This is a longitudinal qualitative study of a selection of young people growing up in a post-Fidel Cuba that, since Soviet Unions' support evaporated, embraced a form of capitalism acceptable to the revolution. Inequalities result as licensed jobs such as the service sector are better paid than state workers...which includes graduate professionals who received a free uni education. Julia discovers how these young people and their families cope with their day to day lives and if they feel in control of their lives. It gives an excellent insight, not only into practical day to day problems of shortages, but also what their thoughts are about the regime...do they still, like the older generation, value their freedom from imperialism and their way of life even if it means living in near poverty? Well not these young people, their lives are spent planning to leave and Julia has stats to demonstrate that Cuba will become a paradise island full of older people. They all dream of a post-Castro Cuba. I've just travelled to Cuba and I did meet young people who wanted to stay, believed in the revolution, wanted change but not at the cost of their freedom. There was also so much love and respect for Fidel on his death, unlike our political leaders who command no respect.
I read this during a trip to Cuba, so informative, interesting and well written. It answered lots of questions I had about Cuba in a very readable way with surprinsingly good flow, I was worried it would be too academic. I needn't have doubted, its a wonderful read which I would highly recommend to anyone wanting to know more about the culture, people and politics of Cuba.
Subtitled, “Life in the New Cuba,” this book was written by author Julia Cooke, who first visited the country in 2003 when she was twenty and who returned many times – most notably in 2009, when after many visits, she actually moved to Cuba for several months to research this book. The author was interested in what it was like to grow up in Havana as the last generation of Cubans raised with Fidel Castro in charge of their country. Although Cuba has welcomed tourists, most Cubans have not travelled outside their own country – as you will read though, almost all of them discuss and plan leaving endlessly. Raised under a single political party, they live a life of great conformity in many ways, with shared experiences of rationed food and shortages.
Cuba is a country of great extremes. On a positive note, they have a literacy rate of 99%, healthcare for all, little violent crime and rations provide necessities to feed their population. However, changes in Russia has meant that the Soviet subsidies, which held the Cuban economy afloat up to the nineties, have caused the country economic disasters which they are still trying to cope with. The people of Cuba have become adept at coping, using the black market and dreaming of exit visas to what they hope will be a better life.
Cooke intersperses the stories of many young Cubans with her own experiences, in an entertaining and thought provoking read. We meet many interesting characters as Cooke attempts to find an apartment in overcrowded Havana, meets Sandra – who can earn more money in one night on the streets than with a monthly wage as a hairdresser, mixes with Cuban punks, explores racism in Communist Havana ( where 80% of University Professors are white, while 85% of those in prison are from the communities who began life in Cuba as slaves, working on sugar plantations) and explore the country of Cuba through her eyes. It is a place which offers its young people an education, but also limits their chances - of corruption and hypocrisy and where, you feel, so many of its inhabitants are disenchanted. One of those that Cooke meets, says that when she finally leaves Cuba, she is congratulated as though she has been released from jail. You just hope that all these wonderful, innovative and capable people, find happiness either within Cuba or outside it and are grateful to the author for introducing them to us. This is a really fascinating read, about a unique country –well written, informative and enjoyable.
I received a copy of this book, from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.
Wonderfully interesting and a really good read for anyone intending to visit or visiting Cuba. Already a little out of date as the changes are happening so swiftly. My only criticism is that it is rather badly written grammatically which makes understanding the text a bit tricky at times.