Finding Manana: A Memoir of a Cuban Exodus

Finding Manana: A Memoir of a Cuban Exodus

by Mirta Ojito


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143036609
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/28/2006
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 831,989
Product dimensions: 5.52(w) x 8.38(h) x 0.67(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About 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.

Read an Excerpt

From Finding Manana by Mirta Ojito

The police came May 7, 1980, when I was about to have lunch: a plain yogurt, sweetened with several spoonfuls of sugar, fried yellow plantains, and an egg and ketchup sandwich on half a loaf of Cuban bread. I was wearing a bata de casa, a housecoat, over my painstakingly ironed school uniform: a blue skirt with two white stripes around the bottom hem, signaling I was in eleventh grade, and a starched white poplin blouse, which I didn’t want to stain with grease.

I was just sitting down when I heard the steps on the stairs. Heavy, loud steps. One, two. One, two. One, one, two. I could tell they belonged to a woman and two men. Years of listening to people climb the twenty polished steps that led to our apartment had trained my ear for the idiosyncrasies of footsteps. By the way she paused after every other step, I knew the woman was our downstairs neighbor and la presidenta del comité, the president of the neighborhood watchdog committee. The men were agile and led the way. They skipped several steps and got to the door before I could alert my mother.

A knock.

On the red plastic clock above the television set it was fifteen minutes past eleven in the morning. I looked at my mother, who was straightening her skirt at the door to the bedroom, where she had been sewing a dress. Her maroon skirt was littered with pieces of yellow thread. I waited for a signal from her. She heard the knock too, but did not move. Then our neighbor spoke.

“Mirta,” she called out to my mother, a little out of breath. “Open up. It’s the police. You are leaving.”

My mother swallowed and opened the door. A burly officer, unshaven and dressed in olive green pants and a white T-shirt with large sweat rings under his arms, walked in. Without introducing himself, he read our names out loud: Orestes Maximino Ojito Denis, Mirta Hilaria Muñoz Quintana, Mirta Arely Ojito Muñoz, and Mabel Ojito Muñoz.

“Are these the names of the people who live here?” he asked. My mother, who had started to tremble, said yes.

“There is a boat waiting for you at the port of Mariel,” he said, pausing a bit to gauge our reaction. He went on, “Are you ready and willing to abandon the country at this time?”

“Yes,” my mother said, her voice merely a whisper.


Excerpted from "Finding Manana"
by .
Copyright © 2006 Mirta Ojito.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


One: Worms Like Us

Two: Bernaro Benes: Our Man in Miami

Three: Butterlfies

Four: Héctor Sanyustiz: A Way Out

Five: Ernesto Pinto: An Embassy Under Siege

Six: Unwanted

Seven: Napoleón Vilaboa: The Golden Door

Eight: Leaving Cuba

Nine: Captain Mike Howell: Sailing Mañana

Ten: Tempest-Tost

Eleven: Teeming Shore

Twelve: With Open Arms


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Finding Manana: A Memoir of a Cuban Exodus 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Spanish1Ryan More than 1 year ago
Finding Manana; A Memoir of a Cuban Exodus written by Mirta Ojito is a fast paced straight to the point memoir that hooks the reader in right when picked up. The book simultaneously without the reader noticing teaches true historical facts while entertaining you making the page turning constant. The author uses her own story from when she is just a child to show the world the social injustices and struggle that her and her family had to endure to finally enjoy the right we take for granted which is freedom. Our society needs to understand that the right to practice and believe your own thoughts should be a human necessity. Sadly though more than often it is taken away and people find themselves abused all over the world. Mirta writes about her experience as a young girl and the hate and intolerance that her family had to go through for disagreeing in their countries leader Fidel Castro. They are compared to dirt and would often find their house egged or being bullied trying to live every day life. As she grows older she begins to agree with why her parents try so hard to get her to understand why they say and praise the actions committed against the country they claim to love. It is because they understand that their country can be so much better. Eventually she joins their cause and flees with over 1000 other immigrants to the American embassy in Havana to escape persecution. When she finally reaches the United States she finds a different kind of hardship. Poverty is an unavoidable fate for any immigrant coming from Cuba. Hard work and love get them through and Mirta later becomes a successful reporter. She lives on to the story of her people and educate the world in what really was happening in an unjust and once prosperous Cuba. In the end the memoir does more than just provide justice to all the Cubans who immigrated to America for a better life. This is a must read for everyone and needs to be picked up at your local book store not just because it is good but because it is the truth. by Ryan Graham for Mrs. Logudice Spanish II
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Do non-fiction tales intrigue you? Are you interested peoples stories about their struggles in life? If so, the book "Finding Manana" is perfect for you. The author, Mirta Ojito did a beautiful job of capturing the pain, hope, and suffering of the Cuban people who wished for a better life beyond communist Cuba. This book is chalk-full of interesting bits of Cuban peoples lives pertaining to their exoduses (in some cases to the great land of Los Estados Unidos,) but above all away from Cuba. There are Many underlying themes that caught and kept my attention during this 278 page book. One of them was the communist ideals that have overwhelmed Cuba since Fidel Castro's dictatorship began in 1959. Most Cubans' opinion on their government in this book or in general for that matter on their homeland's government fell upon deaf ears. The sadness of not being able to have a say on any of your country's decisions struck me numerous times while reading "Finding Manana." Mirta and her fellow "counterrevolutionary" Cubans were often mocked or scolded for not being behind Fidel's ideals by peers. Growing up in the United states I've had all the opportunities I need, I couldn't imagine having no options or choices. Each chapter I read I grew more and more thankful to live in a country that has so much freedom. Mirta's writing style was a little bit on the slow side and at points I felt as though she was going a bit to deep of a description of minor details. The fact that this was a biography and not a fiction novel shined through consistently throughout the book. Ojito's vivid descriptions and personal feelings kept topics touching and realistic. I felt as though certain sections of each chapter were slightly unnecessary and had little significance. However, there wasn't any point in my reading that I felt I was wasting my time, the issues made a great impact on my preconceived ideas of any immigration situations. I felt satisfied and enlightened after reading this beautiful tale of peoples struggles and triumphs and successes as well as their passion for what is right.
-SJN- More than 1 year ago
Finding Manana is a diary of Mirta Ojito and her family growing up in a communist country, where little is tolerated. It takes place in Cuba during the 1970's and 80's while Mirta grows up. The story's chapters interchange from historical events during her childhood in Cuba, to how they affected her family and her experiences from that point in time. "A simple switch of a button to the right, a light appeared on the center of the screen, where it flickered for a while, and then, as if by magic, the screen opened." Here she is talking about the television her Father brought home for her family. Sentences like this painted a picture in my mind. Mirta Ojito does a wonderful job of making you feel like your there, catching the characters emotions while you read. When Mirta was in 5th grade her teacher asked the class "Who here believes in God, and who here goes to church?" Mirta was one of two students to raise there hands. Rita, her teacher, then responded "How can such an intelligent girl believe in God? Does God put food on your table? Noooo, Fidel does. Does God give you your books and pencils so you can come to school? Noooo, the revolution does." It shows that Castro had such a huge amount of power on Cuba that people thought of him as a "God" or higher than God. Moments like this shocked me and I needed to read more. I learned many things in this book about Castro; I was fascinated by it all. She makes several references to Fidel Castro, as well as others, but most people will recognize his name more than the others mentioned. Mirta Ojito made me feel as if I was in the situation at hand, especially when she talked about her own family experiences. I enjoyed learning about the traditions she mentions. Such as a Quinceanera, a party celebrated when a girl becomes a woman at the age of 15. Others may compare it to a sweet sixteen that most of us have. In some moments of the book it's as if you are with her. Her family, both parents and a younger sister, have lived in Havana Cuba there whole lives. They discover that there Uncle Oswaldo and some others in there family have moved to the United States only to find a marvelous life waiting for them. Mirta's father believes they too will have better lives in the United States. But because of Castro's tight fist on Cuba that is not allowed. Everything in the book flows nicely and will leave you wanting to read on. She does phenomenal research to find stories from each historical person she mentions. I thought this was an excellent book for the most part. My problem with Finding Manana was the historical sections dragged on at times. Things that could have been left out, that weren't that important, and it made some chapters hard to comprehend and confusing when to much was mentioned. Other than that I found Finding Manana to be well written, informative, heartwarming, and inspirational. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to learn while they enjoy reading, people who want to learn more about Cuba or Fidel Castro, and anyone who wants a great read to share with friends and family.
spanishstudent More than 1 year ago
The novel Finding Manana by Mirta Ojito is a must read. She has written many other works that are popular to several young adults. The majority of them surround the topic of Cuba. She is a very intelligent woman who brings alot of her knowledge about her home country into her writing. Finding Manana is just one of Ojito's great books. It won the 2005 favorite book award given by Newsday and the Dayton Daily News. This novel can be entertaining to read by anyone. It takes place on the island of Cuba. The protagonist of the story is a young girl Ojito. Ojito and her family live in the city of Havana and have always dreamed to one day leave for the United States. That is all her parents want, is to get out of Cuba. Ojito at first struggles however to leave her friends and every comfort she has in her hometown. Cuba is only getting worse, not better. When a man by the name of Hector Sanyustiz crashes into the Peruvian Embassy, Ojito's parents want to get out more than ever. Their family in Miami is their escape route if only it were possible to receive their exit visas. "Mirta, she called out, a little out of breath. Open up. It's the police. You are leaving." These are the words to a brighter future for Ojito and her family. If it only it were that easy to get up and leave the overpowering of Fidel Castro. Throughout the novel, a journey is taken back in history through the hardships in Cuba. All anyone is looking for is freedom. This is a recommended book to those who would enjoy a taste of history in another country. It is factual and interesting throughout. Ojito shares her life and adventure through her eyes for everyone else to enjoy.
SammmmWhiteee More than 1 year ago
Finding Manana, a very personal memoir of a Cuban exodus focuses on the journey of an adolescent girl during the 1970`s and 80`s. The author, Mirta Ojito, does an amazing job of portraying ¿revolutionary Cuba¿ from the perspective of a non-supporter of Fidel Castro. The chapters alternate from how current events in Cuba affected her life, to the historical focus on the actual event.
Ojito begins the novel in 1975, when she is only in 6th grade and outlines Cuban life and the fears she faces about leaving her home and friends to flee to America. The historical aspect of the novel makes it easier to understand what¿s happening between the United States and Cuba at the time. President Carter was willing to help Cubans make a better life in America if only Castro would allow him. In chapter three Bernardo Benes is introduced as a man from Miami who wants to free Cuba¿s prisoners and tries to settle agreements with Fidel Castro over a series of meetings. All of this takes place as young Mirta grows to become a teenager when her family flees to America in the Mariel Boatlift to be reunited with her uncle. The memoir digs deeply into the difficulties families faced in Cuba at the time, from getting little pay to support themselves to hiding from members affiliated with the Revolution. The novel also illustrates how difficult it was for Mirta¿s family to get a Visa to the United States. Finding Manana helped me not only perceive revolutionary Cuba better, but also made me sympathize for Mirta and her family. She often took criticism from her peers and teachers just because she wanted a better life outside of Cuba.
I thought Finding Manana was overall a wonderful book. It was great because I learned so much about Cuba meanwhile enjoying reading an interesting book about someone around my age. For anyone who is interested in learning more about Cuba¿s fascinating history or is just looking for a great read I would definitely recommend Finding Manana.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Finding Manana By Marita Ojito Published:2006, by Penguin Books This book is a memoir of a young Cuban girl, having to deal with and growing up in a communist country. Although it is not just about her. She also talks of course, about Castro, but also others, that served as the communications between America, and Cuba. In this book, you get a look into the life of an average Cuban family. She tells you about traditions, like her Quinceanera...'...Traditional coming out party given for Latin girls, akin to a sweet sixteen or a debutants' ball' 'this happens when you turn 15'. She also talks about how every family has 'rations' and sometimes, the country 'Would receive a large shipment of hand soap, ... and then there would be no soap for months' This book was good in some was such as: She takes you inside her Cuban life, and fills you with ideas about different governments and politics. It shows her growing up, and invites you to see the Spanish customs. The only negative comment I have about the book is that, at some points, it could be dull and lack luster, like in a few chapters, when she only talks about political people, it gets a little monotonous. This book has many learning points, one it shows you the government views on America. Two, it shows how the country views people who leave it as ¿Worms¿ or traitors. And three, it makes you realize how good we actually have it here in America. Yes, I would recommend this book because although at some points it was uninspiring, but for the most part, it was thoughtful, stimulating, and interesting.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ojito's 'Finding Manana' finds just the perfect blend of moving personal memoir and compelling history. I found myself at times moved, at other times obsessively glued to an excellent recounting of this important political event in Cuban-American exile history(the Mariel Boatlift). Ojito surprises with her very balanced recounting of the Mariel events, which, along with almost everything else about Cuba and America, can sometimes fall prey to a politicized retelling, either from the Left or Right. Ojito rises above that temptation, avoiding the use of simplistic slogans about the Cuban regime, while at the same time exposing the everyday brutality and desperation that Castro has wrought. You won't be disappointed !
Guest More than 1 year ago
In the book Finding Mañana by Mirta Ojito the main subject in the book is leaving Cuba.There are many different themes. The main theme is struggling. The main character is a sixteen year old Cuban girl, named Mirta Ojito. She lives with both her parents and a younger sisters. They have lived in Havana, Cuba all there lives. Mirtas family wants to get a visa and leave Cuba, so they can have a better life in the United States. Mirta struggles with school, home, friends, grades, and her environment. She works very hard to make her family proud. Mirta Ojito, her younger sister and both her parents lived in Havana, Cuba as a middle class family. Life was normal for Mirta, until the communist started to change her life. The government was interfering into their personal lives. In the winter of 1975 when Mirta was eleven, she had to work at a camp. ' In the morning the camp leaders would wake us up at quarter to six with a loud yell '. She would have to work in the fields day and night, on Sundays her parents could come visit her. When Mirta turned sixteen. On Sunday, February 10,1980, her parents came to visit her. Things went very badly and Mirta said to her parents. ' Okay, arrange the papers for the visa, I said. Do what you have to do! ' ( page 74). After that things in Mirta's life begin to change. In school she was a good revolutionary child, with good grades and always saving her money. But after her16th birthday, she began to slowly let go of her city and her life. ' ...ever since my sixteenth birthday, when we had talked of leavening for the United States.....My parents allowed me more freedom then ever.' ( page 124). On Wednesday, April 23, Mirta woke up to her mother crying, telling her that they were able to leave Cuba. Right away they all had to take only small, important things. Mirta immediately thought ' Today is the day I leave Cuba ' ( page 168). But she did not know 100% that her uncle would come today to bring them to the United States. On May 7 they finally were able to leave.The police took them to a closed area where they were many other people waiting for their boats to leave Cuba. They put them in camps. Mirta's family's camp was called the Valley Chief, and were known as the Valley Chiefs. My reaction to this book is very complex. As a sixteen year old girl in the United States, I can not really relate to how Mirta is feeling. But to learn about her daily life and things about Cuba are very interesting. I would recommend this book to any age. This would be a very good book for people who want to learn about Cubans history, and how hard it was to leave Cuba. I would not recommend this book to anyone who does not like to read books with flash backs. This is a very good book to learn new things about Cuba.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Finding Manana is a heart-warming memoir by Mirta Ojito. This story is very sad and touching. It is what I would call bittersweet. It's a warm yet cold story about a girl from Havana, Cuba. She lived through a major even that changed her life forever. During that time, Mariel boatlift was on, and Cuban families from the United States picked up a boat and went to pick up their relatives in Cuba to bring them to the United States. Fortunately, Mirtica, and her family took advantage of their opportunity, and headed to the United States in a boat called Manana sailed by Capitan Mike Howell. I found this book to be very suspenseful, as well as enjoyable. I brought back memories to my parents because they lived during that period of time. Therefore, it was easy for me to understand the concept of this book, and even if I didn't understand something, my parents would explain detail by detail to me, and it would all make sense. I recommend this book to someone who is interested in learning about how many Cuban families go to United States, or to someone who lived through this time period, so they can see what it was like for someone else.