Three Books to Understand the Cuban Experience

Three Books to Understand the Cuban Experience BELatina Latinx
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The past several days have highlighted people’s indignation with Cuba’s totalitarian regime. Though it is illegal and can incur plenty of negative consequences, Cubans went out to protest against the injustices that continually threaten their lives. 

Cubans living in exile have also taken their outrage to the streets as they try to bring to light the oppression of Cuba’s government. This, of course, has created a lot of discourse on the subject. 

Everyone wants to give their two cents, but only the Cuban voices should be elevated at this moment. 

It is time we listen to the only people who know about the Cuban experience. It is time we learn from them and let them guide the rest of the world on how to help them. We need to hear their stories, read their works, devour their books, and stand in solidarity with them as much as possible. 

I, myself, am not Cuban, but as a Miami-native, I can feel the pain of my fellow Cuban neighbors as I drive down the congested streets of this city defined by its diversity. Nevertheless, no matter how wrapped up I am in Cuban culture (you can’t ignore it, even if you tried), there is no way I could ever speak on their behalf. 

This is why I much rather share some books I’ve enjoyed reading by Cuban authors and authors of Cuban-descent that may help you understand unique Cuban experiences, both on the island and as exiles. These books will allow you to “look” at what they and their families have endured for over half a century. 

Memory of Silence BELatina Latinx
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The Memory of Silence/ Memoria de silencio by Uva de Aragón

Cuban author, Uva de Aragón, takes her readership into the diaspora world, where she describes the experience of two sisters who were separated due to the Cuban Revolution. In it, she explores one of the sister’s longing for life back on the island, to a point she imagines her home is tangible enough to be brought back into reality — a reality now fueled by displaced feelings and miles away from the once-familiar Caribbean breeze. However, the sister back in Cuba has different thoughts about it, too. 

Prince of los cocuyos BELatina Latinx
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The Prince of Los Cocuyos by Richard Blanco

Richard Blanco is an American poet, public speaker, author, and civil engineer. He is also the fifth poet to read at a United States presidential inauguration — on President Obama’s to be specific. He was born in Madrid and immigrated to the United States with his Cuban-exile family.

Blanco recently wrote a memoir, “The Prince of Los Cocuyos,” where he explores the duality of his multi-cultural identity and how complex it can be. His story illustrates his personal experience living in a household packed with Cuban immigrants while trying to accommodate to the American culture in Miami, Florida.

“The Prince of Los Cocuyos” features unique Cuban experiences, such as his grandfather, or Abuelo, fawning over farm animals and bringing them to their yard. This was Abuelo’s attempt at recreating Cuba in their backyard for nostalgia’s sake. Abuelo wasn’t hiding this fact either. He took pride in his new project at home and showed it off to other family members as much as he could. In the book, el Abuelo says, “Riqui and me fed las gallinas sobras of real food, like in Cuba…” — a line that can tug at anyone’s life, especially those who understand what it is to be removed from their roots.

Dreaming in Cuban BELatina Latinx
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Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia 

Cristina Garcia, a Cuban-born American journalist and novelist, published “Dreaming in Cuban” in 1992. Yet, its contribution to Latino and Cuban literature has been timeless. Garcia writes about Cuba and the United States simultaneously while following three generations of one family.  As you read “Dreaming in Cuban,” you’ll notice that the story revolves around Celia del Pino’s character and how the Cuban Revolution shaped her and her family’s exilic journey. It’s noteworthy to mention that the book focuses on the emotional aspect of being uprooted from Cuba rather than focusing on the political aspect of it. 

The books mentioned only provide a brief taste of Cuba and the hardships (and the brightness) it may bring to different people. I encourage everyone to continue to listen to Cubans, for they are the only ones who can speak of the Cuban truth.