Everyday Cuba for Non-Cubans: Beyond the Resort Cliché packs into its slim, 129 pages a traveler’s account, a guide to history, society, politics, and economics, and a proposal for economic recovery and development.
Author and Toronto-based software consultant, Araz Jahani, fell in love with Cuba on a first visit. Not only did he discover bright, warm Caribbean seas and sun contrasting to the gray of his native Canada, but he also found a joy-filled, live-in-the-moment society that opened his eyes to living for community versus one’s job. Jahani returned to Cuba many times, learning Spanish and delving more deeply into the culture. In six thematic chapters, his book recounts his deep appreciation for the country’s culture and people, aiming to move past stereotypical tourist images.
The first two chapters recount Jahani’s discovery of Cuba and why he fell in love with it. The third chapter details Cuba’s history, from the devastating first contact with Europeans in 1492, to slavery, economic exploitation, and the struggle for independence. Chapters four and five analyze social, political, and economic aspects of contemporary Cuba. Chapter six concludes with Jahani’s suggested economic recovery model.
Jahani’s enthusiasm for Cuba is obvious. Yet, despite his intent to show the real everyday Cuba, he rarely offers specific details about his encounters. For instance, in the first chapter, he decides to leave the resort to meet Cubans from all walks of life. But where did he go? Who did he meet? He doesn’t say. While he recounts the hardship and courage of two sisters and several other personal stories later, it’s not enough to satisfy the goal proclaimed in the title. Additionally, Jahani often repeats information, and his handling of Cuba’s history is uneven, skimping on the 1959 revolution and how it shaped recent decades.
Ultimately, readers will hunger for more direct, personal encounters with Cubans in Everyday Cuba. Where these are included, the book comes to life and feels purposeful.
Also available in hardcover.