HAVANA CUBA Books - Omar Reviews
Havana Red, Blue, Black, Gold and Fever - Leonardo Padura
These five detective Conde books are not only fun in a classic noir way, they give you some insight to Cuba in the 1990’s. Unfortunately, the first two in the series suffered from a clearly poor translation that takes some patience in English.
Adios Hemingway - Leonardo Padura
Detective Conde returns for this novella, which is the most fun read on all the Padura detective stories.
Dirty Havana Trilogy - Pedro Juan Gutierrez
These stories may be too raw and sexual for many readers, but they are exceptionally insightful and great literature.
Breathe - Leila Segal
A lovely tale of a foreign born Cuban adoptee.
Cuba and the Night - Pico Iyer
Very insightful Cuban fiction story told through the eyes and perspective of an international photographer.
Dreaming in Cuban – Cristina Garcia
A beautifully crafted story told from the perspective of a Cuban escapee to New York and those who stayed behind..
Islands in the Stream - Ernest Hemingway
The most Cuban of his novels that he wrote while living in Cuba. This is more a sea and war story.
Biography of a Runaway Slave - Miguel Barnet
The writer attempted to keep this story true to the dictation, making it monumental, though not an easy read.
"Havana" - Claudia Lightfoot
& "Cuba" - Pierre Hausherr & Francois Missen
Two Non-Fiction books on Cuba that I recommend.
Cuba Book Quotes:
Havana Red Leonardo Padura
4 Best to consult on everything in this country
15 like an oil slick suddenly released and spreading over the sea of consciousness; but it was a colourless slick
Recently he’d started to imagine death might be somewhat similar: waking to an absence of atmosphere, onerous yet painless, stripped of expectation and surprises because it was only this: bottomless, empty void
He also tried to recall the time there hadn’t been a sense of void or premonitions of death
When he went out into the street, on such mornings that came hot with the dawn, a solitary taste of coffee lingering on his lips and no woman waving him farewell, no magnet drawing him into the future
18 The Major didn’t look at him. He was searching in one of his desk drawers, and finally extracted a cigar. It didn’t look good: too dark, veins too bulging, resistant to the flame from the lighter
75 Wait, would you like a coffee? I can tell you I don’t offer everybody coffee. Just imagine, twenty people come and see me every day, and I’ve still not worked the miracle of multiplying the little envelopes of coffee the give me in my ration book…
82 Only then did the Count become aware that he had nothing to say: he’d been dazzled by so much glitter and couldn’t clearly see the route he should follow.
87 When the Count saw those silhouettes over the calm sea, he was filled with envy. He knew life was healthier there, with a piece of string in the water and one’s mind thinking only about a possible catch and the dinner of one’s dreams, and not about a series of stories of deaths, thefts, frauds, rapes, lessor or greater forms of assault
he meditated on death’s insalubrious ability to change everything
94 Only a transvestite can transform it radically and, like a butterfly, paint himself, make his body the subject for his master work, convert his sexual emanations into colour, through the bewildering arabesques and incandescent hues of physical adornment. It is a vital plastic surgery of the self
97 Besides, his father hated him because he was, well, queer. Whenever he could, he made it clear he hated him…
98 Look for yourself: Mishima, Zweig, Hemingway, my poor friend Calvert Casey, Paves… He was fascinated by suicides and those who committed suicide
99 The real bastards are the others: the self-appointed police, volunteer commissars, improvised persecutors, unpaid informers, amateur judges, all those who think they own the life, destiny and even the moral, cultural and historical purity of a country…
100 You know what it’s like waiting for three or four hours in a dentist’s waiting room, hearing the drill and the cries of the people going in?
101 You ever been to a theatre with the lights on? Have you seen how it loses all its magic and the whole world of artifice seems fake and meaningless?
104 If you believed in God, you could forgive, couldn’t you? That is probably why I don’t want to believe, Mr. Policeman.
105 If I went back, it would be for reasons of vanity or revenge, rather than from the need to make statements, which always muddies the waters of art.
106 because memory loss is one of this country’s psychological qualities. It’s a self-defence mechanism employed by many people… Everybody forgets everything and they always say can start afresh, this very minute: the past has been exorcized. If memory doesn’t exist, there’s no blame, and if there’s no blame, no need to forgive, you see the logic? And I understand, of course I understand, because this island’s historical mission is always to be starting afresh, to make a new beginning every thirty of forty years, and oblivion is usually the ointment for all the wounds which are still open…
107 “And why do you think he dressed in Electra Garrrigo’s costume? Because it was a very pretty dress, and Alexis was queer. Do you need any other reason?”
119 He hesitated for a moment over whether to masturbate or not: and decided he had no reason not to try. No woman was out there waiting for that spare ejaculation, and as he stroked himself, even the heat in the air seemed to have abated.
“the fact is he could still feel her scent of ripened fruit, between a mango and velvety plums, which mingled with the deep, animal dampness from her desire-swollen sex”
123 The worst fucking thing, Conde, is you suddenly feel like you’re living in a glass bowl, or a test-tube, I don’t know, that they watch you shitting, pissing and picking your nose, and know if you make little balls to throw or stick under a table.
151 Fatman Contreras opened the door and beamed a smile the Count feared like death.
You’re a sonovabitch, Conde, that’s why I like you.
152 And if I smell of shit, it’s because I work in shit, wash in shit, like any self-respecting policeman
161 he believed that if anything distinguished us from the rest of the world, it was our possession of Creole wisdom, where nothing is really painful or totally pleasant.
One of the visible traits of our Cubanity is an irrepressible inclination never to shut our mouths.
166The Count again felt he was in the middle of a theatrical performance too much like a pre-packaged reality where everyone had their role and seat assigned. The Great Theatre of the World, what nonsense. The Tragedy of Life, yet more nonsensical. Life is a dream?
172 It was always truth. Irksome truth always hidden or transfigured: sometimes behind words, at others behind attitudes and sometimes even behind an entire life simulated and redesigned merely to hide or transfigure the truth.
177 We Catholics are too serious when it comes to the divine. We lack the vital, primitive happiness of the Greeks, Yorubas or Hindus who dialogue with their Gods and sit them at their table.
Look young man, the existence of devils attests to the existence of God, and vice versa. They need each other as Good needs Evil to exist. And that’s why evil is also everywhere: in hell, on earth, inside and outside.
180 In a world, we are children of time and dust, and no poetry can spare us that.
181 Someone with a Muscovite mentality thought uniformity was possible in this hot, heterodox country where nothing’s ever been pure, and then they unleashed a wave of hysteria on the roadside
182 And friendship is a voluntary commitment one enters into, and if one does, it has to be respected
congri – Cuban dish – rice, oregano, salt and finely chopped onion
225 They wouldn’t allow me to publish or direct, but no one could prevent me writing and thinking.
Havana Blue Leonardo Padura
12 He had hurt the cigar; cigars are jealous, he used to say, and the taste would certainly no longer be the same
14 His cigar would make a surprise recovery: a pale, even healthy ash was forming, and he puffed gently, just enough so each drag didn’t fan the flame or sear the cigar’s sensitive entrails
29 trays of meat coquettes, meat pies and fried cheese balls
63 smoking it properly, for each cigar is unique and offers you every once of goodness it has
The one I lit this morning was a disaster: first because mornings have never been the best time for a cigar of such quality and second because I didn’t pay it proper attention and mistreated it, and however much I tried later on, I couln’t make amends, and it was as if I were smoking an amateur roll, it really was.
Top Cigars: Davidoff 5000, Corona, Romeo y Julieta Cedros No 2, Montecristo No 3 or Rey del Mundo
Havanas: One is a fiesta for the senses, a riot of pleasure, my boy: it revives the sight, awakens taste, rekindles touch and creates the lovely taste that goes so well with an after-dinner cup of coffee. And is even music to the ears. Listen to it moving between my fingers and almost moaning as if prey to desire.
78 You can imagine, around New Year she rakes it in. You can’t find anything to buy then, you know?
112 my grandfather uses to say ‘Born a donkey die a horse… That’s progress enough for me.”
118 that girl is a tasty item and people like to get a lick
133 Boleros for the daytime: Vicentico Valdes, Vallejo, Tejedor and Luis, Contreras
he felt happier in that kind of place than in a bar with tall glasses and colourful cocktails
134 The Count though how right your are, happiness could be a very expensive business and ordered another double.
215 Great Baseball players past: Chavez, Urbano, La Guagua, Lazo
218 he imagined himself the firs Cuban yuppie
Havana Black Leonardo Padura
12 Because you know we are a generation that obeyed orders and that is our sin and our crime.
Everything was pre-planned, wasn’t it? From playschool to the spot in the cemetery assigned for us, everything decided for us, and they didn’t even ask what disease we wanted to die of.
46 all the economic bonanza had never been planned for present generations, who were required only to demonstrate inexhaustible austerity and a continually renewed, almost Christian spirit of sacrifice.
65 But the large, shiny tears welling in her eyes seemed unreal; as if they came from another face, or another person, or other feelings, which were very far from that place, perhaps on the other side of the sea. Hollow pearls, concluded the Count.
70 As the cannon fire signaling it was nine p.m.
78 who was mistaken; he or all those people gathered in that church without altars or Christ? Those people who believed in something that could save them or he, a man who could hardly think of a couple of things worth saving?
88 That ordering thing is like an illness. After you get used to it you almost prefer life with it, though you know it will take you to the grave. I think it’s a vice, and one that isn’t so easy to give up.”
89 they are kicking me out because I wasn’t a good boss and now I’m like a snuffed-out cigar nobody wants to smoke.
111 Old Alameda de Paula, Havana’s elegant eighteenth-century promenade
121 As ever, the lieutenant was astonished by his subordinate’s appetite and skill at salvaging scattered morsels of food; he squashed them with the back of his fork and lifted them to his mouth, and chewed them conscientiously.
132 Mario Conde would only sing boleros in two precise states of mind; when he foresaw he might fall in love or when he was already madly and desperately in love
185-186 52-59 Batista’s coup d’etat, Fidel and his group’s assault on the Moncada barracks, the arrival of Granma in Oriente province, the uprising in Santiago de Cuba, the failed regicide of 13 March, the war in the Sierra Maestra and the victory of the revolution, which by the way did not take Alcides Guevara and Zenalda Riva by surprise, for in September 1958 they had had the foresight to go to live in Zurich with their whole family, which must still be thereabouts, probably in the banking business.
207 Hey, you, where you going to spend the hurricane? As if it were like choosing somewhere to dine on Christmas Eve.
Without a doubt, the macabre carnival seemed to have begun; some people, on their roof terraces, strapped down the lids on their water tanks; others cut down trees, with a furious intensity that anticipated the hurricane’s; others preferred to shore up mattresses, televisions, drawers full of things in the slim hope they might save something that otherwise would take them years to recover, and they did so with incredible broad smiles on their faces
236-37 Even in the harshest of times, when the ration book for industrial products barely allotted each Cuban male one pair of trousers, two shirts and a pair of shoes a year, his mother had always sorted things so he had some new item of clothing to wear on the momentous occasion of his birthday.
There on the floor, curled up like an old dog feeling the cold, were the jeans he preferred to all his other trousers.
P261 because the end of the world was drawing nigh, but had yet to come, since memories remained.
Havana Gold Leonardo Padura
61 “off” left Cuba – anyone who’s off is swntenced to lose everything, even the space they occupy in the memories of friends.
115 bolero singers: Benny, Vallejo and Vicentico Valdes
The Havana of the Sans Souci caberet, the Vista Alegre café, the Market Place
174 But Havana is more whorish; she only offers herself up to those who repay her in pain and anguish, and even then she doesn’t’ yield up her whole self, doesn’t surrender the innermost secrets from her entrails
Havana Fever Leonardo Padura
70 (1958) Havana at the time there were more than sixty clubs and cabarets with two or three shows a night. Not counting restaurants and bars where trios, pianists and combos played…
70-71 Havana was a crazy place: it was the liveliest city on the planet.
True there were whores, there were drugs and there was the mafia, but people enjoyed life and nighttime started at six p.m. and went on till dawn. Can you imagine in a single night being able to drink beer, listen to the Anacaonas in the Aires Libres on Prado, eat at nine listening to the music and voice of Bola de Nieve, then in the Saint John and listening to Elena Burke, after going to a cabaret and dancing to Benny More, with Aragon, Casino de la Playa, the Sonora Matancera, then taking a break to swing to the boleros of Olga Guillot, Vicentico Valdex, Nico Membiela… (there is more)
72 Boleros aren’t about reality but a desire for reality you reach via an appearance of reality
76 Cuba experiment: “How long will this state of collective grace last?”
89 The thirties and forties were the heyday of dance halls, social clubs and the first big cabarets with casinos attached, Tropicana, the Sans Souci, the Montmartre, the National, the Parisien, and the little cabarets on the beach – in the fifties it all increased ten-fold: more hotels were opened, all had cabarets, and night clubs became the fashion.
99-100 Jigote de Camaguey: (4 people) a big fat hen, three onions, three peppers, two sprigs of parsley, half a pound of almond, a cup of dry wine and bread
Chop the hen into pieces, put these in a pan with the onions, peppers, parsley, and fry lightly. Pour in water – enough to cover the hen, add salt to tast and cook until soft. Cool, de-bone the hen and mince with a big raw onion and a sprig of parsley. Peel the almonds (soak in water) crush into a paste (horchata) drop into gravy on burner, stir constantly to prevent sticking. Add wine and bring to a boil. Serve with fried bread.
103 imperialist blockades
106 The bolero is from the Caribbean, that’s why it was born in Cuba, and took root in Mexico, Puerto Rico and Colombia.
131-132 Cuban writers?: Lino Novas Calvo and Carlos Montenegro – Labrador Ruiz, Lydia Cabrera and Enrique Serpa Virgilio Pinera(castic worlds)
160 Historical exhaustion
Life was passing us by on all sides – and to protect us they gave us blinders
161 23&L He was pleased to see that even at that late, late hour of the night, the fast-beating heart of the city was still packed with apaced-out youths and adults trawling for illicit offerings.
Dirty Havana Trilogy Pedro Juan Gutierrez
50 In those days, people in the country had more cash. There was nothing to buy.
He spent his life consumed by love and possession (two concepts which, in the tropics, are too frequently confused, resulting in boleros and crimes of passion).
52 But the flesh is weak. At least mine is weak, and sinful. And I suppose it’s the same for everyone when it comes to flesh, but it bothers people to realize it, and so they’ve come up with the concepts of decency and indecency. Except that nobody knows where the boundary is between decent people and indecent ones.
57 Everybody was hungry in Havana in 1994.
66 I can say what I want, since now I’m so old they won’t do anything to me
115 for thirty-five years nothing bad or disturbing has been acceptable news
86 Lottery numbers/symbols 50 Police, 67 a stabbing, 63 assassin, 84 blood, 12 wicked woman
Babel said to Konstantin Paustovsky: I don’t read those testimonies of writers anymore. They do me more harm than good. They made me believe that methods and techniques really did exist. Nothing like that exists. Every writer creates himself as best he can, all by himself, following no one’s advice. And that’s excruciating, but there’s no other way. Nevertheless, what Babel has to say is good.
144 Before his time, four boys were killed in the same spot. I don’t want to think about it. Two others didn’t have the guts to go for it. That’s life. Only a very few survive: the biggest stars and the biggest losers.
160 And then comes the tug-of-war between what you should do, what you can do, and what you want to do, and what you shouldn’t do, can’t do. And don’t want to do.
190 The unrest here is underground. You just have to scratch the surface and it explodes with the ferocity.
224 There is no getting around it. Without faith, no matter where you are, it’s just another hell.
227 Life isn’t long enough to enjoy and understand all at the same time.
231 To learn not to expect anything is an art
241 It’s frightening to understand we’re no better than beasts and that we hate whoever tells us so out loud.
325 On apartments: thousands of people crowded into them like roaches
Cuba The Traveler’s Literary Companian
Xix “If there is anything common to all Cubans it is the fact that we talk a lot,” notes the Cuban writer Rene Vasquez Diaz. We need to have nise, the endless bubbling of words because we have to fill the silence with naything, at any cost…. Silence is the enemy of the Cubans. When we have nothing to say, we sing…. We use language against silence, that is , against death.”
1 shrimp enchilado chicken fricase, codfish bacalao
115 And if it is true that willow, cypresses, olive trees are not common in Cuba, why do they grow in the Island? Beautiful ones, every bit as good-looking as the yagrumas, majaguas, palm trees, and ceibas they grow next to.
The Prophet Luis Aguilar León
205 The Cubans drink happiness and bitterness from one cup. They make music from their tears and laugh to the music. The Cubans take jokes seriously themselves.
206 The Cubans believe in the Catholic God, in Chango, in the lottery and the horoscope at the same time.
They neither shed their illusions nor learn from delusions.
Every one of them carries the spark of genius, and geniuses do not mingle well. Consequently, reuniting Cubans is easy—uniting them impossible.
207 they ask for un favorcito (a little favor), offer a tacita de café, visit por un ratico (a little while), and accept un pedacito (a small bite) of dessert.
Breathe - Leila Segal
81people here live in such a close way it’s impossible to be alone
Cuba and the Night - Pico Iyer
5 This is the only place I know where everything’s moving and nothing ever changes
7 the communist Youth halls with cartoon characters outside, advertising videos and discos; the old women with their heads in their hands, under signs that read: Nobody surrenders here.
16 the only ones who hang out with foreigners are the ones with complaints or agendas. The ones who are happy have no need of us.
17 Fidel, you know, he’s just like this sultry crooner who knows the people are in love—crazily in love—with wild gestures and poetic dreams and love songs. So he just sings them all these pretty melodies that stick in your head like jingles. “Until the Final Victory.” “Ready to Conquer.” “We Will Prevail.”
25 Marti Quote: “Dos patrias tengo yo: Cuba y la noche” I have two Fatherlands. Cuba and the night.
29 that non-stop coffee-and-samba, rum-and-rumba buzz that made the island feel like an African billage dancing to Spanish guitars. There was never any Latin sleepiness in Havana at night
30 Most of all, a rum-husky laugh, and that gravelly cigarette-roughened kind of rasp the Cuban girls have that tells you of all the pleasures that you’re missing.
31 I figured it was like the bars in Bangkok, or teenage discos everywhere: keep the volume high, and everyone has to get real close
41 The great thing about being there was that you could just screen out the rest of the world, forget everything you knew, and take a break from America. The hardest thing about being there was that when you left it, the whole place disappeared from view, and it was almost as if you’d dreamed it. Hundred-percent blackout.
49 special meaning of “before”
59 They deserve one another, like a snake and its poison. Fidel can’t live without an important enemy. The U.S. can’t live without a military threat. It’s a marriage made in heaven.”
Get drunk, said Jose. Make love. Make music. We are like animals here. Sex and rum and sleep are the only things that are not in the ration book.”
61 When love is a commodity, you wonder why anyone’s giving it away for free. Or what the hidden costs might be.
63 “if Marti and Che and Camilo were in power, there would be no problem. No Communism; only equality.”
Do you not think it is strange that all the Heroes of the Revolution are dead? Che & Frank Pais.
Dead men always seemed heroes because there was nothing they could do wrong now.
93 the two most frequent activities in Cuba: sitting and waiting
pinga – verga
112 As usual, there was everywhere the smell of rotting food, as much a part of Centro as the stink of spilled strawberry ice cream was the perfume of Coppelia
113 I figured that Cubans with letters were like a Palestinians with bombs—willing to plant them even on their pregnant girlfriends.
116 Veradero is not Cuba
117 Everywhere walk is the shadow of El Lider. He is everywhere I turn. His face is in the next room, and his eyes are watching through the window, and his voice is on the television in the neighbor’s house, and his words are on the radio, and in Gremma. He is everywhere; there is no room left for me. Except in the shadows.
118 It made me think of a tide, and when it rolled out, it revealed all these glimmering things along the beach, and then it came in again, and all of them disappeared.
Along San Rafael, thumping with music beneathe us, and past the red-lit nightclub in the basement of the National Theater; past the Cine Rex and the Hotel Bristol and the Cinecito. Past the America Libre electronics store, all boarded up now.
120 we followed Calle 23 up, up, up. Toward the Hemingway farm, past the Avenida de los Presidentes, past the Banco de Sangre, past the Cine Charlie Chaplin. You know why they like Charlie Chaplin here? She whispered in my ear. “Because he is like the government. A fool. Small, cute, full of tricks. And always the ending is sad.
129 Great Cuban baseball players: S.i. Linares (El Nino) Victor Mesa, El Loco
209 everywhere I turned, I saw Jose Marti; his statue her, his words on that plaque, his book Imaeliillo number one on the current best-seller list. A hundred years dead and everywhere
216 every revolution comes to resemble the one they overthrew
I find it difficult to recommend this novel to everyone – as a writer, I had some structural issues with it. That being said, I was absolutely dazzed by Pico’s similes, and one-liners. This was the most quotable book of all the books I read by Cuban writers. Rich, visual a guide even being dated from current times.
Dreaming in Cuban – Cristina Garcia
26 Mom says “Communist” the way some people says “cancer,” low and fierce.
28 the Spainards wiped out more Indians with smallpox than with muskets.
60 In New York, the sky gets to much competition
86 The moon glares with a vivid indifference
87 “Mirrors are for misery, nothing more,” his mother says calmly. “They record decay.”
92 Solitude, Celia realizes now, exists for us not to remember but to forget
93 Celia soon grew to love Havana, its crooked streets and the balconies like elegant chariots in the air
99 To survive is an act of hope
149 The santero tosses and retosses the shells, but they foretell only misfortune. He enlists the aid of the sacred ota stone, as well as the shrunken head of a doll, a ball of powdered eggshell, and the eggun, a vertebra from the spine of a goat. But the reading does not change.
He instructs Felicia to perform a rubbing ritual to cleanse herself of negative influenes. This is easily done, he says, by smearing a piece of meat or a soup bone with palm oil, aspersing it with rum, curing it with cigar smoke, then placing it in a paper bag and rubbing herself from head to toe.
“The bag will absorb the evil that clings to you,” the santero says. “Take it to the gates of the cemetery and leave it there. When you have done this, return to me for a final cleansing.”
183/184 He was a babalawo, a high priest of Santeria, and greeted the sun each morning with outstreached arms
(kids of Santeros teased as being bruja
I remember the pattern of rinds fell in ellife, two white sides and two brown, a definite yes.
Felicia stayed on the fringe of life because it was free of everyday malice. It was more dignified there.
There are white people who know how to act politely to blacks, but deep down you know they’re uncomfortable. They’re worse, more dangerous than those who speak their minds, because they don’t know what they’re capable of.
185 For many years in Cuba, nobody spoke of the problem between blacks and whites. It was considered too disagreeable to discuss.
War of 1912: The war that killed my grandfather and great-uncles and thousands of other blacks is only a footnote in our history books.
One thing that hasn’t changed; the men are still in charge. Fixing that is going to take a lot longer than twenty years.
187 On the morning of her initiation, sixteen santeras tore Felicia’s clothes to shreds until she stood naked, then they bathed her in river water, rubbing her with soap wrapped in vegetable fibers until her skin glowed. The women dressed Felicia in a fresh white gown and combed and braided her hair, treating her like a newborn child.
They painted circles and dots on her head and cheeks—white for Obatala, reds and yellows and blues for the other gods
193-94 we can see and understand everything just as well alive as dead, only when we’re alive we don’t have the time, or the peace of mind, or the inclination to see and understand what we could. We’re too busy rushing to our graves.
200 daughter of Chango: “Begin with a bitter bath,” he says, lining u the ingredients on the counter. Bathe with these herbs for nine consecutive nights. Add holy water and a drop of ammonia, then light the candle. On the last day, you will know what to do.”
222 Women who outlive their daughters are orphans, Abuela tells me. Only their granddaughters can save them
233 Until I returned to Cuba, I never realized how many blues exist. The aquamarines near the shoreline, the azures of deeper waters, the eggshell blues beneath her grandmother’s eyes, the fragile indigos tracking her hands. There’s a blue, too, in the curves of the palms, and the edges of the words we speak, a blue tinge to the sand and the seashells and the plump gulls on the beach. The mole by Abuela’s mouth is also blue, a vanishing blue.
Freedom, Abuela tells me, is nothing more than the right to a decent life
235 Art, I’d tell him, is the ultimate revolution.
The Rum Diary – Hunter S Thompson
4 I call them vagrant journalists because no other term would be quite as valid.
5 Like most of the others, I was a seeker, a mover, a malcontent, and at times a stupid hell-raiser.
At the same time, I shared a dark suspicion that the life we were leading was a lost cause, that we were all actors, kidding ourselves along on a senseless idealism on one hand and a sense of impending doom on the other—that kept me going.
46-47 a man can live on his wits and his balls for only so long. I’d been doing it for ten years and I had a feeling that my reserve was running low.
70 It was amusing to see how they handled it, because if they thought about it at all there was only one way out—to praise the ends and ignore the means, a time-honored custom that justifies almost anything except shrinking profits.
80 It was not rhythmic sadness of Mexican music, but the howling emptiness of a sound I have never heard anywhere but in Puerto Rico—a combination of groaning and whining, backed up by a dreary thumping and the sound of voices bogged down in despair.
190 There is something fresh and crisp about the first hours of a Caribbean day, a happy anticipation that something is about to happen, maybe just up the street or around the next corner.
191 Sometimes at dusk, when you were trying to relax and not think about the general stagnation, the Garbage God would gather a handful off those choked-off morning hopes and dangle them somewhere just out of reach; they would hang in the breeze and you never quite got hold of, and never would.
Cuba - Pierre Hausherr & Francois Missen
Fidel Castro is even rumored to be a believer. That may be in part due to an auspicious event that happened during his victory speech on January 8, 1959. While Fidel was addressing the crowd, two doves flew over the podium, and one of them landed on his shoulder. Doves are symbols of Obatalá, the son of God in Santería. Not surprisingly, many people took this as a sign that God wanted Fidel to lead Cuba.
Chevet Achim – oldest synagogue in the Carribean (kind of a hole in the wall) 95% of Jews left with the arrival of Castro
Red Crab migration April – July, not edible, Its red color is caused by the accumulation of tungsten. If ingested, there is a risk that cumulative tungsten will pass into the body and affect the decrease in sperm production, as well as causing diarrhea or renal necrosis.
La Botella, nickname for hitch hiking – The art of the la botella, as they wait for a bus, trying to flag down a ride, whether with a passing taxi or a car owning local who may choose to ask a fee.
Carlos Manuel Cespedes, first Cuban to free his slaves in La Demajagua
Carib Indians, few survived the genocide of the Spainards
Barrio Chino Chinatown
Picasso’s maternal grandfather immigrated to Cuba and stayed
Jose Marti “We are born in a free-country handed down to us by our fathers, and the island will drown in the sea before we allow ourselves to be enslaved by anyone.”
Vedado, home to American Mobsters as well as being known as the bordello to America
Freshwater fish cubera, sierra, tetis
Conejo de techos (rooftop rabbit – cat) lechon de compania (companion suckling pig – dog)
Balseros – “rafters” those taking to the sea in homemade craft trying to make it to Miami
If we saw a line, we would join it in hopes their was some food at its end.
Panecitos – little breads
Fogun – street oven for roasting corn
P179 Cuba cannot be lived by proxy
CDR Committees for the Defense of the Revolution
Hasta siempre – Carlos Puebla of Manzanillo
Homemade rum names: chipetren train spark, salta patras jump back or hueso de tigre tiger bone
Lechon con arroz roast suckling pig with rice
Historic crooners: Beny More, Maduro, Pepe Sanchez, Compay Segundo, Ibrahim Ferrer, Pepin Vaillant
P256 Contemporary singers: Ibrahim Ferrer, Compay Segundo, Eliadas Ochoa, Maduro, Gerbe
Adios Hemingway Leonardo Padura
221 “Literature is one big lie,” concluded Conde
Havana Claudia Lightfoot - Cities of the Imagination
139 Cuban Machismo – nothing could have provided more powerfully masculine icon than the young bearded guerrillas in worn fatigues brandishing rifles – sometimes referred to as Machismo-Leninismo – the new social order targeted homosexuals among the list of undesirable social deviants – which were a threat to the revolution
During the 1960’s homosexuals were among those sent to work camps UMAPs Unidades Militares de Ayuda a la Produccion (Military Units for the Assistance of Production)
140-41 Cubans are by nature truly permissive and tolerant and it goes against the national grain to condemn and persecute people for their preferences.
- 1993 Strawberry and Chocolate – Most commercially successful Cuban film of all time – paraphrase: which went a long way to opening up the debate and tolerance of different sexual orientations
S&C book, short story by Senel Paz: Gay Diego explaining to young homophobic revolutionary David: “It is completely erroneous and offensive to believe that we are traitors and subornable by nature. No, we are as firm and patriotic as anyone. Given the choice between a cock and patriotism, it’s patriotism every time. We deserve a space for our intelligence and our hard work and that space is always denied us. Believe me, the Marxists and Christians will be marching with a stone in their boots until such time as they recognize our place and accept us as allies.”
The Azotea – rooftops of Havana, particularly in Centro
143 These rooftops have a whole life of their own, an azotea subculture, so that it sometimes seems that life in Havana is lived at two levels: street and the roof.
186-87 Titon: Thomas Gutierrez Alea, Cuban Filmaker
Latest “Lista de Espera” the Queue, Waiting Line – as in outside Coppelia cola (line)
People make love, marry, die, fall in and out of friendships, and generally live out whole lives while waiting for the bus
Film Festival December (Fuerza y Gracia ☺
Most popular entertainment in Cuba? The Novela – 9-10 daily Soap TV, imported Latin American Shows
194 Calle 17 the street of sumptuous residences
UNEAC Union de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba – lively café (corner of 17 and H)
199 Jose Marti “to be cultured is the only way to be free.”
201 Casa de las Americas Malecon & Avenida de los Presidentes
Latin America culture – events/concerts
204 It is difficult to avoid hyperbole when talking about Cuban music. Cuba lives, breathes, IS music.
“a love affair between the African drum and the Spanish guitar.” Fernando Ortiz
205 seed filled gourds, two-stick claves charanga, danzon, Filin
222 babalawo Orisha priest
santo – ceremony identifying your birth Orisha – includes animal sacrifice
244 Any woman in Cuba can have her breasts lifted or stomach reduced on demand
245 ISA, Instituto Superior de Arte
Marti (Versos Sencillos):
“I know of a brave artist
Who happily goes out to paint
On the canvas of the wind
And the foam of oblivion.”
251 The former big five in the 50’s and earlier: the Havana Biltmore Yacht Club, the Havana Yacht Club, the Country Club, the Casino and the Vedado Tennis Club
Not all the residents of Miramar left, and you can still meet families rattling around doggedly in their servantless mansions
252 several of the private mansions were turned into student accommodations for the hordes of young people pouring into Havana to be retrained in various disciplines decreed to be useful. A few of the most luxurious were kept for embassies.
253 Cubans were encouraged to be suspicious of foreigners and to treat them with kid gloves. Anything Anglophone was particularly suspect and studying the language of the enemy was frowned on
Cubans of a certain generation knew nothing about the world beyond Cuba other than what they were told and that was selective.
1993 legalization of the dollar
254 “I’ve heard your confession to the sin of belonging to the first world, of not going hungry, of being cultured, of being able to travel, of not being Latin, of having swapped your dreams and idealism for material comfort. And I absolve you because you have done penance and expiated your guilt by blessing us with your hard currency…” Jose Miguel Sanchez
255 “Havana is a gold mine, waiting for someone to pick-up a shovel.” Martin Cruz Smith, Havana Bay
256 The future of Havana depends on the post-Fidel political economy. Nobody is prepared to say with any certainty what that will be, although there are plenty of theories. The monsters of Mammon and tourism are very hard to resist and although the gains and lessons of the revolutionary years are surely too important to be swept away overnight, it is at least possible that this lovely city will come full circle, to become, once again, a playground for foreign visitors.
Exodus 1 1980 100,000 selected, including many inmates of prisons
Exodus 2 1994 following riots, “anyone could leave” for ? days
Cubans who stay in US for a year and a day may stay
Remittance payments from US believed to be second only to tourism in a
source of national revenue, more than sugar
Islands in the Stream Ernest Hemingway
218-225 classic non-described sex situation – see scan
195 He thought that on the ship he could come to some terms with his sorrow. It can be cured by death and it can be blunted or anesthetized by various things. Time is supposed to cure it, too. But if it is cured by anything less than death, the chances are that it was not true sorrow.
241 I drink against poverty, dirt, four-hundred-year-old dust, the nose-snot of children, cracked palm fronds, roofs made from hammered tins, the shuffle of untreated syphilis, sewage in the old beds of brooks, lice on the bare necks, the smell of old women, and the full-blast radio, he thought.
298 It was her. No one else got out of a car that way, practically and easily and beautifully and at the same time as though she were doing the street a great favor when she stepped on it. (Eva Gardner?)
358 A river can be treacherous and cruel and kind and friendly. A stream can be completely friendly and you can trust it all your life if you do not abuse it. But the ocean always has to lie to you before she does it.
365 When the motor misfunctioned, he regarded it as a chess player might admire a brilliant move on the part of his opponent.
369 He thought that he would lie down and think about nothing. Sometimes he could do this. Sometimes he could think about the stars without wondering about them and the ocean without problems and the sunrise without what it would bring.
He had traded in remorse for another horse that he was riding now.
Havana Bay Martin Cruz Smith an inspector Renko book
67 Overhead hung balconies, arabesques of wrought-iron spikes and potted plants, women in housedresses and men stripped to their underwear and cigars, music shifting from window to window. Decay everywhere, heat everywhere, faded colors trying to hold together disintegrating plaster and salt-eaten beams.
127 Karl Marx had hit the beach and all the mother wanted was a cold daiquiri and a good cigar. You know, when the Soviet Union was paying, it was kind of a party here. The problem is, the party is over
130 People say that. People say they’re just coming through Havana, but you’d be surprised how often they stay. Someone comes around the world to a place like this, it’s not pure chance. There’s a reason.
213 You know what Fidel says about capitalists. First, all they want is the tip of your little finger, then the finger, then the hand, then your arm and piece by piece all the rest of you.
Biography of a Runaway Slave Miguel Barnet
War of independence (1895-98) Sinking of the Maine - the night of 15 February 1898 –US enters war, ending it quickly – ending Spain’s rheine in the Carabbean
6 Black men have always really liked red. That color is to blame for putting chains on them and sending them to Cuba.
7 Because I was a runaway slave, I never met my parents. I never ever seen them. But what is true can’t be sad.”
33 They say that when you whistle, you chase away the evil spirits
34 I think that the cimarron (runaway slave) lived better than the guajiro (free black). The cimarron was more free.
36 Being weak comes from town life, because people go crazy over lard, you get fat and sort of dumb. Lard does bad things to the circulation and strangles people.
39 The shadows don’t do harm, though at night you shouldn’t walk on them. I think the shadows of trees are like a man’s spirit. The spirit is the reflection of the soul. You can see that.
48 Money is a very bad thing. A person who gets used to earning a lot of money is ruined.
49 If you ask me, all those bugs were born in Cuba as the Indians’ revenge. Cuban territory is hexed by them. They are getting even for their dead.
98 Thinking tires you out.
Nowadays, there are people who don’t believe the dead reappear, or any of that, because they haven’t seen it.
101 I think the devil is an opportunist
102 The devil reckons different from man. He uses another process. No one gives himself over to wickedness more than him. I don’t know how he is now, but before he used to grease the wheels for everything. He made sure that things got done.
Where there’s a secret, there’s witchcraft
103 A magic charm is a delicate thing. The man who goes to bed with a woman while he’s wearing a charm is making a mistake. His path will certainly be crooked for a long time. Besides, women make your magic weaker. After you do your thing with them, if you want to put on your charm, you have to scrub your hands with ashes to pacify and scare the evil away. If not, the charm itself will rebel against you.
109 When a woman gets into a man’s fancy, there’s no God who can control him
110 To my mind, they deceived people. I know Christ is the son of God, that he came from nature. Tut this thing about his dying is still unclear. The truth is that I’ve seen him many a time, but I didn’t know who it was.
122 But old age is old age, and it’s not given to us for pleasure.
149 The best thing for wartime is not to trust anybody. The same for peacetime, though in war it’s even more necessary. You have to distrust men. That’s not sad, because it’s true. There are good men and scoundrels. The difficulty is knowing the one from the other. I’ve gotten mixed up a number of times in my life.
156 It’s the same with whores and pimps and thieves. You think they’re the worst there is, and it isn’t true. The worst are the hypocrites.
165 Even the littlest kid knew the Americans blew the Maine up themselves to get into the war.
168 The man who trusts too much will drown alone.
Afterward by the author:
172 The advent of the Cuban Revolution brought about a violent subversion of traditional bourgeois values.
173 Aristotle, with clairvoyant judgment, said that poetry can at times be more scientific than history
The Rum Diary – Hunter S Thompson This is a Puerta Rican story that is also insightful to 1950’s Cuba. Still some of Thompson crassness, but more youthful and fun.
Our Man in Havana Graham Greene
– a fun read, dated in 1957 Havana, just before Castro and the revolution took over Cuba. Graham Greene, a former MI6 agent, supposedly had sympathies for the rebel cause, even delivering some warm clothing to them in the mountains while living in Havana.
6 You are interested in a person, not in life, and people die or leave us—But if you are interested in life it never lets you down.
23 In a mad world, it always seems simpler to obey
27 Childhood was the germ of all mistrust. You were cruelly joked upon and then you cruelly joked. You lost the remembrance of pain through inflicting it.
197 Would the world be in the mess it is if we were loyal to love and not to countries?”
211 Perhaps he was a romantic. A romantic is usually afraid, isn’t he, in case reality doesn’t come up to expectations.