An Innocent in Cuba


With An Innocent in Ireland (1995), David McFadden began his eccentric journeys to the heart of some of the world’s most unique island nations. Now McFadden rambles through the highs and lows of Cuba, home to cigars, Guantanamera, and of course Castro. The beautiful Caribbean landscape, along with Cuba’s rich history, culture, and uncertain future, lend themselves to the quirky eye and wry witticisms of our innocent Canadian guide.

Poking into the nation’s many corners, McFadden...

See more details below
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (13) from $1.99   
  • New (3) from $15.24   
  • Used (10) from $1.99   
Sending request ...


With An Innocent in Ireland (1995), David McFadden began his eccentric journeys to the heart of some of the world’s most unique island nations. Now McFadden rambles through the highs and lows of Cuba, home to cigars, Guantanamera, and of course Castro. The beautiful Caribbean landscape, along with Cuba’s rich history, culture, and uncertain future, lend themselves to the quirky eye and wry witticisms of our innocent Canadian guide.

Poking into the nation’s many corners, McFadden offers a series of vignettes of the people, cities,villages, roads, and countryside of the island the author refers to as “the most famous little country in the world.” Warm and colourful, An Innocent in Cuba is a musical, sensuous, flirtatious, joyful tribute to the Cuban spirit in all its incarnations.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The latest in Canadian poet McFadden's travel series (An Innocent in Ireland; An Innocent in Scotland), this work recounts McFadden's 33 day-trip around Cuba by taxi or in his well-used compact rental car. He compares the Cuba of 2004 with that of his Canadian friend "A's" experiences from a decade earlier. It's a distracting gimmick, and one wishes he'd stop mentioning "Fidel" and "Che" as if they were old college buddies of his. Far from being an "innocent," McFadden has a bad habit of interjecting historical facts into unrelated situations. And one must question his supposition that "for the past forty-five years Cuba has been a torture-free zone." As a poet, certainly he's aware of documented treatment of dissenting artists and homosexuals? What works in McFadden's favor, however, is how well he interacts with everyday Cuban citizens and his ability to turn a delightful phrase, making some of the most mundane daily occurrences interesting reading material. A poignant moment is when he relives Hemingway's past in the room where Islands in the Stream was supposedly written. Despite its flaws, then, this title is still recommended for large public libraries with devoted travel readers.-Richard Dickey, Dallas Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780771055065
  • Publisher: McClelland & Stewart Ltd.
  • Publication date: 3/1/2005
  • Pages: 408
  • Sales rank: 1,239,183
  • Product dimensions: 5.52 (w) x 8.39 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

David W. McFadden has published over twenty books of poetry and prose, including Gypsy Guitar, nominated for a Governor General’s Award in 1987 and The Art of Darkness, nominated for a Governor General’s Award in 1984. He lives in Toronto.
Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

day one sea of happiness

Saturday, February 14, 2004. From the nineteenth floor of the four-­star Hotel Neptuno Tritón there’s a wide-­angle view of the western-­most limits of suburban Havana, the parklike area south of Miramar Beach — lightly industrial, lightly residential, agricultural hardly at all. Clusters of palm trees dot the tops of green hills on the southern horizon. The sky is baby blue and speckled with swirling little galaxylike clouds of baby pink. The lights on tall metal poles around the front of the hotel switch off at precisely seven o’clock. It’s a new day: two loud sharp clangs come from a tuneless bell way off in the distance and small groups of workers quicken their pace to the construction sites. Hotels are going up all around here, with fabulous neo—art deco lines and dazzling colour combinations.

On Cuban construction sites where workers are docked pay for being late or absent, there is much lateness and absenteeism. On jobs where one is not docked, workers will go out of their way to show up on time every day. That’s why workers ­aren’t getting docked these days. I’ve heard this twice already, so it must be true.

Ten years ago the view from the nineteenth floor would have been dominated by the neo-­classical red-­roof Iglesia Jesús de Miramar off in the distance, with its beautiful pearl-­grey dome. It would have had a vast rural rolling landscape to itself, an opalescent island in a sea of emeralds. But now that church, still with all its attractions, has been rendered less significant, dwarfed by recently constructed hotels, the Havana Trade Center, and the beginnings of new residential neighbourhoods.

Traffic on the highway below seems light — a few speeding toy cars well spaced, now and then a toy lorry loaded with cement blocks. People will casually sidestep onto the sidewalk to avoid the occasional bus jammed with people. A former beauty queen from Venezuela is touting Reduce Fat Fast pills on the twenty-­two-­channel universe, and gives different numbers to call for different Latin American countries. Each country is listed on the screen, except for Cuba, where obesity is rare, beauty contests are considered moronic, and few people have credit cards.

Winter storms have paralyzed traffic in Istanbul, airports have been turned into dormitories in Athens, in Toronto it’s fifteen below — but in Cuba it looks like another fine day with hot sunshine. The only snow is on an old man’s beard and the only ice is in his first drink of the day.

The flight from Toronto was full of people from Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, New York. They were a serious bunch, curious about Cuba rather than just wishing to sprawl mindlessly on the beach for a week. They were more interested in sizing up the island, sniffing out opportunities. A group of five had been corresponding with the Council of Cuban Churches and were now excitedly going over their maps and discussing their plans to visit every single one of the Protestant churches in Cuba — dispensing advice, no doubt. Nine out of ten such churches are said to be lacking pastors. Anti-­abortion feeling is high among the faithful, and the more outspoken get thrown in jail. The non-­Cuban world, including Amnesty Inter­national, calls these people dissenters. Most Cubans call them worse names. What seems clear is that there is a long-­standing majority tradition in Cuba of considering a woman’s desire for a safe abortion to be inviolable.

At the José Martí Airport last night, it was like being trapped inside an ant’s eye. Every television monitor was showing a weary but ­passionate old Fidel giving yet another speech. We were in Toronto when he started and he’s still at it, with no notes, no teleprompter, and no wire in his ear feeding him lines by his brother Raúl. The speech is being delivered to the people who love him and understand him, and anyone else who wants to tune in. Passengers disembarking stare at the tv screens with an unconscious look of disdain, as if at the shock of actually seeing Fidel on the tube speaking, instead of being the invisible subject of unfriendly one-­sided roundtable discussions on the U.S. networks. [Note: This was the speech in which Fidel said that President George W. Bush ­couldn’t debate a Cuban ninth grader, and that after four decades of economic blockade the Cuban economy is in better shape, in certain important ways, than the U.S. economy, which is hanging by a thread. Also, he said once again that Bush was actively plotting to have him assassinated and planning to invade Cuba. Cubans should get ready to defend their country with guerrilla tactics. He may even have mentioned bomb shelters.]

A. lives in Toronto and ­doesn’t travel much these days. She has been generous with her memories of her two-­week urban ramble in Havana ten years ago, all the little details from beginning to end. For starters, she related how high-­spirited schoolteachers from southern Ontario filled the plane with their crazed screams and sudden eruptions of funny noises and silly remarks. The pilot was careful not to break the law by flying the more direct route over the United States, which would have saved an hour of corny jokes. After the teachers staggered off the plane in Varadero, A. was the sole passenger to continue to Havana. She said she felt like a shadow. The one person on duty in the dimly lit customs shack had no desire to look at her shadowy passport, her shadowy bag, or to ask where she planned to stay. There were no taxis or buses waiting.

In the tropical night, gawking up at the full moon among the towering royal palms, she was approached by a friendly tall beanpole of an Afro-­Cuban and his very short black wife, plump and with a sense of humour. They said they were driving into the city. They often drove out to the airport to watch the Canadians disembark, to see the joy on their faces as they feel their bones thawing, their allergies disappearing, their sex glands self-­secreting. Did they actually say that about the sex glands? A. laughed and admitted she made that up. So, could they have the pleasure of her company? They would drive her into the city and help her find a hotel. Of course!

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

1. Sea of Happiness 
2. Two Steps Ahead of the Law 
3. Vanilla and Chocolate 
4. The Great Fascist 
5. Dedo Doloroso 
6. Stolen Notebooks 
7. El Cristo de Jilma 
8. Varadero Beach and the Battle of Ideas 
9. Santa Clara 10, Holguín 2 
10. I Am Yours Forever 
11. How the Universe Works 
12. One Short Sad Story After Another 
13. Chica chica? Chica chica chica? 
14. El Uvero, El Cobre, and the Black Virgin 
15. The Road to Baracoa 
16. From Baracoa across the Río Toa to Moa 
17. An Afternoon in Holguín 
18. An Afternoon at the Beach 
19. It’s Palma Day in Bayamo Libre! 
20. Bayamo Daybreak 
21. All Davids Are Brothers 
22. Wildfires at Sunset 
23. Heavenly Havana 
24. Sad-­Eyed Señoritas of El Morro 
25. Magic Is What You Imagine! 
26. Mimi’s Gift 
27. Two Englishmen in Havana 
28. Another Dream for Cuba 
29. My Left Earlobe 
30. A Ghost in the Air 
31. The Death of Hemingway 
32. The World Is a Handkerchief 
33. Sea of Sadness 

Suggested Reading

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)