The Cubans: Ordinary Lives in Extraordinary Times
“[DePalma] renders a Cuba few tourists will ever see . . . You won’t forget these people soon, and you are bound to emerge from DePalma’s bighearted account with a deeper understanding of a storied island . . . A remarkably revealing glimpse into the world of a muzzled yet irrepressibly ebullient neighbor.”–The New York Times
Modern Cuba comes alive in a vibrant portrait of a group of families’s varied journeys in one community over the last twenty years.
Cubans today, most of whom have lived their entire lives under the Castro regime, are hesitantly embracing the future. In his new book, Anthony DePalma, a veteran reporter with years of experience in Cuba, focuses on a neighborhood across the harbor from Old Havana to dramatize the optimism as well as the enormous challenges that Cubans face: a moving snapshot of Cuba with all its contradictions as the new regime opens the gate to the capitalism that Fidel railed against for so long.
In Guanabacoa, longtime residents prove enterprising in the extreme. Scrounging materials in the black market, Cary Luisa Limonta Ewen has started her own small manufacturing business, a surprising turn for a former ranking member of the Communist Party. Her good friend Lili, a loyal Communist, heads the neighborhood’s watchdog revolutionary committee. Artist Arturo Montoto, who had long lived and worked in Mexico, moved back to Cuba when he saw improving conditions but complains like any artist about recognition. In stark contrast, Jorge García lives in Miami and continues to seek justice for the sinking of a tugboat full of refugees, a tragedy that claimed the lives of his son, grandson, and twelve other family members, a massacre for which the government denies any role. In The Cubans, many patriots face one new question: is their loyalty to the revolution, or to their country?
As people try to navigate their new reality, Cuba has become an improvised country, an old machine kept running with equal measures of ingenuity and desperation. A new kind of revolutionary spirit thrives beneath the conformity of a half century of totalitarian rule. And over all of this looms the United States, with its unpredictable policies, which warmed towards its neighbor under one administration but whose policies have now taken on a chill reminiscent of the Cold War.