Havana, For Real
July 7, 2011 by Miriam Zoila Pérez
As a lefty progressive and a child of Cuban exiles, I've always been privy to two dominant narratives about Cuba. From family members who were forced to leave for political and economic reasons after Fidel Castro's rise to power, I have heard the very typical anti-Castro perspective of Cubans in the U.S. My family mythology was shaped by exile and loss; by the livelihood that was left behind and then torn from our fingers forever by the Cuban Revolution.
The other narrative I've encountered about Cuba has been a stark contrast to my family's personal disdain for the revolution, steeped in the palpable losses they endured. From the lefty, radical activists I associate with, I hear instead what feels like a knee-jerk and cursory support for the Cuban Revolution, sometimes simply as a way of denouncing American capitalism. That perspective always felt alienating to me, based on idolization of Che Guevara and alternative politics rather than reality.
What Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez's just-published Havana Real: One Woman Fights to Tell the Truth About Cuba Today provides is, finally, a third narrative. It's the only one I have come across in recent memory that is grounded in what is actually happening in Cuba today. Thanks to online technology, proxy web hosts and sheer perseverance, political bloggers such as Sánchez have thwarted the great Cuban censorship machine that tightly controls information leaving the island. Through her blog, her Twitter feed and now this book-length compilation of her posts (published by Melville House), Sánchez is finally able to communicate what it is actually like to live in Cuba today–something none of my family members and few of the radical left in this country truly understand.
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