Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-viii

Contents

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pp. ix-x

Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-1

Map

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p. 2

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Introduction

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pp. 3-6

“I want to get there before it changes.”
If I heard that once I heard it five hundred times. The speakers were invariably middle-class Americans who, having learned that diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States were warming, hoped to see Havana and the rest of the country in its pre-McDonald’s mode. In short, before capitalism overran communism....

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Cubana Be, Cubana Bop

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pp. 7-24

I’m listening to “Cubana Be, Cubana Bop” right now, Dizzy Gillespie’s terrific 1947 musical alloy of traditional jazz, Latin rhythms, intricate drumming, and Afro-Cuban chanting. The mix of American jazz with muscular, otherworldly sounds gave us something altogether fresh, simultaneously rough and sophisticated, captivating and unique— much as foreigners have seen Cuba in the intervening decades....

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On the Street

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pp. 25-39

It’s surprisingly easy to sidestep the well-marked tourist trail, to get under Cuba’s skin. Spend forty centavos to ride a city bus. Pass an afternoon walking the streets of 10 de Octubre or La Lisa, two neighborhoods that seldom see foreigners. Late at night circle around back to Centro Habana and drop in at the Cabaret Las Vegas, a decidedly second-rate but wonderful nightclub, and watch musicians, dancers, rappers, magicians, comics, and crooners take the stage in an all-night...

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The Streets of 1898

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pp. 40-58

To learn the story of the USS Maine, pull up a rickety wooden chair at Dos Hermanos, a dockside bar on Avenida del Puerto in Havana’s sprawling harbor district. If you had been out with pre-Lenten celebrants at Dos Hermanos on February 15, 1898, you would have seen a shiny American battleship dominating the bay. Cuba, then fighting for its independence from Spain, had drawn the world’s attention for the tenacity of its guerrilla forces against a sophisticated European...

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Third Gear

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pp. 59-62

Looking at it from a third-floor balcony in downtown Havana after dark, Ricardo’s recently purchased, freshly painted four-door 1956 Chevy Bel Air looked just the ticket. My stepsons, who live in the United States, wanted to show off their homeland to their girlfriends, who had accompanied them to Cuba, and Ricardo had offered to drive the four of them and two others to Cienfuegos, 210 miles distant, and Trinidad, 50 miles farther. Ricardo pulled up at noon sharp the...

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These Three Kings

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pp. 63-81

José Julián Martí had a high forehead, a receding hairline, bushy eyebrows and mustache, deep-set eyes, a gaunt face, and protruding ears. At five and a half feet, he stood thinner than a stalk of cane. Every day he wore a knee-length black frock coat over baggy trousers and a high-collared white shirt with a black tie. The full impact gave his brooding countenance a funereal sobriety....

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Las Parrandas

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pp. 82-89

Eighty-three-year-old Francisca and her fifty-five-year-old daughter Modesta farm and get by, barely. The modest patch of land they jointly plant with beans and other crops lies just downhill from the town of Viñas in Cuba’s central province of Villa Clara. Bordering the north coast and covering more than 3,000 square miles, the province has a population of close to 850,000 people, mostly of mixed Spanish and...

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Undue Romantic Persuasion

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pp. 90-108

Fidel Castro is dead. He died in his bed in Havana, a city where he wasn’t very popular. His cremated ashes were interred in a rock at a cemetery in Santiago de Cuba, where he was very popular. Hundreds of thousands of his countrymen took the time to stand in silent respect as his ashes were carried through the countryside along the reverse route he took in his 1959 revolutionary victory. His revolution lasted from 1959 to 2016....

Sources

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pp. 109-110

Credits

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pp. 111-112

Index

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pp. 113-116