News from Havana

I recently returned from three weeks in Cuba, three really interesting weeks. The day after I arrived, December 17th, breaking news was the announced normalization of relations between the USA and Cuba after 54 years of rancour and isolation. I felt I was present at an historic moment.

The reaction in Cuba ranged from quiet elation, to dancing in the streets. One man told me the hair on his arms was standing on end hours after the announcment. On the other hand, people concerned about Cuba being overwhelmed by the giant to the north said they were very glad that the isolation would end, and hopefully some day soon the long-standing embargo against Cuba–the infamous trading with the enemy legislation–would end too. They said Cuba would have to be strong in order not to lose the things the Revolution was fought for–equality, universal and gratis education, free health care, free day-care centres and much more. Watching what will happen in Cuba now will be fascinating.

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Literary Event in Havana Cuba December 22, 2014

Cuba’s first all English-language bookstore, Cuba Libro, advertises itself as a bookstore, cafe and oasis. According to my friends in Havana, it has become a must go to destination while vacationing in Cuba. On December 22nd, 2014 a special event will take place celebrating the anniversary of the 1961 Cuban literacy campaign. A screening of the documentary film MAESTRA (meaning “teacher”) about the campaign is the signature event, and as the author of Anita’s Revolution, a book about the campaign, I have been invited to participate. If you will be near or in Havana that day, don’t miss attending. The address in Havana is:
Calle 24, corner of 19th Street, Vedado, Plaza.
Telephone: 830-5205
email: cubalibrohavana@gmail.com

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Women and Cuba

This organization works to bring justice to Cuba, including pressuring the US government to end the 53-year-old economic blockade. They very kindly have posted information about Anita’s Revolution on their website as an available resource.

http://womenandcuba.org/print.htm

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Anita’s Revolution made the grade!

What an honour and thrill! The UK and USA Historical Novels Society selected Anita’s Revolution for review in their online Journal. To read the review, use the url below to access the website.

http://historicalnovelsociety.org/reviews/?type=indie

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Feeding Cubans

In the years that followed the Cuban revolution, many people left the land to live, work, and further educate themselves in towns and cities. The new Revolutionary government often facilitated this exodus, building large apartment developments to provide opportunities for former “campesinos”, agricultural workers. Food was cultivated by workers hired to labour on state-owned cooperatives. Food shortages required the government to issue citizens a ration card, the “libreta”, to ensure that everyone was fed as fairly as national food production permitted.

Cubans watched food being exported for foreign currency in order to import goods not available otherwise. People who have dollars can purchase food (and other goods) in stores which accept foreign currency only. And while some foodstuffs are available outside the libreta, today, 53 years later, the ration card is still required and in use. The problem? In a recent speech to the people, Raul Castro said that the government is the largest landholder in Cuba, yet most of that land is not under cultivation.

Educating Cuba’s illiterate and disenfranchised people was a great and noble thing. However, a great irony has resulted from the emphasis on education that resulted in people leaving the land to establish life in urban settings. As the old vaudeville song asks, “How’re you gonna keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen Broadway–or Havana?

The solution is not simple. Government planning and priorities have obviously been faulty. Agriculture, agronomy, is a science. Knowledgeable farmers are now scarce. People are not motivated to undertake hard work on the land under the tropical sun when the fruits of their labour are for the state, not themselves.

Cuba is being praised for undertaking organic farming production, a by-product of the ongoing US trade embargo and little money to purchase expensive chemical fertilizers and pesticides. What will Cuba do with its currently uncultivated land? Watching how Cuba solves the basic problem of feeding its twelve million people from its own fertile soil and ending rationing will be fascinating indeed.

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