PICHÓN by Carlos Moore


Race and Revolution in Castro’s Cuba: A Memoir
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Cuban-born political activist Moore recalls his impoverished pre-Castro childhood and subsequent years of exile for speaking out against the country’s entrenched racism.

Born in the small sugar-mill town of Central Lugareño in 1942, the author learned early about Cuba’s brutal racist realities. In his multiethnic neighborhood, Criollos (native Cuban whites) were on top, followed by guajiros (poor white trash), then Negroes (native Cuban blacks) and Yuma (Jamaican, English-speaking blacks like his parents), with piti-piti (Haitians) at the bottom. Young Carlos was often called a pichón, pejorative slang for the offspring of a buzzard that was later adopted by black Cubans as a term of empowerment. After his mother abandoned them, his father married an American who helped them emigrate to New York in 1958, just as President Batista’s repressive regime was about to be toppled. Living in Bedford-Stuyvesant, 17-year-old Moore soon acquainted himself with bohemian ways and easy sex in Greenwich Village and communist politics in Harlem. Inspired by the civil-rights movement and the Black Muslims, he was one of 50 or so demonstrators who invaded the UN Security Council in 1961 to protest U.S. collusion in the assassination of his hero, deposed Congo President Patrice Lumumba. Initially indifferent to the revolution taking place in his homeland, Moore came to believe that Castro was ending racial discrimination in Cuba, and the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 prompted him to return to protect the new order. However, he soon observed that discrimination against blacks had not been eradicated, and he was jailed for his outspoken protests. For two decades he roamed the globe, embracing various revolutionary causes (hurriedly summarized here) until allowed in the late ’90s to travel again to Cuba, where he was shocked and saddened by the harsh living conditions, deprivations and lack of real freedom.

Forthright, intimate look at the human toll of Cuba’s “beautiful dream,” marred by rather wooden prose.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-55652-767-8
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Lawrence Hill Books/Chicago Review
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2008


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