Beyond the throngs of tourists streaming through Central Havana's broad Prado Avenue, and outside the yoke of Castro's 43-year-old Revolutionary program, there exists a parallel Cuba - a separate evolution of a people struggling to survive. With personal stories that depict a people torn between following the directives of their government and finding a way to better their lot, journalist Ben Corbett gives us the daily life of many considered outlaws by Castro's regime. But are they outlaws or rather ingenious survivors of what many Cubans consider to be a forty-year mistake, a tangle of contradictions that has resulted in a strange hybrid of American-style capitalism and a homegrown black market economy.At a time when Cuba walks precariously on the ledge between socialism and capitalism, This Is Cuba gets to the heart of this so-called outlaw culture, taking readers into the living rooms, rooftops, parks, and city streets to hear stories of frustration, hope, and survival. Updated with a new preface.
|Product dimensions:||5.80(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
Ben Corbett is a freelance journalist who has spent several years researching and writing almost exlusively on Cuban culture, politics, and economics. Some of his features on Cuba have appeared in Salon,Tattoo Magazine, Easyriders, Fringe Golf, and Relix. He lives in Colorado.
Table of Contents
|1||Patria O Muerte! An Introduction||1|
|2||La Cola Cubana: Waiting As a Way of Life||13|
|3||Turismo O Muerte!||20|
|4||Cuba's Stable Instability||30|
|5||Viva Buena Vista||42|
|6||Jineterismo: A Dollar Commodity||56|
|7||Season of the Night||65|
|8||The Cuban Survival Kit||80|
|9||The Cuban Diet: Hotels Over Rice and a Pinch of Control||86|
|10||La Bolsa Negra: Stepping Into Cuba's Black Market||96|
|12||The Revolution Is the Culture||117|
|13||The Search for Cubanidad||130|
|14||Still Isolated Behind the Palm Curtain||142|
|15||Marches for Justice||153|
|16||A Day At School||162|
|17||Christmas with the Castros||173|
|18||Reflections of the Parallel Culture||189|
|19||Cuba on the Fringe: A Revolution of Ink||204|
|20||Cuba, Drugs, and the Curse of Tio Sam||217|
|21||Sea Lane to Paradise||231|
|22||A Legal Escape||245|
|23||Epilogue: A Post-Castro Cuba?||253|
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
As a cuban I consider this book as the best description ever made without overexagerating or leaving things untold. It describes Cuba and its people in the most accurate way.
This is a great book. Not just a great Cuba book, or travel book...it's an excellent piece of writing with a objective, surefooted point of view that cuts through a controversial, incredibly complex subject with precision, heart, humor, and an unflinching sense of witness. One of the great things about it is illustrated by the fact that although the author is a fan of socialism and Castro, he frames one of the most devastating descriptions ever written of the bankruptcy of the economic, political, social, and philosophical situation in Cuba today. There might be those who take umbrage at what Corbett has done here, but no visitor to contemporary Cuba will fail to recognize the unvarnished validity of what he says or admire the lapidary, congenial way he says it. Unlike many writers who pop into Cuba and pop out with the answer--not to mention the legions who make up their minds on sheer ideology--Corbett has visited the island many times over a period of years, and has considerable experience living there for long periods of time. He lived somewhat underground: in illegal circumstances, which brought him into easy contact with mass opinions not quickly offered to strangers. And he was lucky enough to have been there during several very revealing periods, including crackdowns and crises. Corbett organizes his experiences into twenty-odd chapters in a way that seems effortless, but is actually an ingenious method of arranging the multi-leveled task of describing a society. Chapters discuss a day in school, black market, prostitution and hustling, the effects of 'Buena Vista Social Club', the incessant marches, the crush for tourist dollars, diet, and the attempts to escape--either legally or otherwise. And each spins out into an embrace of the whole nutty economy and culture. The subtitle of the book, 'An Outlaw Culture Survives' is extremely indicative: throughout it we see a constant struggle for survival in a system of parallel cultures that operate beneath the laws and oppression. And throughout we are apalled and impressed by the dogged ability of Cuban ingenuity to pull through, to rig things up, to balance necessity, law, doctrine, and black humor. One phenomenon he descibes is a good example of the multi-level impact of his calm observation: I derrumbes /I . From time to time buildings in Havana just collapse--failure due to age, poverty and lack of safety codes. Sometimes people have enough warning to run outside, often several families die. And the neighbors cannibalize the collapsed houses to repair their own homes. The first reaction of a NorthAmerican to the idea that urban buildings fall down and people are used to it is one of horror and disbelief. It goes against everything we think a city and society should stand for. Then we think about an economy in which some homes survive by using debris from those that collapse--not a bad analogy for the Cuban economy that has degenerated to a flea market selling off the last old stuff in the attic. Then maybe we start to admire the hunker down courage of people who live like that, who accept a system so different from the one their parents knew. And we marvel at the many who move to Havana from the country--even with possible penalties of jail and fines equal to five years pay for doing so--because the small towns and countryside offer much less opportunity for survival. The real genius and miracle of Cuba is in its people. By the way, appoximately a quarter of Havana's buildings are officially unsafe, a moderate earthquake would probably topple 75% of them. It is illegal to photograph or report I derrumbes /I . Corbett (and his Cuban friends) have a fine eye for ironic contradiction and the bitter laughs it provides. Cubans love to camp on beaches but under the current regime are not allowed to--beaches are reserved for tourists with dollars. In the workers' paradise, labor unions are illegal. Castro proclaims socia
I APPLAUD THE AUTHOR FOR HIS ACCURATE DESCRIPTION OF LIFE IN CUBA AS IT IS TODAY. A MUST READ FOR ANYONE WHO HAS DOUBTS ABOUT THE REALITY IN CUBA TODAY. BRAVO, MR. CORBETT!!!