Tag Archives: Cuba

Radikal Readings: Remembering Che

Almost 50 years after his death, Ernesto “Che” Guevara is still one of the most controversial figures in politics and popular culture. I can attest to this as someone I was on my recent trip to Cuba displayed disgust and hatred for him, while others expressed admiration. I’ve read a few of Guevara’s books in the past, so when I saw this one in Cuba by his wife Aleida March, I had to pick it up.

This book is touted as being a personal look at the man behind the legend. Aleida shares details of their personal life together. Moments of humor, intimacy, and the depth of their love for one another and their four children. It was a touching look at the man that Aleida loved so passionately, along with the revolutionary figure that is so well known around the world. It’s also full of personal photos – the cover being my favorite of them all.

It’s not without it’s faults as she clearly, with good reason I’m sure, holds back much of their personal anecdotes. What I truly wish was that the reader would get a chance to know more about Aleida herself and all the sacrifices she made as a woman to help her husband focus on his goals.

50 years later, Che’s image is still plastered all throughout Cuba and he continues to be a symbol of revolution. Remembering Che: My Life with Che Guevara, was a nice read to try and understand the man behind the symbol.

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Photo by: Radhika Jit/California

Radikal Travels: Cuba

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I’ve been to Cuba‬. Hard to wrap my mind around it. If you’ve read this blog before, you know that I’ve read so much about the history, culture and people of a place so misunderstood to the U.S. So to actually experience it was surreal. Cuba is not “stuck in time.” It and it’s people are ever-evolving; adapting to their circumstances. The art, music, culture and warmth of the people of Cuba are unmatched. It is not an untouched “utopia.” It’s complicated as hell and challenges everything you may have thought you believed or didn’t. Any photos I post here pale in comparison to that magical place, but I thought I would share a slice of what I was able to capture. I hope to return someday to this island that is constantly changing and will no doubt continue to – although I just hope and pray that tourism doesn’t completely obliterate it.

Click for more photos!

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Radikal Readings: The Other Side of Paradise

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Cuba – the very name draws up a whole host of thoughts as a country shrouded by mystery for Americans. To say that I am engrossed with all things Cuba is an understatement. I can’t seem to get enough – whether in form of documentaries, films, articles, or most of all books. So when Julia Cooke’s The Other Side of Paradise: Life in Cuba came across my radar, I just had to pick it up.

I had my reservations going into it – a young white woman telling the story of Cubans from her privileged viewpoint. However, what I enjoyed was the parts where she let the Cuban people she covered speak to their own stories. Sure there are parts where she inserted herself and gave her personal viewpoints but the parts that shine are the stories of real people and real lives in Cuba – and that is what I think Julia Cooke intended.

With United States opening relations with Cuba the fascination with the mysterious island is growing yet, so many are focusing on the island as a whole and not the actual people who’s lives will be forever changed. This book is a nice reminder of that.

There is some Sunday in every Wednesday in Havana, and there’s also a blending of tomorrow and yesterday in today. Havana is a place where everyday existence is so rooted in the present moment, yet thought exists primarily in past or future tenses. Paradise is Cuba’s goal and its context: what the island could be if only; what it once was. But there is no other side of paradise, no way to live in the nostalgic gloss of the past or to start construction of a life on the other side of the limitations of today. Predicting what will happen in Cuba in the next decade is an exercise in humility, because I assume that words on paper will be proven wrong. And so the revision, the recursive exercise that is involvement in Cuba continues.

Radikal Readings: A Corner of the World

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I’ve read my share of political works on Cuba and the revolution, however, not as much on day-to-day life in contemporary Havana. So when I came across Mylene Fernandez-Pintado’s A Corner of the World, while wandering the City Lights bookstore after work one evening, I was immediately intrigued.

The short novel deals with the question “Do I stay or do I go?” It’s centered around Spanish literature professor Marian and her her relationship with a young first-time novelist, Daniel, who’s ambitions reach beyond the island Marian is resolved to stay on.

What I enjoyed the most about this novel is that there isn’t cataclysmic events or a huge climax – rather it’s a beautifully written and realistic portrayal of life. It’s filled with the very real emotions of  complacency, melancholy, hope, love and lust. The struggle of finding and losing love plays nicely into the way Pintado deals with the struggles the main characters have with their love/hate relationship of their home country. It’s also a glimpse into a life in Havana that we don’t see very often.

A short and interesting read.

Radikal Readings: Dancing with Cuba

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I’ve read a number of books on the Cuban revolution, but never one like this. Dancing with Cuba is a memoir by journalist Alma Guillermoprieto about the six months she spent teaching dance in Havana in 1970. I’ve read Guillermoprieto’s journalistic work and remembered her memoir was sitting on my bookshelf soon after the United States’ change in diplomatic relations with Cuba.

If you’re looking for a book about the revolution specifically, this isn’t it, however, her introspective views on Cuban life and the revolution are very interesting. This is a memoir through-and-through with self pity and the trials of a 21 year old woman on display. It is brutally honest and Guillermoprieto’s courage to write the things that others wouldn’t is admirable. There were some bits that as a non-trained dancer were a bit hard to follow, but they are few.

Guillermoprieto is a wonderful writer and gives a glimpse into the lives of artists in a country that was swept up in politics and ideologies.

Radikal Readings: Assata: An Autobiography

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As President Obama announced a major change in U.S.-Cuba relations for the first time in 50 years, one of the first people that came to my mind was Assata Shakur. I finished her autobiography earlier this week and although I’ve already began reading something else (ironically about Cuba), it’s impact still hasn’t left me.

I don’t know why I still hadn’t read Assata: An Autobiography all these years after first reading about her. However, with the social and political protests happening all across the country, it was natural to finally pick this up, and I am so glad I did. Assata is is candid, intelligent, humorous, and the amount of strength she has is awe-inspiring.

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Radikal Readings: Looking for History: Dispatches from Latin America

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This is another case of picking up a book found on a whim at my local bookstore. Latin America’s political history (and present) is fascinating. As many describe it, living in Latin America, politics is always at the surface. The book is a collection of journalistic pieces which touch on figures like Fidel Castro, Eva Peron, and Che Guevara, but the bulk of the chapters are focused on Mexico’s Zapatistas and the PRI, the Colombian narco-terrorists, and more. Nations covered include Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Argentina, and Cuba.

Many of these essays first appeared in the New Yorker, but years later are still captivating reads if you are interested in the history and politics of Latin America. Guillermoprieto is fair and balanced, delivering unromantic versions of figures and events. A very insightful read that is a good primer for Latin America’s political history.