People with many years’ experience of Cuba say that you either ‘get used to it or it kills you’. The first and for the moment last Havana correspondent for La Vanguardia, Fernando García del Río, went there in 2007 and was subjected by the authorities to an intensive course in getting used to it but after four years they gave up and expelled him from the country, leaving him unable to do the story he’d been sent to cover in the first place: the death of Fidel Castro.
In this book, the journalist remembers his personal experiences in the Caribbean, revealing things he couldn’t at the time about the events and stories that he reported on, portraying the daily life of Cubans at the end of an anachronistic regime, the last vestiges of the cold war and the drip, drip, drip of change.
The result is a travel book about a single, long term destination, an extensive incursion into the tragicomic surrealism of a country where a goat can be a hero of the fatherland, doctors prescribe hydrotherapy sessions in the household sink and an anthropologist can spend five years giving a mummy hair implants. This is an odyssey through a land of failed socialism where stealing from the State is just ‘changing the location’ of a good for all; and also where killing a cow for food can be punished by ten years in prison. A country in which invention and schemes to combat poverty combine with a mordant sense of humour that is one’s only defence against desperation.
A four year immersion in the tragicomic surrealism of a country in transition.