Reading about Cuba – the book list starts here!
I’ve been trying to catch up on my reading in an effort to understanding this complicated country in more detail. Over the next few blog posts, I’ll be reviewing some of the books I have been exploring. I’m sure there are hundreds of brilliant books about Cuba out there, and I’d love more recommendations! Please let me know in the comments or drop us an email at email@example.com.
First book on the list:
Cuba: A New History
By Richard Gott
This is a meticulously researched, chronological history of the island, beginning before the 1511 conquest of the island right up to the point at which the account was published in 2004. Gott’s style is very readable and his personal perspective and links to island add to the legitimacy of his interpretation of how and why Cuba developed in the way it did. His credentials are very convincing, given his presence in Havana in 1963, which allow him to describe an encounter with Che Guevara, whom he describes as ‘having the unmistakable aura of a rock star. People stopped whatever they were doing, and just stared at the Revolution made flesh’.
What I loved about this account was the attention to what Gott refers to as the ‘Indian’ population of the island, and his consideration of what may have happened to these indigenous people following the colonisation of the island and mass immigration over the centuries. Another interesting perspective (and not one about which you hear very much here) is the part that racial tension had to play in the formation of society throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. What’s also fascinating is the way that Cuba has played a starring role in plenty of world conflicts, even before the drama of the late twentieth century got started. I couldn’t believe that both Francis Drake (almost) and Winston Churchill visited Cuba in their time!
There’s a huge amount of detail in this book – names, dates, places, statistics – which could be overwhelming, however Gott’s writing style rescues this from being a dry, historical text and turns it into an engaging narrative of a troubled country. He captures the nature of the personalities involved very effectively – to the point where some of the billboard faces, statues and murals I see every day walking around Havana have taken on a new significance. I would recommend it very highly if you are interested in gaining an in-depth understanding of the political and social history of the country, and its place in the wider world.
Next on the reading list:
Slow Train To Guantánamo: a Rail Odyssey though Cuba in the Last Days of the Castros
By Peter Millar