IN CUBA by Ernesto Cardenal


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Cardenal is a Nicaraguan poet and radical priest who went to Cuba in 1970, eleven years after the revolution. He tends to see socialism in terms of the beauty of sacrifice, charity and poverty, and certainly the food shortages and the sugar cane harvest of that year demanded sacrifice. But Cardenal is also a lively and perceptive man who accumulated a rich sense of how much better life is since the days of Batista terrorism, illiteracy and real hunger. Now the Cubans read books avidly; one sees no drunkards; old people get extra food rations; the ""people's courts"" genially sentence individuals to go to school and the remaining hotel maids have classes in history and mathematics (there was by 1970 a shortage of workers to do urban menial labor). Cardenal somewhat romanticizes the brutal cane-cutting but gives a moving account of Fidel's famous speech at the end of the harvest, where he laid out the statistics of the failure to reach the ten-billion-ton target, and for hours explained the economy as a whole. The book also glorifies Che Guevara with innumerable anecdotes; however, Cardenal seems to provide a hard-headed picture of the situation of Catholics and the Cuban Church, many of the former being selfish reactionaries, while the latter -- and also the majority of Catholic poets -- have embraced the revolution. The narrative is interspersed with poems by fellow Latin writers. It is genuinely joyous.

Pub Date: Oct. 17th, 1974
ISBN: 081120538X
Publisher: New Directions