This is Cuba

An American Journalist Under Castro's Shadow

By David Ariosto

 

Fidel Castro is dead. Donald Trump was elected president. And to most outsiders, the fate of Cuba has never seemed more uncertain. Yet those who look close enough may recognize that signs of the next revolution are etched in plain view.

 

"This is Cuba" is a true story that begins in the summer of 2009 when a young American photo-journalist is offered the chance of a lifetime—a two-year assignment in Havana.

To his more hardened news colleagues at CNN, it’s scarcely an opportunity. Two wars and a financial crisis are swallowing news budgets, relegating Cuba to the back burner of priorities. But for David Ariosto, the island is an intriguing new world, unmoored from the one he knows and leaves behind. And the stories quickly stack up. From neighboring military coups, suspected honey traps, salty spooks and desperate migrants, to dealings with dissidents, doctors and Havana’s empty-shelves, his journey begins to uncover the island’s subtle absurdities, its Cold War mystique and the hopes of a people in the throes of transition. Beyond the classic cars, salsa and cigars, lies a country where black markets are ubiquitous, free speech is restricted, privacy curtailed, and sanctions wreak havoc. Meanwhile, an almost Kafkaesque goo of a Soviet-styled bureaucracy still slows the gears of a Cuban economy desperate to move forward. And yet life in Cuba is changing, as satellite dishes and internet hotspots dot the landscape, and as more Americans want in. But it’s not so simple. The old sentries on both sides of the Florida Straits are still at their posts, fists clenched and guarding against the specter of a Cold War that never quite ended, despite the death of Fidel and the hand-over of the presidency to a man whose last name isn’t Castro.

 

And now crisis is brewing.

 

By looking at Cuba from the inside-out over the course of nine years, Ariosto endeavors to expose a few clues that help explain what’s in store for the island as it undergoes its biggest change in more than half a century.

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