Trading with the Enemy: A Yankee Travels Through Castro's Cuba

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The author of The Panama Hat Trail and On the Border gives a revolutionary rumba through Castro's Cuba. Granted unprecedented access to travel throughout the country, Miller presents readers with a rare, detailed look at life in one of the world's last Communist countries and one of America's closest neighbors.

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CarlotaAlbrecht

May 8, 2009

Viva la Revolucion!

The title of Tom Miller's entertaining and informative book refers to the notorious piece of U.S. legislation that makes it extremely difficult for its citizens to travel to Cuba or to support that country in any way. Miller, who, like many, had been fascinated by Cuba and its Revolution for many years, makes it clear that he strives to keep an open mind, and that his interest is to meet Cuban people from all walks of life to hear their personal opinions about their homeland. After several visits, much paperwork and suspenseful waiting, he is granted permission to live in Cuba and travel fairly freely for a period of seven months. Contacts with the Cuban Writer's Union and other official bodies facilitate this. Thus, although, of course, always a foreigner, he offers a perspective that is much deeper than that of a more casual visitor. Especially while in Havana, Miller, as much as possible, tries to live like a Cuban, taking local buses, standing in line for his daily bread at the "Socialism or Death" bakery (as he jokingly refers to the ubiquitous political slogans that are part of the Cuban landscape), and participating in local pasttimes such as baseball and dominos. Published in 1992, Miller's travels took place at a time when Cuba was entering its "Special Period in Time of Peace" after the Soviet Bloc had dissolved and it lost most of its trading partners and imports. Food and other consumer goods were increasingly rationed and Cubans were, once again, forced to reassess their opinions of the Revolution's successes and failures. Miller adroitly balances the views, both for and against, allowing people to express their opinions freely, whether with Fidel or not. His extensive travels through Pinar del Rio in the west to Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo province at the island's eastern end offer a vivid portrait of Cuba's sheer beauty and its people's buoyancy and resourcefulness. Artists, writers, muralists, military men, farmers, baseball players, bartenders, hustlers, teachers and many more add flavour to this tasty tropical stew. Although times have changed, this book still offers a good introduction to anyone considering a trip to Cuba or simply wants to enjoy some armchair travelling from the comfort of their own home.

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