Cuba & Costa Rica Blog
About this blog
Written by Cuba and Costa Rica expert Christopher P. Baker, this blog will update readers on life in these two diverse and exciting countries.
- Last blog post on Costa Rica and Cuba
- First-ever group motorcycle tours of Cuba successful
- Cuba’s Mariel port readying for Panama Canal expansion
- Musings on wildlife encounters on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula
- Cuba’s Steam Trains puffing their last gasp
- My top five thrilling activities in Costa Rica
- Cuba’s fun February festivals include Harleys, Books, Cigars
- Five top volcano viewing experiences in Costa Rica
- New road along Costa Rica / Nicaraguan border mired
- Cuba’s Hotel Campoamor at Cojímar to be restored?
- Cuban revolutionary Celia Sánchez honored in new book
- Christmas challenge for Costa Rica’s sexually abused girls
- Costa Rica opens Chinatown in downtown San José
- David Soul films Hemingway’s car restoration in Cuba
- National Geographic Expeditions receives license for Cuba tours
Four great new books about Cuba
I'm an avid reader and a constant stream of new books about Cuba keeps me entertained. The past months have seen some exciting new additions. Here are four books I've recently enjoyed and can recommend.
"Havana Nocturne: How the Mob owned Cuba and lost it to the Revolution" (William Morrow, 2008) is almost as fun a read as is a good novel. This is the must-read text about the Mafia in Cuba. Authoritative in his detail, true-crime writer T.J. English does a superb job describing the corruption of pre-Castro Cuba and the internecine feuding among the mobsters. However, it's the delicious tidbits that I recall most, such as the time John F. Kennedy was set up with three hookers by Santo Traficante, who watched the shenanigans through a two-way mirror... and the time Frank Sinatra was disturbed inflagrante delicto in the Hotel Nacional by girl scouts and a nun. Precious!
Every year sees two or more new coffee-table books. The stand out last year was "Cuba: Singing with Bright Tears" (Pond Press, 2009) by Virginia Beahan, a fine-art photography instructor whose somber, starkly haunting full-format images capture the pathos of contemporary Cuba. Essays by Jon Lee Anderson and Pico Iyer add context. And architectural historian Peter Moruzzi's visually stunning "Havana Before Castro" (Gibbs Smith, 2008) combines an eclectic and mesmerizing range of photographs and illustrations from the pre-Castro heyday with jaunty and tantalizing tidbits on life as it was in this tropical paradise.
With Guantanamo Bay in the news, you might want to bone up on its history and political context by reading "The Ghosts of Guantanamo Bay" (Seacay Publishing, 2006), a mystery novel by K.R. Jones.
Meanwhile, I just finished "Waiting for Snow in Havana" (Free Press, 2004), by Carlos Eire. OK, it was published in 2004, but it's a stand-out among recently published books about Cuba. This emotionally stimulating autobiography recalls a childhood growing up in Havana on the eve of the Revolution. Eire enjoyed a fun-filled middle-class upbringing that came rudely to an end following Castro's seizure of power. The boy was eventually flown off to the USA without his parents (he never saw his father again). Hilarious and heart-breaking!