US, 1950’s: The Cuban Revolution had raised fears concerning the cold war which was now 90 miles off US southern shore. Following Fidel Castro’s rise to power, it became the policy of the United States to discredit the Cuban government ideologically by allowing Cubans the opportunity to choose capitalism and democracy over communism.
During the peak of the cold war, 1959-1962 , over 200, 000 highly educated, professional and upper-middle class Cubans fled the country . These “victims of communism persecution” would immediately receive “refugee” status and allowed to remain on American soil. They were eligible for benefits unavailable to other immigrants, such as refugee and medical assistance upon arrival, scholarships, free English lessons, low-interest loans and welfare for at least two years. Cuban refugees were the showcase against communism and it also helped undermine Castro’s government by draining Cuba of its workforce.
Moreover, the CIA conspired with the catholic church in South Florida and used Cuban kids aged 16 or under to further their goal. ‘Operation Peter Pan‘ (or Operación Pedro Pan) sent over 14,000 children to Miami before Castro put them in military schools or send them to the Soviet Union for communist indoctrination. Castro has long argued that the CIA was responsible for creating the rumors in order to raise fears and undermine his rule.
So, I wonder, who doesn’t want to be Cuban in the US?
Abraham Popi Rodríguez is a Puerto Rican father living in New York’s Spanish Harlem who finds it hard to raise his two kids decently. In an attempt to provide his boys with the American Dream, he shows them how to row with lessons in Central Park and then takes them to Miami where he sets them adrift on the ocean in order to have them masquerade as Cuban refugees and probably get them adopted by a rich family.
“This global symbolic strategy translated into economic resources for the Cuban refugees, increasing their ethnic symbolic capital. The most dramatic representation of how “Cuban identity” was associated with positive symbolic capital was the 1969 comedy, Popi, where a Puerto Rican from a New York City ghetto, holding down three jobs, decided that the only way he could give his sons a better life was to turn them into Cuban refugees arriving in Miami. He trained his sons to be “Cuban ” and put them off the coast of South Florida to pass them off as refugees. This sadly hilarious film documents the positive symbolic capital associated with Cuban identity and its relation to state resources.” Cf. Ramón Grosfoguel, Colonial Subjects, 2003.
POPI Cast Overview:
Alan Arkin …. Abraham Rodriguez
Rita Moreno …. Lupe
Miguel Alejandro …. Junior Rodriguez
Reuben Figueroa …. Luis Rodriguez
John Harkins …. Harmon
Arny Freeman …. Mr. Diaz
Joan Tompkins …. Miss Musto
Anthony Holland …. Pickett
Louis Zorich …. Penebaz
Victor Junquera …. Man From Novitas
Arthur Hiller …. Film Director
POPI (film 1969) Director: Arthur Hiller Stars: Alan Arkin, Anita Dangler, Anthony Holland, Antonia Rey, Arnold Soboloff, Arny Freeman, Barbara Dana, Joan Tompkins, John Harkins, Judith Lowry, Louis Zorich, Rita Moreno Release Date: May 27, 1969 Run Time: 113 mins Genre: Drama, Comedy