May 2, 2019 § 2 Comments
Pleased to report the appearance of a new travel essay, “Cuba After Fidel,” out in Wanderlust: The Best of 2019 Anthology.
Here’s the opening paragraph:
“At dusk on the evening of November 29, 2016, three days after the announcement of Fidel Castro’s death, I set off on foot with a small group of friends to Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución for a memorial rally attended by perhaps half a million people. It was not good planning but simple dumb luck that I’d booked a flight to Havana a few days after the revolutionary leader’s death, just as the official mourning period was getting underway. I was determined to take advantage. As a frequent visitor to Cuba since the late nineties, and in light of the diametrically conflicting narratives surrounding the revolutionary leader’s life, I’ve struggled to come to a satisfactory conclusion about Fidel Castro. This trip seemed to present an excellent opportunity to find out how the Cubans themselves felt about him—not the exiles celebrating in the streets of Miami, whose feelings were clear enough, but those Cubans who’d spent most or all of their lives in the society he’d presided over and shaped.”
If you’re a fan of travel writing and/or want to read on, you can buy the anthology here.
November 26, 2016 § Leave a comment
This morning we have the news that Fidel Castro has passed out of this world. Whatever you think of his policies there can be no question that he was one of the most colorful and important world-historical figures of the 20th century. I’m heading to Havana in a few days, traveling with a small group put together by the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center. One of the things I’ll be doing is giving an illustrated lecture about the history of the Cuban Revolution. I’m sure we’ll be talking quite a lot about Fidel, both with among my fellow travelers and with Cubans. It will be a very interesting time to be there.
Historical moment aside, I’m extremely happy to be heading back to the island of Cuba. It’s been several months, and it will be great to check in with old friends, breathe the tropical air, reconnect with the familiar sights and smells and sounds. And yes, it will be be a welcome relief to make a quick escape from social media and the constant reminders of our new electoral reality. In this context, nine packed and fascinating days away sound pretty good. We’ll be in Havana, Cienfuegos, and Trinidad, with highlights including Hemingway’s house at Finca Vigía, world-class traditional music everywhere but especially on the steps in the main square of Trinidad, a few special paladares, and visits to certain unspoiled regions on and near the southern coast.
Particularly looking forward to visiting the old sugar central of Soledad (near Cienfuegos), the site of some fascinating research I’ve been doing on Edwin Atkins, a Bostonian sugar planter who was the largest foreign property owner during the war of 1895-98 and an influential adviser to both the Cleveland and the McKinley administrations. Atkins’ old mansion still stands, and I’ve played a small role in the process of a local initiative to restore and conserve the house and to create a new museum.
If you’re looking for ways to get to Cuba yourself during what may prove to be the short-lived window of the recent relaxation of U.S.-Cuba relations, don’t hesitate to send me a note. Happy to share my experience and reach out to essential contacts, or at least point you in the right direction. ¡Viva Cuba!