[ HLAS Online Home Page | Search HLAS Online | Help | FAQ | Comments ]
ONCE A BOOMING ACADEMIC FIELD characterized by ideological polemics that settled few controversies, or serious studies of various aspects of Cuba's society, government or economy, the relatively few texts under review here make one somewhat nostalgic for the dynamism of only a few years ago. Still, one work that stands out is Angel Esteban and Stéphanie Panichelli's Gabo y Fidel, el paisaje de una amistad (item #bi2006003956#), a marvelous account of the friendship between a great writer and Cuba's sempiternal caudillo. The book covers not only the admiration and fascination that Gabriel García Márquez feels for Castro, but also explains that this is why García Márquez seldom speaks critically of Castro or the revolution. It's a moral dilemma that is discussed in this highly recommended book, which also answers some of the recurring questions related to the role of critical intellectuals and the powers to which they succumb. Esteban and Panichelli hold that both Castro and García Márquez enjoy the seduction and manipulation that, at the end of the day, serves their respective emotional and political interests well.
In another well-written account of why Cuba's failure to develop democratic institutions is
rooted in a failure to learn from its past, Carlos Alberto Montaner's
Cuba: un siglo de doloroso aprendizaje (item #bi2006003951#) includes
several essays that start with the American occupation following the Spanish-American War and
end with reflections on the burial of Fidel Castro. Montaner maintains that the Spanish transition
to democracy following the death of Francisco Franco offers lessons that Cubans need to
understand and apply once Fidel Castro dies. At some point, that argument will be tested and one
is not at all sure that Montaner's thesis will be vindicated.
The 11th edition of Irving L. Horowitz and Jaime Suchlicki's Cuban Communism (item #bi2006003961#) provides a wealth of information and impressive analysis on contemporary issues such as the role that the military will play in either a succession crisis or a transition to democracy, matters of social development, the disaffection of younger Cubans with the status quo, and the performance of the economy in the 21st century. This edition is an indispensable source of data for anyone interested in Cuban studies and several essays take a necessary comparative perspective between the Cuban case and those of former communist countries.
A welcome addition to the literature on contemporary Cuba comes from the reporting of independent journalists inside the country such as Otra grieta en la pared (item #bi2006003975#) by Fernando Ruíz, with a prologue by Robert Cox. Cox is an Argentine journalist who condemned the repression and censorship of the military juntas that ruled Argentina in the 1970s, and his advice is well taken: "It is at this moment, in 2003, when there are plenty of lies, when it's difficult to know where and who has the truth, that this book deserves to be read. It's a sincere document written by a journalist that has always sought out the truth, without ideological blindness, revealing the truth as he saw it." The perspectives found in this book offer a stunning and quite divergent view of "the reality on the ground" offered via the official media. Indeed, the high levels of repression to which independent voices are subjected deserve the moral condemnation of all those that value academic and press freedoms.
On the other side of the political divide, Darío Machado's ¿Es posible construir el socialismo en Cuba? (item #bi2006003960#) offers a trite explanation of why it is indeed possible to build socialism in Cuba. Machado aims to "scrutinize several aspects of the building of socialism in contemporary society, especially those central to the continuation of the socialist project." Much of the book delves into the balance between social property and, presumably, market-based solutions that would improve the economic situation, but the author fails to seriously discuss the political decisions that inhibit Cuba's economic recovery.