Reading list inspiration for travel
Books & eBooks
- Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a CauseView on Amazon The author fuses the story of the Bacardi family and their famous rum business with Cuba's tumultuous experience over the last 150 years. By Tom Gjelten.
- Before Night Falls: A MemoirView on Amazon In this modern classic, the author recounts his personal journey: his poverty-stricken childhood in rural Cuba, his adolescence as a rebel fighting for Castro, his suppression as a writer and as a homosexual, his flight from Cuba and his subsequent life in New York. By Reinaldo Arenas; translated by Dolores M Koch.
- Cecilia Valdés or El Angel HillView on Amazon Set in 1830s Havana and originally published in New York City in 1882, the complex, multi-layered story of slavery and colonialism in pre-Revolution Cuba. By Cirilo Villaverde; translated by Helen Lane.
- Che Guevara: A Revolutionary LifeView on Amazon The New Yorker journalist offers the definitive account of Che’s life: from his comfortable Argentine upbringing to the battlefields of the Cuban revolution, from the halls of power in Castro’s government to his failed campaign in the Congo and assassination in the Bolivian jungle. By Jon Lee Anderson.
- Cuba and the Night: A NovelView on Amazon The well-regarded travel writer tells the story of a romance in Castro's Cuba. By Pico Iyer.
- Cuban Cocktails: 100 Classic and Modern DrinksView on Amazon From the renowned NYC Cuban rum bar Cienfuegos comes this spirited collection of 100 recipes that celebrate Cuba’s rich history and culture. By Ravi DeRossi, Jane Danger and Alla Lapushchik.
- Cuban Counterpoint: Tobacco and SugarView on Amazon First published in 1940, the author's examination of the impact of sugar and tobacco — the island's two major economic products — on Cuban society is unquestionably the cornerstone of Cuban studies and a key source for work on Caribbean culture generally. By Fernando Ortiz; translated by Harriet de Onís.
- Dancing with Cuba: A Memoir of the RevolutionView on Amazon The award-winning Mexican-born journalist tells her personal story of moving to Cuba to teach dance in Havana in 1970, resurrecting a time when dancers and revolutionaries seemed to occupy the same historical stage. By Alma Guillermoprieto.
- Fidel Castro: My LifeView on Amazon The story according to Fidel, drawn from more than one hundred hours of interviews. By Ignacio Ramonet and Fidel Castro.
- Havana NocturneView on Amazon How the Mob owned Cuba — the greatest hope for the future of American organized crime in the post-Prohibition years — and then lost it to Castro's revolution. By TJ English.
- Havana: History and Architecture of a Romantic CityView on Amazon Discussions of each phase of the city's development are accompanied by detailed case studies of the period's most significant buildings, which include the architectural history and heritage of each structure as well as comprehensive new and archival documentation. By Maria Luisa Lobo Montalvo; translated by Lorna S Fox.
- José Martí: Selected WritingsView on Amazon A life-spanning collection of writings by José Martí (1853-1895), the most renowned political and literary figure in the history of Cuba, a catalyzing symbol in the country's bid for independence from Spain in the 19th century. By José Martí.
- Our Man in HavanaView on Amazon First published in 1959, an "entertaining" read (as Greene would call it) that satirizes British espionage in pre-Castro Batista Cuba. By Graham Greene.
- Take Me with YouView on Amazon The American-born Cuban author visits the country for the first time to rekindle a relationship with his family. By Carlos Frias.
- Telex from Cuba: A NovelView on Amazon Tells the story of the Americans who were driven out in 1958 with Castro's revolution. By Rachel Kushner.
- The Sugar Barons: Family, Corruption, Empire, and War in the West IndiesView on Amazon For some two hundred years after 1650, the West Indies were the strategic center of trade in sugar — a commodity so lucrative it became known as "white gold." The author chronicles how the wealth of her island colonies became the foundation and focus of England's commercial and imperial greatness, supported by the cruelty, corruption and decadence of plantation culture. By Matthew Parker.
- Three Trapped TigersView on Amazon Centering on the recollections of a man separated from both his country and his youth, Cabrera Infante creates an enchanting vision of life and the many colorful characters found in steamy Havana's pre-Castro cabaret society. By Guillermo Cabrera Infante; translated by Suzanne Jill Levine.
- Waiting for Snow In Havana: Confessions of a Cuban BoyView on Amazon The author — flown out of the country soon after Castro's assumption of power — recounts stories from his boyhood in 1950s Havana. By Carlos Eire.
Articles & Academic Papers
- “Ana Montes Did Much Harm Spying For Cuba”View on WashingtonPost.com The story of a US Intelligence officer who spied for Cuba for over 17 years. By Jim Popkin.
- “Art Deco: A Meeting in Havana”View on habanadeco.com A collection of articles that highlight the abundant Art Deco treasures in the country's capital.
- “Castro’s Last Battle”View on NewYorker.com Can the revolution outlive its leader? By Jon Lee Anderson.
- “Cinefilia en Habana”View on guernicamag.com Julia Cooke interviews Fernando Pérez: How one Cuban filmmaker bucks the revolution and reimagines Utopia.
- “Conversations with Eusebio Leal Spengler”View on huffingtonpost.com A telling interview with the City Historian of Havana, well known for his work in preserving the historic character of the Cuban capital. By Salim Lamrani.
- “Cuba’s Green Revolution: How Las Terrazas has flourished”View on independent.co.uk Twenty years ago, a pioneering environmental project to protect Cuba’s natural assets was opened up to tourism. Meet the lucky locals who call it home. By Claire Boobbyer.
- “Cuba’s internet is f*cking insane. And the ways Cubans use it are genius.”View on thrillist.com As an American visiting Havana, the blank Wi-Fi/data signal in the top left-hand corner of my phone’s screen became as central to my impression of the city as the antiquated “Yank Tanks” prowling the streets, or the thick, sweet smell of Montecristos hanging in the air. By Wil Fulton.
- “Cuba’s Next Revolution: Real Estate”View on worldpropertyjournal.com In Cuba, 220 miles south of Miami, real estate is considered hotter than any other commodity on the world market today. That's because Raul Castro, President since 2006, has become an ardent pro-business advocate in a Communist country. By Alex Finkelstein.
- “Cuban Baseball Agents: Risks and Lies”View on MiamiNewTimes.com How Cuba's best talent makes it to the Major League. By Gus Garcia-Roberts.
- “Cuban carriage drivers try a worker-managed cooperative”View on miamiherald.com We meet a horse carriage driver who transports visitors around Old Havana. He tells us about a day on the job. By Mimi Whitefield.
- “Dividing the Pie: Cuba’s Ration System after 50 years”View on telesurtv.net Raul Castro is trying to find a middle way, stimulating the economy while preserving revolutionary gains like free healthcare and education. By Medea Benjamin.
- “Down in Havana, Searching for the Ghost of Hemingway”View on esquire.com Of all the dead white male writers, Ernest Hemingway is the deadest and the whitest and the malest, vanquished as an icon and relegated to the losing side of so many histories. He is an embarrassing cliché. Even here in his home, La Finca Vigía, he is a monstrous joke. By Stephen Marche.
- “For Cuban Home Cooks, Ingenuity and Luck Are Key Ingredients”View on NYTimes.com Even as the island’s fortunes rise, finding the makings of a good dinner is still a complicated pursuit.
- “Hanging Out with the Godmother of the Cuban Punk Rock Scene”View on vice.com I was standing on the steps of Maxim, Havana's only music venue dedicated solely to rock, as I scanned the faces of the crowd in search of someone named Maria. By Daniel Oberhaus.
- “Havana’s Hotspots”View on theverge.com Cuba is coming online, but who will control its internet? By Jonathan M Katz.
- “Hemingway’s Cuba, Cuba’s Hemingway”View on smithsonianmag.com His last personal secretary returns to Havana and discovers that the novelist's mythic presence looms larger than ever. By Valerie Hemingway.
- “History Will Absolve Me”View on marxists.org Read the famous four-hour speech delivered by Fidel Castro on 16 October 1953, defending his failed attack on the Moncada Barracks and protesting against the Batista regime.
- “In Pursuit of the the Wild Cohiba”View on believermag.com Cuba's most famous cigar. By Ginger Strand and James Wallenstein.
- “Karst of Western Cuba: Observations, Geomorphology & Diagenesis”View on geraceresearchcentre.com A scholarly review of the island's complex geology. By Don Seale, Limaris Soto, Lee Florea and Beth Fratesi.
- “Lacking Internet, Cubans Rely on ‘The Package’ For Entertainment”Listen on npr.org The so-called weekly "package" (paquete) allows Cubans to watch every current TV show and series available to the world at a fraction of the cost and without government censors.
- “Notes on Roystonea in Cuba”View on palms.org A look at the country's Roystonea (a type of palm tree), including the Roystonea regia (Royal Palm), the national tree of Cuba. By Scott Zona.
- “Opening For Business”View on NewYorker.com A former Marielito positions himself as an entrepreneur in the new Cuba. By Jon Lee Anderson.
- “Private Eyes”View on NewYorker.com A crime novelist navigates Cuba's shifting reality. By Jon Lee Anderson.
- “Revelry and Revolution”View on ucpress.edu The author describes the musical life of the 1950s, examining the political climate of the late Batista era, along with its social problems and cultural expression. By Robin Moore.
- “Some memories of the most controversial Cuban films”View on scielo.br An exploration of several films — made following the creation of the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) — that seek to explain the complex processes of transformation that brought together the country, its internal problems and its cardinal contradictions. By Joel del Rio.
- “Surfing the Embargo”View on RoadsandKingdoms.com Bringing surfing to Cuba. By Alexa Van Sickle.
- “Tania Bruguera on her art, her detentions and what happens next”View on LATimes.com A Q&A with Cuban artist Tania Bruguera on her arrests after trying to stage a performance about free speech in Havana's Revolution Square. By Carolina A Miranda.
- “The Absolute Best Bars in Havana”View on thrillist.com Since going out with the express purpose of consuming alcoholic beverages is basically a foreign concept to Cubans, "bars," such as these 11, are either small clubs with live music or tapas bars where you can talk. Either way, when 11:30pm hits, everyone will be dancing. By Carrie Dennis.
- “The Cuban Baseball Crisis”View on economist.com The downside of warming relations with America.
- “The Untold Story of the U.S. and Cuba’s Middleman”View on ForeignPolicy.com New documents show how hard Switzerland worked to keep the Cold War from turning hot. By John Hudson.
- “When the Saints Go Riding In: Santeria in Cuba and the United States”View on latinamericanstudies.org A scholarly study of the religion that developed in Cuba from the 16th-19th centuries — as a syncretism of African religions, Roman Catholicism and French spiritism — and continues today. By Harry G Lefever.
- “Why Cuban cigars are still the world’s finest”View on maxim.com These superior smokes are what stogie-smoking dreams are made of. By Clay Whittaker.
- “Why the iconic Virgin of Charity means so much to Cubans and Pope Francis”View on Washingtonpost.com Cubans ascribe to her countless miracles, but perhaps the most extraordinary is how this little lost-and-found statue enshrined on a picturesque hill beside an abandoned copper mine has shown a way to unite believers and nonbelievers, Cubans on the island and Cubans in exile, Christians and followers of Santeria, capitalists and socialists, popes and paupers. By David Montgomery.
- “Wifredo Lam: Mix-Master, Modern Artist”View on moma.org The museum's curator explains the well-regarded Cuban artist's most famous painting, The Jungle.
If you won’t have ready access to wifi during your travels, consider saving these articles for offline reading using the Instapaper app.
Online Sources & Blogs
- Biennial FoundationVisit biennialfoundation.org Excellent information on the Havana Biennial, the country's biggest art event.
- Cuban Photograph CollectionsView on miami.edu The University of Miami’s collections include over 5,000 photographs which span a wide range of historical topics related to Cuba and the Cuban Diaspora.
- Deena Stryker Photographs | 1963-64View on duke.edu A collection of 1800 photographs from journalist Deena Stryker's trips to Cuba in 1963 and 1964, during which she interviewed and photographed Fidel and Raúl Castro as well as other major figures in the Cuban Revolution.
- Havana Cultura’s Music ReviewVisit havana-cultura.com Up-to-date information on the Havana music scene.
- Trade in CubaVisit atlas.media.mit.edu Excellent, highly-graphical summary of the country's exports and imports.
- World Bank | CubaVisit worldbank.org A great resource for the country's quality of living indicators, economy and climate change data.
- Soy CubaView on imdb.com A cinematic tour de force, the four-part film series from 1964 tracks events leading up to the 1959 Revolution. Directed by Mikhail Kalatozov.
- Yank Tanks (2002)Visit imdb This documentary offers the first look at the phenomenon of classic American cars in Cuba. Like an exotic, endangered species, these colorful cars roam around this island paradise trapped in a 1950's time warp. Directed by David Schendel.
Just for Kids
- My 1st Spanish Word Book / Mi Primer Libro De PalabrasView on Amazon A bilingual word book that presents pictures labeled in both Spanish and English. By Angela Wilkes.
- The Firefly LettersView on Amazon A portrait of early women’s rights pioneer Fredrika Bremer and the journey to Cuba that transformed her life. By Margarita Engle
- The Red UmbrellaView on Amazon A moving tale of a 14-year-old girl's journey from Cuba to America as part of an organized exodus of more than 14,000 unaccompanied children escaping Castro's revolution. By Christina Gonzalez.
Who to Follow
- Instagram: Luis CárdenasFollow @lvis.ca Stunning photos from Cuba.
- Twitter: Claire BoobbyerFollow @claireboobbyery Travel writer, photographer & Cuba travel expert. Guardian, Telegraph, Indy, NatGeo... Frommer's Cuba; Footprint Guatemala, Vietnam & Laos; Time Out Marrakech.
- Twitter: Cuban Interests SectionFollow @SeccionCubaUS Established in 1977, the Cuban Interests Section is Cuba's diplomatic representation in the United States.
- Twitter: Havana CulturaFollow @_HavanaCultura_ Havana Club presents HAVANA CULTURA, a window on contemporary Cuban creativity.
- Twitter: Havana TimesFollow @havanatimes Open-minded writing from Cuba, edited by Circles Robinson.
- Twitter: Michael WeissensteinFollow @mweissenstein Chief of Bureau, Associated Press, Havana Director de Noticias, Associated Press, La Habana.
- Twitter: OnCubaFollow @OnCubaEn OnCuba is a Miami-based monthly magazine seeking to foster communication between the Cuba and U.S. It also has a permanent news bureau in Havana.
- Twitter: Patrick Oppman CNNFollow @CNN_Oppmann CNN's man in Havana......The only American TV correspondent based in Cuba.
- Twitter: Tracey EatonFollow @maninhavana Writer, producer and multimedia journalist. Extensive experience in Latin America and the Caribbean, especially Cuba.
- Twitter: Yoani SanchezFollow @yoanisanchez The country's most famous online dissident (Spanish only). Filóloga y periodista, vivo en Habana y cuento mi realidad en 140 caracteres a través de Twitter. Amo a Cuba: la literatura, la prensa y la tecnología.