Many Floridians are familiar with aspects of Cuban culture. But because of the limitations on travel to our neighbors 90 miles south, life in Cuba remains somewhat mysterious. Even for first-generation Cuban-Americans, it’s hard to understand what it must be like. If you’d like to learn more about Cuba’s history in the past century, their rich culture, or even just miss seeing family in Miami, check out some of these books. Place a hold for outside pickup, or to pick up during browsing hours at select branches.
Food is central to the American picture of Cuban culture. Nochebuena might be different this year, but those traditional meals can still be made at home. La Cocina Cubana is a Spanish-language cookbook of all of the favorites, from flan to ropa vieja. ¡Cuba! has a different take, focusing more on the sorts of food you might find on the island in paladares, the restaurants run out of Cubans’ homes, and featuring beautiful photography.
Fidel Castro and Che Guevara are well-known to most as leaders of the communist revolution to overthrow Batista. To get a better picture of their lives as young men, the political environment that motivated them to revolution, read Young Castro: The Making of a Revolutionary and Che: A Revolutionary Life. The latter is a lushly illustrated graphic biography.
Recently, there have been a few books about the lives of those living in Cuba, from pre-revolutionary times to today. The Cubans follows the lives of several people and their families. It features the real stories of many, from a Jamaican-born and Cuban-raised economic engineer, struggling to balance her home life and the pressures from her employers in the government, to an acclaimed artist whose homesickness brings him back to Cuba, even after his fame allows him to live elsewhere. Journalist David Ariosto writes of his experiences there as an American news correspondent in recent years in This Is Cuba. It includes some of his time in Venezuela as well, during the recent economic and political crises - Cuba and Venezuela have had a close partnership.
Finally, if you’re looking for some Cuban history and culture for children, or you just want to practice your Spanish, there’s a couple to recommend. Desde los Vientos de Manguito is a bilingual collection of folktales from both indigenous and Hispanic cultures on the island. Marti’s Song for Freedom is similarly bilingual, a picture biography written in verse about the famed champion of Cuba libre during the Spanish-American war, Jose Marti.