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Cuba (Lonely Planet Country Guides) Paperback – 3 Jun 2000
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Includes hands-on information on visiting Cuba, including everything the traveller needs to know to negotiate political realities; a special focus on hot Cuban music; a chapter focusing on Havana; and full details on outdoor Cuba, from diving to deep-sea fishing to hikes through the incredible Sierra Madre rainforest.
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Then, there's the book's politics. And the reason that I mention the politics in this book is because they are not just merely in the political or history sections of the book, but that the author permeates even the descriptions of the attractions throughout the island with his all-too-rabid political thoughts. In a rather unorthodox (and well-hidden) forward to a travel guidebook, the author writes, "I admit I'm sometimes politically incorrect... The negative approach usualy taken by the US mass media certainly doesn't foster understanding." Frankly, neither does this book. I have never thought that The New York Times nor The Washington Post have been particularly supportive of the embargo, nor of the CIA's highly negative actions in Latin America.
As a left-leaning American who is staunchly anti-embargo, I still found the writings in this book warped and unnessarily anti-American. The politics in this book are staunchly pro-Castro and do not begin to offer the more balanced accounts of Cuba in Fodor's and Moon (both of which discuss the good as well as the bad in Castro's Cuba). It seems the author did not remotely try to understand American politics, that the majority of the American people are and have been against the embargo for quite some time, and that the embargo continues to be in force mainly AND ironically because of the strong political clout of Cuban-American exiles in Miami (by contrast, these facts do appear in Fodor's and Moon).
I came away from Cuba feeling that the Revolution in Cuba has created much that is good for its people, but also that its citizens are denied freedom of speech and the press, and that everyone is in a state of poverty. I found Costa Rica, for example, as equally and proudly independent as Cuba, with similar good literacy and health care as Cuba, but also with a free press and a higher standard of living than Cuba. Cuba, in fact, should logically have a higher standard of living than Costa Rica since the former was heavily subsidized by the USSR for decades.
But you cannot escape the author's America bashing in the Lonely Planet guide, nor the rampant politics. For a more balanced approach, and a much better guide to the attractions, try the Fodor's or Moon guides.
The Cuba guide is a good, complete guide. Filled with information, history and beautiful pictures about almost every corner of this gorgeous country. Reading the whole book gives you a good update on your history and geography knowledge! (Something to do if you are trekking around by bus and train like I did!)
I particularly enjoyed the facts about Cuba and the story of Cuba. It is obvious that the author of this guide David Stanley has a passion for the country, and that he is very knowledgeable when it comes to Cuba and its' political history.
The information given is good, and I found it to be very accurate. An advantage was of course that this guide came out in July 2000 and I visited Cuba in October the same year so the guide had just been updated!
I can recommend both Cuba and this guide....
The strength of this guide, as with most all Lonely Planet guides, is that they are an excellent source for information that is often disregarded in other guides (i.e., paragliding, language schools, how to get a tour bus to transport you at a fraction of what you would pay for a taxi, etc.).
Though I think this guide is ONE OF THE BEST, there are a few areas that, as in the old report card mark stated, N/I - needs improvement. I found this guide more difficult to navigate than other Cuban guides; mainly because of a paltry index. The index DID NOT list hotels or restaurants and this required that I to flip through each section until I found the listing I wanted information on (especially a hassle in Havana). The maps, though plentiful (68), could use improvement by adding color plates and clear/cleaner definition. The best guide book for clear, easy-to-use maps for Cuba are in Michelin's Neos Guides and Moon Travel.
These points noted, I do not hesitate recommending Cuba by David Stanley - 2000. I thoroughly enjoyed his upfront commentary on Cuba - though some anti-Castro individuals will find him politically incorrect, I found his views on communist Cuba and Fidel refreshing. Recommended