This Is Cuba is the perfect introduction to modern-day Cuba. David Ariosto—who reported on-the-ground for CNN for a year-and a half and traveled to Cuba from the US for many more years—brings humanity to an island that is either shrouded in romance by nostalgists or cloaked in intrigue by political scientists. Readers should use the book as a launchpad to orient themselves to the rhythm of the island. Granted, local developments in Cuba (again) play second fiddle in the international headlines, given abrupt moves by the Trump administration, but percolating pressures underneath the surface suggest a mere lull to economic reform.

This Is Cuba  (Affiliate Link)
An American Journalist Under Castro's Shadow
David Ariosto

Cuba may seem like an international sideshow, but that view is one of ignorance, rather than wisdom. Americans, in particular, have long underestimated the wherewithal of the Cuban regime. Consider one simple fact: The nation has managed to survive deftly in the face of stringent US sanctions. This book adds much needed complexion to the Cuban narrative.

This Is Cuba soars with a mix of personalities. In Havana, we meet Yuneisi, who wants access to the the author’s contraband satellite dish, and Antonina and Carlito, who make their way to a new life in Florida, precariously and unconventionally through Mexico. We also bump into Alvin Krongard, the US businessman, er, Washington insider, who was aligned with the Cuban biotech scene. And we get a glimpse of Alan Gross, the US government contractor held captive in Cuba during the Obama administration.

On first blush, the book appears to be bogged down by the detour through Venezuelan politics and the 2010 Haitian earthquake. But that material plays an important role in helping to understand Cuban relations in a regional context. America has done its best to isolate Cuba; other nations are less fussed about US concerns. Havana reserves the tit-for-tat board game for Washington.

This Is Cuba was published at the end of 2018 so the material is current on the about-face in Cuban policy under the Trump administration. In that context, Ariosto provides measured perspective on the debate between dialogueros and hardlines.

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Image: Because of economic hurdles related to car imports, Cuba relies on the stock of automobiles that existed at the time of the revolution. Visitors may under-appreciate the ingenuity required to keep these vehicles in working condition. Credit: Sabinoparente at Can Stock Photo Inc.

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