An Exile Revisits Cuba: a memoir of humility, by Gabriel Ness (2016)


Gabriel Ness (a pseudo-nym) left Cuba with his family when he was nine. His father was lawyer and owned a family farm. After the Revolution, the government took the farm. They traveled to Havana and waited for a visa and a flight to the USA. They each were allowed one suitcase and knew that all valuables would be taken from them at the airport during a final search before they boarded the plane.

Years later, Gabriel is a teacher and his brother is a physician. Gabriel has traveled the world, teaching in many places including Saudi Arabia and Japan. He is living in Costa Rica and needs a copy of his birth certificate. He travels to Cuba to try to obtain a certified copy. His passport lists him as a Cuban-American which arouses the interest of the authorities. At some point he thinks he is being followed. The Cuban government does not like its citizens to speak with foreigners for too long or in too much depth.

He meets a number of people who are happy to have someone to listen to their frustrations. He talks with hard line Communists while staying at their rented room, taxi drivers (the new wealthy), and other characters. He has a number of bad meals and finally finds his best meals at a guesthouse and at a couple privately owned restaurants.

Ness enjoys taking pictures, some of which are in his book. The longer he stays in Havana, the more memories surface. He especially enjoys seeing people of all ages on a wide street playing all kinds of games: chess, soccer, hide and go seek, cards, all together. This is how humans are supposed to be, not isolated from each other by machines. He made me feel guilty for those evenings where each of us watched our own t.v. program without interacting.

He sees some things he likes about present-day Cuba, but more things he doesn’t like. I would like to travel to Cuba this year. This was a very different perspective than what you read about in the travel brochures. I would suggest to any American contemplating a trip to Cuba in the near future.

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About KLevenson

I am Teacher Librarian at Piedmont High School in the San Francisco East Bay. I am a part time reference Librarian I for the San Francisco Public Library. I have a Masters in Library and Information Sciences from San Jose State and a Teacher Librarian credential in addition to my teaching credential in Science. My first MA was from Harvard in Archaeology. My students teach me something new every time I am with them!
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