It’s funny, I was making a list of my favorite books of 2018 the other day and felt a little out of sorts as it ended up being a list of 21 books, and I have a thing about odd numbers. It was for a reason though, I was subconsciously leaving one last place for This Is Cuba... I loved this book, for many reasons which I will obviously list below.
First of all I have been fascinated with Cuba since I can remember. I was meant to travel there in 2014, well I had made a plan to on my way home from Jamaica in 2013, but pregnancy and subsequent birth of first child thwarted any further travel plans for a while. Anyway, I loved how David Ariosto literally takes you back to Cuba with him, and leads you through the discovery of a country that most of us know even less than we think we do. I imagined myself right there, in his shoes, walking through the streets, searching for food in the shops, learning the ropes as an American in a country that has long been (rightfully) wary of the US. It kind of brought me back to my visit behind the Iron Curtain in the late 80’s, I could sense that feeling of displacement David Ariosto must have felt. And also that feeling of “well this is not really what I expected”.
Another aspect of the book that I loved was how well the author weaves personal experience and facts (historical and current) together. The narrative flowed seamlessly for me, and I enjoyed how David Ariosto skipped back and forth between personal interactions and experiences and information on Cuba, past, present and future. It was a learning experience, and an interesting one at that. This Is Cuba bridges gaps between the travelogue, the memoir, and the journalistic and historical overview of a country.
I also loved reading about the author’s experiences in Haiti and Venezuela. Maybe “loved” isn’t the right word... I appreciated his viewpoint as a journalist and as a human, and how difficult it must have been for him to report on Haiti after the terrible earthquake in 2010, and also after watching students clash violently with authorities in Venezuela right in front of his eyes. I also appreciated the information that he relays to us in these chapters, information that typically isn’t relayed on your regular news channel.
I’m still slightly obsessed with Cuba, and I still want to go and explore the island. This Is Cuba renewed my appetite for the country, and reminded me why I always wanted to go there in the first place. It’s such a great book and I highly recommend it! 4.5 stars