Finding Mañana: A Memoir of a Cuban Exodus

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Overview

Finding Mañana is a vibrant, moving memoir of one family's life in Cuba and their wrenching departure. Mirta Ojito was born in Havana and raised there until the unprecedented events of the Mariel boatlift brought her to Miami, one teenager among more than a hundred thousand fellow refugees. Now a reporter for The New York Times, Ojito goes back to reckon with her past and to find the people who set this exodus in motion and brought her to her new home. She tells their stories and hers in superb and poignant ...

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Overview

Finding Mañana is a vibrant, moving memoir of one family's life in Cuba and their wrenching departure. Mirta Ojito was born in Havana and raised there until the unprecedented events of the Mariel boatlift brought her to Miami, one teenager among more than a hundred thousand fellow refugees. Now a reporter for The New York Times, Ojito goes back to reckon with her past and to find the people who set this exodus in motion and brought her to her new home. She tells their stories and hers in superb and poignant detail-chronicling both individual lives and a major historical event.

Growing up, Ojito was eager to excel and fit in, but her parents'-and eventually her own-incomplete devotion to the revolution held her back. As a schoolgirl, she yearned to join Castro's Young Pioneers, but as a teenager in the 1970s, when she understood the darker side of the Cuban revolution and learned more about life in el norte from relatives living abroad, she began to wonder if she and her parents would be safer and happier elsewhere. By the time Castro announced that he was opening Cuba's borders for those who wanted to leave, she was ready to go; her parents were more than ready: They had been waiting for this opportunity since they married, twenty years before.

Finding Mañana gives us Ojito's own story, with all of the determination and intelligence-and the will to confront darkness-that carried her through the boatlift and made her a prizewinning journalist. Putting her reporting skills to work on the events closest to her heart, she finds the boatlift's key players twenty-five years later, from the exiles who negotiated with Castro to the Vietnam vet on whose boat, Mañana, she finally crossed the treacherous Florida Strait. Finding Mañana is the engrossing and enduring story of a family caught in the midst of the tumultuous politics of the twentieth century.

On the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Mariel boatlift, a Pulitzer Prize winner's extraordinary memoir of her childhood in Cuba and her historic journey to America

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Editorial Reviews

Wendy Gimbel
… in Finding Mañana, Mirta Ojito's impressive evocation of growing up in Havana in the 1970's, there is no place for nostalgia. In trenchant, muscular prose suitable for describing Cuba's increasingly grim realities, Ms. Ojito, a reporter for The New York Times, writes about her coming-of-age and her family's rescue in the Mariel boatlift of 1980 … Ms. Ojito triggers the memory of a papaya on a hot day in the Cuban countryside: bright color, sweet pulp, bitter seeds.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Twenty-five years ago, between April and September 1980, 125,000 Cuban refugees arrived in Florida. Dubbed Marielitos for the port from which they departed and viewed by the press as the refuse of Castro's prisons and mental institutions, these people found a less warm welcome than earlier Cuban groups had. Pulitzer-winning journalist Ojito, then 16, and her family were among them. Her book is both a history of the exodus (which became known as the Mariel boatlift) and a restoration of the reputations of the thousands who "quietly slipped into the fabric of the city that had reluctantly welcomed them." Journalistic sketches of significant figures (the powerful Miami banker who negotiated the 1979 liberation of Cuban political prisoners; the used-car salesman and Bay of Pigs veteran who helped organize the flotilla; the captain of the boat the Ojito family sailed on; etc.) alternate with personal episodes, yet, strangely, the book lacks color. The action is dramatic, but the detail is deadening. For example, Ojito manages to make reading about her adolescent miseries-which can certainly be affecting-tedious and laden with boring rather than illuminating tidbits. And in telling of the duplicities of life under a repressive regime and the anxieties of escape and exile, she isn't able to weed out the important from the trivial. Agent, Heather Schroder. (On sale Apr. 11) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In May 1980, at aged 16, Ojito and her family-mother Mirta, father Orestes, and sister Mabel-found themselves among the thousands of other Cuban refugees, tired, half starved, and hopeful, trying to cross the Florida Strait and reach Miami in what became known as the Mariel boatlift. Here she pieces together the events-both personal and political-that brought her family and so many others like it out of a Cuba whose government they could no longer tolerate. In alternating chapters, we see Ojito in Cuba-where she is ridiculed by a zealous teacher for believing in God and passed over for a scholarship because of her parents' lack of revolutionary fervor-and meet the colorful cast of characters, from Cuban exiles to a Vietnam vet, who set the emigration in motion and carry it through. Although occasionally the narrative jumps can be disorienting, journalist Ojito (a Pulitzer Prize winner for her contribution to the New York Times series "How Race Is Lived in America") manages to weave the disparate threads of the story into a cohesive whole. What results is a rich, but nuanced picture of life in Cuba under Castro and the intimately personal nature of politics. Recommended for public libraries and academic libraries supporting journalism or cultural studies programs.-Tania Barnes, Library Journal Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-For her first 16 years, Ojito was torn between loyalty to the Cuban Revolution and the desire of her parents to leave the country. At school, she learned to be a good Revolutionary child. Extensive dossiers were kept on each student and family; ideological zeal was essential when one's future was controlled by the state. In the neighborhood, block captains tried to force attendance at political assemblies. The girl's parents simply wanted the state to stop interfering in their personal lives. They worked hard to obtain illegal "extras"-including adequate food. In 1980, despite Ojito's ambivalence, the family left in the Mariel boat lift, a five-month exodus during which more than 125,000 Cubans arrived in Florida on small, overcrowded craft. The book alternates between the author's memoir and the stories of others whose actions influenced the boat lift, among them a Cuban American negotiating secretly for the release of Cuban political prisoners and the captain of the Manana, which carried the Ojitos to Florida. The author gives a thoroughly researched account of events before, during, and after they left. Sometimes the narrative bogs down with unnecessary details. The strongest parts, with the most appeal for teens, are about growing up in Cuba, the warmth of family and friends, and the sudden departure and difficult trip into exile. Ojito's voice is honest throughout. She is critical of both governments and initially unimpressed by American culture. Above all, she advocates for the "Marielitos," scorned as criminal scum by Castro and white Floridians alike.-Sandy Freund, Richard Byrd Library, Fairfax County, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A thorough and exciting account of the events leading to the daring, massive exodus of more than 125,000 people from Cuba's Mariel harbor in 1980. Cuban-American journalist Ojito's mission here is not only to tell her own family's story-they were finally allowed to join relatives in South Florida after waiting 15 years-but to probe a question: How could Fidel Castro allow the hemorrhaging of the Cuban population? Ojito's parents were apolitical and thus undesirable in the communist country, where they were frequently targeted for ridicule and exiles were called gusanos (worms) for abandoning the revolution. Yet by the late 1970s, during the presidency of Jimmy Carter, a thaw began to develop between Cuba and the US, which had imposed an economic embargo on the nation for two decades but now hoped to negotiate for the release of native and American prisoners from Cuba's prisons. Castro trusted Carter's record on human rights and needed to boost a sagging Cuban economy by courting the exiles in America. A successful Cuban living in Panama, Bernardo Benes, was chosen to mediate the detente, which orchestrated return visits by Cuban-Americans (now called mariposas, butterflies) to spend dollars in Cuba. In the spring of 1980, an unemployed bus driver named Hector Sanyustiz made embarrassingly public the desperation of ordinary citizens seeking a way out of the country when he rammed a bus through the Peruvian embassy in Cuba and 10,000 asylum seekers flooded in. Amid complicated diplomatic wrangling, a plan was devised to bring expatriates in southern Florida on chartered boats to Mariel harbor, from which they would transport thousands of undesirable relatives out of the country. Ojito, areporter for the New York Times tells a suspenseful story, moving back from May 7, 1980, when police arrived at her family's Havana doorstep asking if they were willing to "abandon" their country, through the years preceding their triumphant arrival on American soil. A skillful melding of individual personalities with the grand currents of history.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594200410
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 4/7/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.32 (w) x 9.52 (h) x 1.16 (d)

Meet the Author

Mirta Ojito was born in Havana, Cuba, and came to the United States in 1980 in the Mariel boatlift. She has received the American Society of Newspaper Editors' Award for best foreign reporting, and she shared the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, for her contribution to the series "How Race Is Lived in America." Her work has appeared in several anthologies, including Written into History: Pulitzer Prize Reporting of the Twentieth Century from The New York Times, edited by Anthony Lewis. Ojito has taught journalism at New York University, Columbia University, and the University of Miami. She writes for The New York Times from Miami. Lewis. Ojito has taught journalism at New York University, Columbia University, and the University of Miami. She writes for The New York Times from Miami.

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Table of Contents

Prologue 1
1 Worms Like Us 11
2 Bernardo Benes: Our Man in Miami 35
3 Butterflies 57
4 Hector Sanyustiz: A Way Out 75
5 Ernesto Pinto: An Embassy Under Siege 95
6 Unwanted 121
7 Napoleon Vilaboa: The Golden Door 135
8 Leaving Cuba 159
9 Captain Mike Howell: Sailing Manana 187
10 Tempest-Tost 215
11 Teeming Shore 233
12 With Open Arms 261
Epilogue 269
Acknowledgments 279
Notes 285
Index 297
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