Cuba is on the verge…but of what?
Argentinian journalist Guerriero (A Simple Story: The Last Malambo, 2017, etc.) brings together 12 writers to assess the state of Cuba today in these very personal essays. Six natives write from the inside, six from the outside looking in. Theirs is a somber take on the island country. Novelist Patricia Engel writes about “Mi Amigo Manuel,” who works six days a week driving people around Havana in his classic American car. He succinctly captures the country’s ennui in just a few sentences: popes and presidents come and go, “but for us, nothing changes. Here we are. Here we will always be….The same Cuba, the same ruta, the same struggle always.” His pessimistic attitude echoes throughout the book. Even baseball, which is discussed a few times, has changed. Soccer has taken over. Cuban journalist/novelist Leonardo Padura reflects back on his youth and his passion for the game in the bittersweet “Dreaming in Cuba.” Fidel’s Castro’s revolution took away the proud profession of baseball and turned it into an amateur sport, ending players’ livelihoods. What Padura sees in the streets of Havana “is not a simple phenomenon of fashion or sports preference: it is a cultural trauma of unpredictable consequences for the Cuban identity.” What one finds all over Cuba now, besides the shortages of basic items, are the jineteras, women who prostitute themselves, and the jineteros, men who play the gigolo for foreign visitors. In her shocking “Glamour and Revolution,” Cuban poet and novelist Wendy Guerra notes that abortion is now the country’s contraception, and as for the “female figure’s relationship to Cuban heroes, leaders, and rulers, she isn’t even in the background. She simply doesn’t exist.” As screenwriter and director Mauricio Vicent ironically puts it, for most, Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude is magical realism. In Cuba, it’s a “deeply sensible and realistic novel.”
An affecting portrait of a country that is awash in poverty, sadness, and uncertainty.