending on mixed beliefs. Many in the business world may tell you how Cuba is a virgin land ripe with monetary opportunity. And most people in the sports industry probably won’t say anything at all, but I will.

Miami Heat owner Micky Arison has made his $7.2 billion fortune as the CEO, and more recently, the chairman of Carnival Cruise Lines. He is, if not, one of the most respected and beloved owners in all of sports and serves as a paragon of reverence and organizational stability.

To set the record straight, I am not here to bash Mr. Arison, the Miami Heat organization or Carnival Cruise Lines.

Instead, what I would like to do is pose a question. But before I delve any further, I ask: Can you the reader, the fan, divide your fandom from your politics and personal beliefs?

If so, then let’s get hypothetical.

Say the owner of your favorite sports team were to do something that you particularly didn’t agree with in the private sector, would you let that bleed over into your fandom? Would that in any shape affect the way you supported the team or those at the helm?

When the Donald Sterling scandal erupted, did it feel dirty for Clippers fans who were African-American to support the team while he still reigned in power – knowing that all of the revenue generated from ticket sales, merchandise, concessions stands, sponsors, advertisers and media rights deals were only making him richer?

Once again, in no way am I comparing the despicable prick that was Donald Sterling to Micky Arison – nor should it be taken as an indictment of him.

I do, however, sit back and wonder how Cubans will feel about the Miami Heat franchise, fully cognizant that their beloved owner is reaching his hands into the cookie jar in plain sight for all to see. Sending his ships to a land that remains under communist control and profiting an enormous amount of revenue for Carnival while stimulating the Cuban government. It just doesn’t feel right.

Can Cubans and Cuban-American Heat fans compartmentalize their zeal for the team versus the business decisions of their owner?

Or is the line so blurred that it could cause a problem to the untrained mind?

I understand what Micky is doing for his company isn’t grounded on alienating the 34 percent of Miami’s population. It’s a business decision, just like amnestying Mike Miller back in 2013 was a move to reduce salary despite Miami’s desperate need for shooters.

It was the right choice to make at the time, even though it was unpopular. Business is business. You have to learn how to rationally divide that apart from the fanatical support you have in his team.

Training the mind to divide rational decision-making and emotional response doesn’t come without frustration, pain and anger.

As you know, the MLB just played a game in Cuba this week. Not only that, it was also the first time in 90 years that a U.S. President has stepped foot on Cuban soil and shook hands with a family of tyrants.

Instead of it becoming a moment of realization for our country on how Cuba’s communist regime has destroyed everything in is path, it’s not. America has chosen to not inform themselves of what has happened and what is currently happening 90 miles away from our most southern point.

I am a second-generation Cuban-American. I come from a family that has invested nearly 60 years for the liberation of Cuba. The generation that was fighting for its independence is slowly fading away while the figurehead of what they were fighting against lives on. Fidel Castro is outlasting all of the brave men and women who risked everything to bring freedom to their homeland.

It’s difficult to comprehend. I don’t know what it’s like to leave my life, everything I have ever known and start over in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language. I don’t know what it’s like to constantly look over my shoulder in fear of my life because I’m being monitored of my own beliefs.

Truth is, a lot of people in my Cuban generation don’t understand what that Cuba was like.

My grandparents remember all to well and by proxy, I feel their pain, I share their tears.

Secret Police. Disappearances. Firing squads. A paranoid regime that tortured its people into a state of submission and obedience. This is what Cuba was.

A man that used the front of Marxism and communism to prop himself up as a divine being with a devilish background. Kneeled, head bowed and hands stretched. This is what the regime wants. No self-expression, no individuality, no ideas – just a blurry face with blind obedience to the cause.

As a person who dreams of working for the worldwide leader in sports, it’s hard to see a man that is the epitome of hatred, inequality, murder, narcissism and evil be humanized in a way that makes him look, well, like a normal person. Because reporters and camera crews were sent into the country he took over through hostility and fear.

My grandfather passed away on March 20, 2013. He was a veteran of the Brigade 2506, the guerilla force who stormed the beaches in the Bay of Pigs invasion, aimed to overthrow the Cuban government. He was a prisoner of war for two years in Cuba before being released by a U.S negotiating team led by the guy from Bridge of Spies.

Until his last breath, he toiled tirelessly to provide for his family and fight the oppression that made him flee his country in his 20s.

The stories and experiences that he passed down to me were of hope and of one day stepping foot on a free Cuba. That day never came.

I took it upon myself to recognize that I would be doing him and all of those who sacrificed like he did a disservice by ever going to the blood-soaked streets, beaches and mountains of communist Cuba.

So for now, he and I wait. Even though his body is confined to an urn, mine isn’t. My promise to him is that together we will step foot on a free Cuba, one day.

This piece can never even come close to giving you a glimpse of the things that have happened. I cannot put into words the experiences that my grandparents and many of your family members have gone through.

What we can do is always keep their legacy alive through remembrance, through standing up for what they believed in which was independence, free thought, freedom of speech and religion, everything that we stand for here in America.

I also understand that times are a changing. Just like the torch was passed from Magic to Jordan to Kobe to Wade to LeBron, the generation before us is passing down this problem without a solution.

I’m not here to tell you that I have one.

I’m just here to be a scribe of sorts, a gatekeeper and storyteller to remind those of my generation that this will always be a serious and sensitive subject. One filled with pain, sacrifice, doubt and emptiness, but always one filled with hope.

A hope for a brighter tomorrow even though today looks dim.

Although it could be the right business decision for Mr. Arison and Carnival Cruise Lines, there are people who still feel the pain 60 years later.

For a lifetime Miami Heat supporter and past season-ticket holder, it’s difficult to see profits being made on the very same shores that my grandfather and many of your family members bled on being washed away by capital gain and ignorance.