My top fours books to read about Cuba

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The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go. —Dr. Seuss

Obama and the Empire – Fidel Castro

Most of what I knew about Castro until recently has been from the Western perspective. So in my desire to learn more about the man and I have been seeking more texts that tell the story from the Cuban perspective. I was therefore delighted when I came across Fidel’s reflections on Obama and Empire. The collection was written in the early years of Obama’s first term and in them he reflects on the significance of Obama’s election, the absurdity of his nomination for the Nobel peace prize, the failures(mainly) and success of Obama’s foreign policy and the provides an analysis of the reasons for these failures.

Fidel Castro on Obama
Fidel Castro – Obama and the Empire

It is a relatively easy to read but repetitive book and it gives you a very good insight on Fidel’s view of capitalism and its evils. It is very clear that Fidel liked Obama and absolutely detested America or “the empire” as he called it. However, his arguments are coherent if not always persuasive, and very impressive. Fidel was definitely a very intelligent man, and was very well informed with a vast knowledge of history, politics and macroeconomics. This is a good book if you want to understand better Fidel’s and Cuba’s policies towards America.

AfroCuba: an anthology of Cuban writing on race, politics and culture Edited by Pedro Perez Sarduy and Jean Stubb

AfroCuba - An Anthology of Cuban Writing on Race, Politics and Culture
Afro Cuba

This is a collection of poetry, extracts from novels, essays from anthropological studies and political analysis brought together by editors Jean Stubbs and Pedro Pérez.

It explores the history, culture and lives of AfroCubans dealing issues such as;

  • What it’s like to be black in Cuba
  • Whether racism exist in a revolutionary society that claims to have abolished it
  • The legacy of slavery and segregation live on in today’s Cuba
  • The impact of African religion on the development of the AfroCuban identity

The book is divided into three sections: The Die is Cast, Myth and Reality and Redrawing the Line, introducing the reader to a wide range of previously unavailable Afro Cuban authors, in which dissenting voices speak alongside established writers.  It is a haphazard collection translated from Spanish making it somewhat a challenging read.  It is however worth persevering with as most of the essays give you an in-depth view of the AfroCuban experience.

I particularly enjoyed the Orishas in Cuba by Natalia Bolivar, The Maids by Pedro Perez Sarduy and Excilia Saldana by Ofumelli.  The good thing about it being a collection is that you can deep in and out whenever you want and you do not have to read it in chronological order.  I definitely recommend this one.

Voices From the Other Side: An Oral History of Terrorism Against Cuba – Keith Bolender

With an introduction from Noam Chomsky, Voices from the Other Side is a collection of first-person interviews with more than 75 Cuban citizens who have been victims of, or have had family members or close friends die from, terrorist acts committed by the USA.

Voices from the other side - An Oral History of Terrorism against Cuba
Voices from the other side

When we normally learn about Cuba from a western perspective with a bias against the Castro regime.  Through the interviews, this book not only gives us insight into Cuba’s struggle with America from a very human point of view but it also reminds us that there are always two sides to every story. It certainly helped me understand some of the problems faced by Cuba since the revolution and why some Cuban’s are very proud of their country.  It is a must read if you want to understand the Cuban condition.

Ernesto Che Guevara – Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War

Ernesto Che Guevara – Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War

My final selection takes us back to where modern Cuba began.  It is a first-person account of the Cuban revolutionary war by Che Guevara with a preface by his daughter.  This is Che Guevara’s eyewitness account of the war told as a recollection of events and episodes of what happened and how the revolutionaries survived the various battles, the hunger, the cold and the injuries in the Sierra Maestra and went on to defeat the Battista regime.

The battles are gruesome and his short but description writing style transports you to the Cuban mountains.  It has numerous black and white photos, as well as a comprehensive glossary that list the various combatants and key players on both sides. I like it because it shows a side of the war from a man who was intimately involved in it and because it is well written and engaging.

The book is compulsory reading in Cuba and is given to every student and it is easy to see why given the major part he played in the revolution.  The 2008 biopic Che was partly based on this book so if you are not a reader you can check out the film instead. Otherwise it is well worth a read.