Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The US Review of Books
Cuba's Primer, Castro's Earring Economy
by Gonzalo Fernández
Reviewed by Deborah Straw

"Cuba has an 'earring mentality' which is found in people that never worked for a living. An earring goes places only because it 'hangs on' to someone's ear lobe… Castro was supported by his father… After his graduation [law school at the University of Havana] … his father continued to support him."

Many Americans look at Cuba romantically: sultry nights; lovely music, beaches, and women; spicy food; beautiful, crumbling architecture; vintage American cars with fins. In books like Cuba and the Night (Pico Iyer) or In Cuba I was a German Shepherd (Ana Menendez), the writers wax eloquently about the people and the culture. In the late 50s and early 60s, many of us even thought of Fidel Castro as heroic when he overthrew a corrupt dictator, Batista. He seemed progressive, fair, and charismatic in his fatigues and big beard. We heard about quality education, total literacy, national health care, and the wonderful climate, except for hurricanes.

Gonzalo Fernández is in the other camp, the camp of exiles who fled Cuba after Castro took power, many to reestablish themselves in southern Florida. Like his contemporaries, he sees the Castro brothers as almost evil. He believes they have destroyed his beloved country. This primer, mostly about the rise and continued presence of the Castros, is not at all romantic.

Fernández and his family left Cuba in 1966, and they have since lived in the U.S., Spain, and elsewhere. They became disenchanted with. Castro in 1960. The author writes that at the beginning of Castros regime, "My wife and I, and probably around 80% of the Cuban people, were supportive of Castro and his promises of a new democratic Cuba," but through Fernández' account, the reader learns how Castro ruined it for many. Fernández' historic research seems impeccable, sixty years of Cuban politics and life, a picture of a country with a complex image and history.

Fernández, a businessman and a writer, has long been involved in worldwide activities in support of a free Cuba and has a Facebook group, Support for Cuban Political Prisoners. "There is little hope for freedom and for a better life for the Cuban people in [sic.] the Island."