Round Rock New Neighbors is a social organization of women welcoming women in the Round Rock area since 1978. Both "new" and "old" neighbors are welcome. For more information: rrnewneighbors.org [Barnes & Noble requires that RRNN's book club be open to the public, so you do not need to be an RRNN member to attend book club, and both men and women are welcome and do attend. ]
The Friends of the Georgetown Public Library’s Hill Country Authors Series events will be listed here.
Round Rock Public Library Book Group meets monthly at 7:00-8:30 PM. Check the library website for more information, or ask Carla.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
Waiting for Snow in Havana - Can't Improve on that Title
We had some homework while reading Carlos Eire's Waiting for Snow in Havana. We were all to bring questions for discussion. If you read the book, you'll enjoy these questions; and if you didn't, they might convince you to read it. Pam first gave us some historical perspective, which illuminated how Castro managed his revolution. Then we began our questions. The first was fun! Dennis listed some experiences that he had in common with Carlos Eire and asked for a show of hands from anyone who had similar experience. These included running after a truck spraying DDT, getting shot at, seeing dead bodies outside of funerals, body surfing, and having one's life threatened. The hands were going up and down. I wanted to see who had done what, but I missed most of it, because I was busy writing down the life experiences Dennis was mentioning. Great minds think alike: I had an idea for a question similar to what Dennis asked. I had begun a list of Eire's childhood experiences and was thinking of asking whether our group had had childhoods similar to Eire's. I was thinking more of the lifestyle; the parties, the pools, the beach trips, the friends getting into mischief, the hired help, the movies and ice cream parlors... Eire's childhood as a privileged Cuban under Batista's command was similar to the 1950s childhoods of many in the American middle class.
More questions? Carla asked whether Eire exaggerated, in the way that a child has memories that can be bigger than the reality. Cindy suggested that because so many newsworthy events were happening around Eire and to him that much of what he said about these was probably true. Meredith noted that for young Eire, it seemed that the revolution created a new reality without Eire noticing the process; Meredith asked whether that could happen here and now. Pat suggested an analogy between the polio epidemic here and the Cuban Revolution. When polio was a danger, cities closed such public places as theaters and swimming pools, and the entire population was on alert, ie, a new reality. I suggested that 9-11 was similar to the revolution in the suddenness and pervasiveness of its impact on society. Janice asked whether Eire's fears eased after his move to the United States. Pam said that the fears do reappear in Eire's second book, which covers his assimilation into American life. Lydia asked why Eire thought/wrote of his parents as Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette. Pam mentioned that Eire made light of some of his fears through humor, such as naming the "Eye Jesus" and the "Candlestick Lady". His fantasy names for his parents might have helped him cope or might have been a literary tool to convey the family dynamics.
Frank asked what we thought would happen after the Castro brothers are gone. This inspired discussion about Cuba after the revolution. Jay mentioned reading a book by Valarie Hemingway, who had married one of Ernest Hemingway's sons, in which she said that Hemingway had a vacation home in Cuba; he fled after the revolution, supposedly leaving unfinished manuscripts there on the desk. There are probably other famous and wealthy Americans who enjoyed Cuban holidays before the revolution and had homes there.
Two of my friends visited Cuba via "Cultural Exchange" trips during 2012. I asked them to tell me about Cuba now. Here are some interesting factoids they told me: The only way Americans are allowed to go to Cuba now is through one of these group trips. The USA is the only country whose citizens are discouraged from visiting Cuba as tourists. The tourist business is one of very few ways Cubans can profit, because the money comes from outside the Cuban government. All other businesses are regulated by the government. Thus, the jobs we consider as "professional" have government-controlled salaries, such as approximately $15/month for physicians and lawyers - that's $15, not a typo! Those in the tourist industry can squirrel away tips and can gather goods for the black market. A bartender can skim alcohol from each drink and...not drink it! That would be such a waste! They collect it to sell. Tourists bring goods to share with the Cubans: denim jeans, knit shirts, soap, religious artifacts, toothpaste, bandaids, aspirin, pens... Tourists give these treasured things to maids, beggars, guides, etc. (When I was in Jamaica many years ago, everyone there wanted athletic shoes. I gave mine to a maid.)
Cuba has beautiful beaches and greenery but garbage in the streams and broken sidewalks in the city. The neighborhoods with the big homes that used to be examples of grandeur have been transformed into multiple-family housing. This may be good for many people, but the government has not been able to keep up with the maintenance. The overall impression in Cuba is one of things falling apart. A concept I find amusing is that after the Revolution, no one brought any automobile industry to Cuba, and no one could afford to import cars, so the same big old cars from the 1950s and 1960s are everywhere. It looks like a set for an old movie! Car owners make some extra cash by allowing tourists to stand near the cars for photos.
The successes of the Cuban Revolution are the education and the health care. Everyone has access to quality and low-cost health care, and everyone is educated and can continue through higher education.
Thanks to Elisabeth and Amy for the insights! Of course, there is a lot more going on in Cuba than I can relate or than my friends saw. And we come full circle to the fact that the Castro brothers are aging. There are changes in the wind. Hopefully, they will incorporate past progress and solve current problems.