Customer Review

19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening, August 19, 2011
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This review is from: Havana Real: One Woman Fights to Tell the Truth about Cuba Today (Kindle Edition)
I'm reading Havana Real. My thoughts turn to my youth in the seventies. I remember watching news coverage showing what seemed to me valiant people daring shark infested seas in search of freedom. Their 'boats' little more than flimsy rafts pieced together from the most unlikely parts: old tires, planks of plywood, the shell of an old rusting car. I remember seeing the US Coast Guard waiting beyond an invisible barrier silently cheering the refugees on, waiting to bring them to freedom. These were days just after the Cuban Missile crisis and my country was still fearful of our neighbors, fearful of the might of a little island with a strong and passionate leader. Every Cuban that crossed that imaginary boundary in the middle of the Atlantic was a victory for freedom and even I, as a child, was touched by their bravery.
It's been many years since I was first exposed to the desperate plight that plagues this small island yet the struggle of the Cubans still wages on. I recently met a man that told me his story. He first tried to come to The US as a young man, still in his teens. His crossing was not successful and he and his raft mates were caught somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic between America and Cuba. He was held in prison for nine years emerging finally, a man in his late twenties. He told me how he felt that his most important years had slipped away from him. First love, a chance for education, any kind of decent employment were lost to him. He emerged into an island more degraded than the one he had sought to flee and his sadness overwhelmed him. After three years of working, doing anything to earn enough money to buy his right to risk his life on yet another raft he finally made it to the US.
He is free now, he misses his family, he is grateful for his freedom. He spoke of the wonderful people he left behind in Cuba, of his family, of the slow pace of life, the warmth of community and I wondered at the price of freedom. I wondered at the lengths humans will go to so they can be free to speak and think, to worship and simply live. I wonder how those of us fortunate enough to have all of this seem not to notice how millions around the world are living under conditions so severe that they can not even voice an opinion for fear that they may end up in prison. I wonder how many millions of stories there are left to be told. Stories of oppression and desperation. Tales of constant fear, hunger and terrible hardship. We see the news, we hear stories of war and we are saddened at the loss of life. But what do we know of the human tale? What do we know of mothers trying to feed their children when there is little food to be had, of father's leaving in the morning to find work when there is none? What do we know of hunger or seeing your child go barefoot in the cold because shoes can not be found much less bought? What do we know of the little struggles that people go through every day just to survive? Reading a book like Havana Real makes the situations, not just of the Cubans but millions around the world, so personal. We are familiar with the horrific stories but the little daily struggles we can not understand because we have no frame of reference. We have no gauge by which to measure it. At what point would it be too much of a burden to bear? At what point does a young man break under the pressure and leave everything behind to build a life in foreign country where he knows no one? Would I be strong enough do that? The answer I can tell you is no.
Havana Real is a book that needed to be written but more than that it is a book that needs to be read.

I received an advanced reader copy and was in no way obligated to post a review. These opinions are my own.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 19, 2012 3:29:32 PM PDT
Thank you so much for your thoughtful, insightful review. The consideration of the questions you ask actually brought me to tears. Now I must read this book for myself and hopefully share it with as many others as I possibly can!

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 19, 2012 5:50:03 PM PDT
mharvi says:
You are more than welcome and my thanks to you for your kind words.

Posted on Jun 19, 2012 6:50:13 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 13, 2012 5:22:40 PM PDT
Michael says:
Just curious, do you think everybody in the world should be "free" to go to your country?

I assume you know that the US has still strict restrictions on immigration - tho not so strict as some decades ago. Most of the immigrants are still turned back. And no, only a few are from Cuba, or other communist or post-communist countries.

Posted on Jun 20, 2012 2:35:11 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 20, 2012 2:36:05 AM PDT
Michael says:
Some information on Cuba emigration to the US:

"In 1995 the US government entered into an agreement with the Cuban government to resolve the emigration crisis that created the Mariel Boatlift of 1980, when Castro opened the docks to anyone who wanted to leave. The result of the negotiations was an agreement under which the United States was required to issue 20,000 visas annually to Cuban emigrants. This quota is rarely filled; the Bush administration has refused to comply with the act, issuing only 505 visas to Cubans in the first six months of 2003. It has also blocked some Cubans who have visas."

"Since November 1966, the Cuban Adjustment Act provides automatic permanent residency for almost all Cubans arriving legally or illegally after one year and one day in the US.

*NO immigrant from any other nation has this privilege.*

Controversy over this policy centers around the loss of Cuba's scientists, professionals, technicians and other skilled individuals, but it has also prompted concerns of a migratory crisis."

Why does the US government give this 'special status' to Cuban émigrés? :)
Immigrants from other countries are mostly blocked by the American government, and they form the majority of immigrants to the US.

"However, figures of those fleeing other Latin American or Caribbean countries of origin compare similarly with those of Cuba. During the 2005 fiscal year, 3,612 Dominicans were picked up at high seas attempting to illegally reach the US (900 more than Cubans intercepted) and in 2004, 3,229 Haitians were also picked up (2,000 more than the 1,225 Cubans that fiscal year). The Brazilian daily O Globo published an article on illegal immigrants in the US, quoting official sources, pointing out that during the first semester of 2005, 27,396 Brazilians were stopped from illegally crossing US borders, an average of 4,556 per month and 152 a day. In 2004, a total of 1,160,000 foreigners, were stopped by attempting to illegally enter the US, 93 percent of them (close to 1,080,000) were Mexicans.[48]"
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