This is Cuba: An American Journalist Under Castro’s Shadow by David Ariosto (2018)



I have no idea why I chose this book, except that I like memoirs, I like most anything written by a journalist, I wanted to learn more about Cuba, and it was on the new books display. The author was assigned by CNN to cover Cuba in 2009-10, and though he’s only there full time for about a year, he travels back several times between then and present day. Much of the in depth descriptions come from his year living there, but he weaves in other assignments such as the earthquake in Haiti, unrest in Venezuela, and various Cuban interest stories, such as Obama’s “normalization” of relations with Cuba (although no one seems to know precisely what that means/meant).  Throughout all of this, my takeaways are that Cuba is a strange place: part old time Communist society, part private business expansion, part travel destination, part creative recycling program (since virtually nothing is available in terms of repairs or refurbishing), part black market purveyance, and part slow life living. With few electronic distractions available, life’s pace seems far more relaxing. As power transferred from Fidel to his brother Raul, and most recently to Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel (Raul remains head of the Communist part, I think), some aspects of the “revolution” seem to lean slightly more toward open markets, but it remains a dictatorship and a one-party state. The title of the book comes from the repeated line “this is Cuba” as the only answer to questions ranging from “Why is there no milk?” to “Why did a government official steal my sink?” It’s the kind of place where there just aren’t any logical answers.

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