By Richard C.
Even with tourism to Cuba increasing and relations warming, my bank account says I’ll still be getting my taste of Cuban food, fiction, and history the vicarious way. My favorite lately is the instant documentary – Spanish or English anytime, right!?
After that it’s fiction. Crime fiction. In Havana Blue, it’s a troubled past catching up to Lieutenant Mario Conde when an investigation leads to the disappearance of an old friend. A sense of emotional authenticity and a detailed setting make this a quick and worthy summer read!
Set in the summer/fall when Castro is about to oust Batista, Havana World Series will stir up your historical imagination like an ice-cold mojito. Mob bosses clash for control of the city while Mickey Mantle’s New York Yankees battle the Milwaukee Braves on the radio. In a sweltering and tense revolutionary atmosphere, the Bonanno family has hired a notorious criminal to pull off a heist against rival boss Meyer Lansky. We’ll never see 1950s Cuba, but this book will be a suitable consolation prize. If not then try The Mojito Coast for a mystery packed with criminals, crime fighters, movie stars, and once again the specter of Fidel Castro knocking on Havana’s door.
Crime fiction is fun, but there’s so much more to this beautiful country. For a sense of Cuba’s rich cultural life and compelling heritage turn to Cuba: The Sights, Sounds, Flavors, and Faces. You can join me in going straight for the food in A Taste of Cuba, or go for the recipe/memoir blend in Tastes Like Cuba and Havana Salsa. The latter two are packed with perspective on how many immigrants from Cuba feel about changes in their homeland before, during and since the Cuban Revolution.
Two photographic essays, both called Cuba, are also easily worth diving into some sunny afternoon. A journalistic feel in The Other Side of Paradise covers the life of young people during the first five years of Castro’s rule, while Boxing for Cuba and Waiting for Snow in Havana are two memoir musings on families impacted by the Revolution.
Looking for just the facts, ma’am!? Channel your inner Joe Friday and use these links either for the joy of learning, for homework help, or for backing up some supper-time argument perhaps you have with a visiting uncle or cousin:
- Try Culture Grams for an insider’s perspective on daily life and culture of Cuba, including its history, customs, and many lifestyles.
- Try AtoZ The World for culture, history, customs, food, religion, maps, and other
- Or Country Studies, from the Library of Congress, describes and analyses the historical setting as well as social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.
Or maybe look up and see what the CIA World Factbook has to say about Guantanamo Bay Prison. Good luck seeing inside its walls, though, unless you have the tremendous book Sketching Guantanamo. It’s no cameras allowed, so Janet Hamlin sketches into view the inmates and trials in one of the world’s most controversial prisons.
However you do it, let the library get you up to speed on a fascinating country!