Ordinary Lives in Ordinary Times
Thursday, May 28, 7pm
Modern Cuba comes alive in a vibrant portrait of a group of families's varied journeys in one community over the last twenty years.
Cubans today, most of whom have lived their entire lives under the Castro regime, are hesitantly embracing the future. In his new book, Anthony DePalma, a veteran reporter with years of experience in Cuba, focuses on a neighborhood across the harbor from Old Havana to dramatize the optimism as well as the enormous challenges that Cubans face: a moving snapshot of Cuba with all its contradictions as the new regime opens the gate to the capitalism that Fidel railed against for so long. In Guanabacoa, longtime residents prove enterprising in the extreme. Scrounging materials in the black market, Cary Luisa Limonta Ewen has started her own small manufacturing business, a surprising turn for a former ranking member of the Communist Party. Her good friend Lili, a loyal Communist, heads the neighborhood's watchdog revolutionary committee. Artist Arturo Montoto, who had long lived and worked in Mexico, moved back to Cuba when he saw improving conditions but complains like any artist about recognition. In stark contrast, Jorge García lives in Miami and continues to seek justice for the sinking of a tugboat full of refugees, a tragedy that claimed the lives of his son, grandson, and twelve other family members, a massacre for which the government denies any role. In The Cubans, many patriots face one new question: is their loyalty to the revolution, or to their country? As people try to navigate their new reality, Cuba has become an improvised country, an old machine kept running with equal measures of ingenuity and desperation. A new kind of revolutionary spirit thrives beneath the conformity of a half century of totalitarian rule. And over all of this looms the United States, with its unpredictable policies, which warmed towards its neighbor under one administration but whose policies have now taken on a chill reminiscent of the Cold War.
Anthony DePalma is the author of The Cubans, The Man Who Invented Fidel and Here: A Biography of the New American Continent. He was a foreign correspondent for The New York Times focusing on Latin America for twenty-two years, and continues to write for the newspaper as well as other publications.
“For all that’s been written about revolutionary Cuba, I know of no book that more vividly describes the interior of the contemporary Cuban experience. The ordinary people who share their struggles with Anthony DePalma have seen the ‘bright promise’ of revolution give way to the ‘dingy hardship’ of real life. DePalma strips the Cuba story of its shabby ideological pretensions, but beneath the surface finds Cubans who still care for each other and whose resilience defines a patriotism all its own.”
—Tom Gjelten, author of Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba
“Finally, a book not about Fidel, Raúl, or Ché Guevara, but about Cary, Pipo, Oscar, and other ordinary Cubans who tell not the history we have been fed for years but the real, remarkable, and complicated stories of people living with what Anthony DePalma aptly describes as the ‘interminable revolution.’ DePalma has surely become the best chronicler of Cuba today.”
—Mirta Ojito, author of Finding Mañana: A Memoir of a Cuban Exodus
“Amid all the overnight experts on Cuba who rarely venture beyond Havana, Anthony DePalma stands apart, offering a profound and eloquent book that is destined to become a classic. With his astute journalist’s eye and an open heart, DePalma earned the trust of cubanas and cubanos as few outsiders have. An essential testimony as Cuba moves into an uncertain future.”
—Ruth Behar, author of An Island Called Home: Returning to Jewish Cuba