Thursday, November 12, 2015

Travel in Cuba: A Recommended Reading List

Cuban music is a global phenomenon, and has been part of SFJAZZ since the beginning. As travel restrictions have eased in Cuba, more Americans are planning trips to explore the vast cultural wealth of our island neighbor to the south. If you are planning a trip, SFJAZZ Director of Education Rebeca Mauleón has provided a recommended reading list to help prepare you for the unforgettable experience you are sure to have. In her words:

"A lifetime of reading will never adequately prepare you for the Cuban experience; the island must be witnessed firsthand, and even then you will probably leave with more questions than answers!

Meanwhile, here are a few recommendations of books to explore – from top picks of classic Cuban literature, to recent investigative reports on the ever-changing landscape.

To start things off, we have Tom Gjelten’s excellent account of one of Cuba’s most iconic families, Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba.

Fascinated by underworld kingpins? Be sure to check out Havana Nocturne by T.J. English, an eloquent tale of pre-revolutionary Havana and the role of American organized crime.

If Cuban literary masterpieces translated into English are more your style, we suggest the 19th century classic, Cecilia Valdés by Cirilo Villaverde, an account of the “depravity caused by slavery and colonialism.”

Budding musicologists should not miss Ned Sublette’s excellent tome, Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo.

For those appreciating a contemporary perspective on the island’s political and economic transformation, try Cuban Revelations by Marc Frank, or Julia Cooke’s The Other Side of Paradise.

Love detailed historical accounts? Jon Lee Anderson’s critically-acclaimed book, Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life is a no-brainer. If you prefer a more biting and witty style, try Guillermo Cabrera Infante’s Three Trapped Tigers. Just DO NOT take your copy to Cuba, as the book has been BANNED there! (Seriously.)

And finally, Lithuanian photographer Marius Jovaisa, who was granted special permission to shoot arial photos over much of Cuba, released his extraordinary collection in Unseen Cuba. This is a must-have for photography buffs." 
– Rebeca

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