This is Cuba

This is Cuba

by David Ariosto

Overview:This is Cuba is a true story that begins in the summer of 2009 when a young American photo-journalist is offered the chance of a lifetime—a two-year assignment in Havana.

For David Ariosto, the island is an intriguing new world, unmoored from the one he left behind. From neighboring military coups, suspected honey traps, salty spooks, and desperate migrants to dissidents, doctors, and Havana’s empty shelves, Ariosto uncovers the island’s subtle absurdities, its Cold War mystique, and the hopes of a people in the throes of transition. Beyond the classic cars, salsa, and cigars lies a country in which black markets are ubiquitous, free speech is restricted, privacy is curtailed, sanctions wreak havoc, and an almost Kafka-esque goo of Soviet-style bureaucracy still slows the gears of an economy desperate to move forward.

But life in Cuba is indeed changing, as satellite dishes and internet hotspots dot the landscape and more Americans want in. Still, it’s not so simple. The old sentries on both sides of the Florida Straits remain at their posts, fists clenched and guarding against the specter of a Cold War that never quite ended, despite the death of Fidel and the hand-over of the presidency to a man whose last name isn’t Castro. And now, a crisis is brewing.

In This Is Cuba, Ariosto looks at Cuba from the inside-out over the course of nine years, endeavoring to expose clues for what’s in store for the island as it undergoes its biggest change in more than half a century.

Deanna Boe(07/01/19):What an excellent book about our relationship with Cuba, as related by David Ariosto who was a photo journalist for CNN from 2009 to 2010, and how it evolved to today. He lived there during those years and has remained deeply involved in all that continued to happen in Cuba after he left. This is a non-fiction book that makes us think about and reevaluate our connection to a country that is just 90 miles off the shore of Florida.

After Fidel took over in 1959 the amount of information that leaked out of Cuba was minimal. He took total control of every aspect of their lives thinking he was making everything better. We must remember that life in Cuba before the revolution was pretty much how we remember the “Roaring Twenties” and Communism didn’t approve. Is it possible to create a society where all people are totally equal? As we well know the answer is no. Communism happens to be a social order “that not only breeds distrust and surveillance, but weaves them both into the very fabric of the society.”

It is easier for me to simply point out some things Ariosto told in this book:

  • we gained control of Cuba in the “splendid little war” that John Hay referred the Spanish-American War (late 1800’s)
  • before the revolution US corporations controlled 90% of its mines, 80% of its public utilities, 40% of its sugar production (basically ˝ of world’s supply)
  • the fact they were open for a revolution was because: corruption of the government, brutality of the police, government’s indifference to its people i.e. education, medical care, housing, social and economic justice
  • Communism provided free education, medical care, cheap housing – little else
  • theft is a relative concept, and the black market a necessity – known as “shadow economy”
  • Cuba reserved the best they had for foreigners – not for their own people
  • “This is Cuba” – the three words used when things didn’t work or simply disappeared out of your house
  • Cubans live as long as Americans – they have free medical, whereas 1 in 4 Americans have medical debt
  • supplies were so limited and hard to get that newspaper was often used for toilet paper
  • Cuba has a thriving biotech sector with fantastic advances in medical areas more advanced than the US….for instance advances in study of diabetes
  • they send medical teams throughout the world i.e. hurricanes, war, earthquakes wherever needed, recognized the world over for their help
  • ironically even though Cuba has a good sized black population, discrimination is still part of their “communist” culture – so much for equality
  • The most interesting part of the book really was found in the last chapters where he discusses the assassination of Kennedy and possible Cuba involvement. Plus how many “spies” Cuba had infiltrated into our government, including a young lady who was recruited from Iowa while in college and ended up working in our highest offices of government. She gave them information for years before finally being caught. Unfortunately Cuba has not changed from Fidel’s philosophy: “no one should expect Cuba to change its position or yield its principles.” This is a worthwhile book to read.
    Rating: *****

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