I finally finished reading Alex’s “Radical Rebelde Revolucionário – Crônicas Cubanas”.
Alex was nice enough to send me his book and I feel bad to say that I didn’t like it very much.
My first problem was his style. It reads too much like a blog. I don’t mind colloquial books but I think he went too far.
Second, some of the main subjects of the book don’t really interest me. I am not into Cuban literature. I am also not that interested in all the “human conflicts” that Alex seems to like so much: taking pictures of Cuban women, the tales about his blonde friend and their Cuban cicerone, etc.
It’s not all bad though. I thought some of the more factual parts of the book were interesting, like the history of Reinaldo Arenas, the weird relation of cubans and “Sorveteria Copélia”, the way Cubans interact with their police, etc.
I also liked the fact that overall Alex admits that the end result of the Cuban revolution was poverty. In times where you have Michael Moore saying that hospitals in Havana are better than those in Miami, I feel relieved that Alex is not in that category.
However, the thing that bothered me the most about this book was this underlining tone that Alex takes about the Cuban system.
Even though he criticizes Fidel’s government often, he is always throwing some little nuggets here and there that work like an excuse for the craziness of Cuban’s life.
For instance, he seems to love to talk how educated the Cuban people are (ignoring how this wonderful education didn’t help them to revolt against a barbaric dictatorship and widespread poverty) and makes an amazing comparison of these Cuban illuminati with an “American college student who didn’t know that Brazil had cows!”
Another example: check this description of how Cuban maids deal with the prohibition of their work (all private independent work is illegal):
“Em dias de limpeza, Antonia e sua vizinha almoçam juntas e comem
da mesma comida. Não há uniforme. Antonia somente limpa: não lava
roupas, esfrega a bunda da velha ou faz qualquer coisa não-relacionada.
Quando termina o serviço, vai pra casa, seja a hora que for. Muitas vezes,
trabalha somente de 10h às 15h.Observei as duas longamente: são vizinhas e amigas. Não parece
haver o conceito ou a idéia, nem a mais vaga percepção, de uma relação
patroa-empregada. Antonia não pensa ou se refere a sua vizinha como
chefe, patroa ou qualquer termo indicativo de escala social, dominação,
poder econômico. Não a chama de usted, não usa o doña. Ao mesmo
tempo, também não se define como criada, empregada, explorada: Antonia
pensa em si mesma como ajudante e na outra como amiga a quem ajuda. “Maybe it’s just my underdeveloped humanist side talking, but this sounds like a cheap rationalization for an absurd situation where people clearly want to exchange services and need to fake a friendship to do so.
So bottom line, Alex’s lack of a more grounded and consistent criticism of Cuba’s crazy socialism really annoyed me.
In any case, thanks Alex for the book and good luck.