Finding Books in Cuba

Guillermo’s recent post has inspired me. Here:

I spent the next couple of days walking the streets of Havana, not only looking for Yoss’ bookseller friend but also finding other antiquarian bookstores and book stands that might have copies of de Rojas’s Espiral, Una leyenda del futuro, and El año 200. I could only put my hands on an old copy of the second one. I called Yoss again and asked for help. I also invited him out again, this time to the hotel’s tourist bar.

Cuba has two economies with their own currencies; one is for its citizens, the majority of whom live quite modestly, and the other is for tourists. Cubans aren’t welcome in the tourist establishments unless someone brings them in.

That was Yoss’s case. The bouncers at the hotel door stopped him flat, saying wearing a vest without a shirt wasn’t appropriate. I needed to go find him and say he was my guest. The bouncers complied.

It was on this occasion when Yoss gave me details about the Cuban Sci-Fi tradition. He told me it dated back to before the Communist regime but that it had flourished in the seventies as a result of the cultural exchange the country had with Russia and the Soviet Bloc.

Read the rest. It’s by Ilan Stavans, a Professor of Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College. It comes as no surprise to readers here, I’m sure, that books are hard to find in Cuba (and science fiction books at that!). I have just three comments. First, notice that cultural exchange was responsible for the introduction of something new. Second, be sure to check out the photos of Yoss. He sports a t-shirt with the Batman logo in one pic, and a t-shirt with the Punisher logo in another. (The Punisher is a bad ass Marvel Comics character.) Lastly, the author could not help but insult US culture (of which he is a part of).

Please keep it civil

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