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Havana Real, Yoani Sanchez, Cuba: Melville House Press. (April 26, 2010).

About the author:

Yoani Maria Sanchez Cordero (born on September 4, 1975) is the most popular and controversial Cuban blogger in Cuba. She received her early education in the Soviet Union dominated Cuba but later emigrated to Switzerland where she graduated with a degree in philology from the University of Havana in the year 2002. Upon her return to Cuba in 2004, Yoani started and managed her own blog, Generation Y, through which she could enjoy her freedom as a citizen under the oppressive dictatorial regime of Fidel Castro. Generation Y was recognized by Times Magazine as best blog in 2009- a phenomenon that saw Yoani won the highly coveted Spanish award for digital journalism, the Ortegay Gasset Prize in 2009. Yoani has achieved international recognition and awards for her relentless criticisms of the current Cuban government.

Summary of the Book Content

The powerful book exposes all forms of political and economic oppression the people of Cuba are subjected to under the dictatorial regime of Fidel Castro contrary to the government generated propaganda and peddled falsehoods that the country is democratic and its citizens enjoy unbound freedom in all fronts of their lives. Through an articulate use of historical facts and figures, Yoani highlights all the instance of political, economic and social injustices the Cuban government regularly perpetrates against its own citizens.

The Cuban government is portrayed as a haven for the few privileged members of the ruling elites who oppress the majority poor for their own political and economic gains. In her diary, Yoani cites various incidences of the bad governance, grand corruption and oppressive public policy that the crafted to work for the survival of its regime notwithstanding their impacts on the lives of the common citizens. The author points out that the dictatorial political leadership of the country does not allow for the freedom of expression for its citizens since concerted calls for revolution are prohibited by the use of faulty laws and legislations. Similarly, the existing laws cushion the corrupt political heavyweights against public scrutiny as well as street protests notwithstanding the prevailing political oppressions and politically motivated imprisonments.

Lack of media freedom is another topical issues presented in the book. Then Cuban state agencies ban independent media thus all citizens rely on the party newspaper that is known for political propaganda and political interest of the ruling government. The party newspaper is one of the strongest agents that the Castro administration relies on heavily to peddle political lies about the government status, political manifesto, and achievements. As a result, intellectual degradation is a commonplace among the common citizens. The trend cascades into educational circles “where children are taught to grow and become like Che Guevara- a political icon in Cuba” (Yaoni, 2010).

Poverty and poor living conditions among the Cubans is also highlighted by the blogger in her diary. Yoani is categorical that hunger, illiteracy, diseases and economic disparity take their toll on the Cuban masses.  These are the key factors that are squarely responsible for the increased mortality, rate particularly for the children, and a significant decrease in the national populations. The Cuban government has drastically failed its duty to feed, education, provide good health care, and social protection to its taxpaying citizens. Additionally, the working class is poorly paid yet the cost of living is hitting the roof. Therefore they cannot maintain their families and opt to move out of the country in search of a greener pasture. This pathetic situation explains the mass exodus by the Cubans to the West.

Book Review

Havana Real is one of the best that I have ever read in the course of my studies concerning the real life situation in Cuba. The book portrays the real situation in Cuba without any compromise or fear of political reprisals. The blogger gives her own real life experiences with the Cuban government and highlights incidences of socio-economic oppression, political injustices, bad governance, corruption and economic disparity in the Cuban civil society. Similarly, Yoani has made good use of empirical data, statistical evidences and clear examples to support all the claims presented in the book some of which have got an international backing hence could not be dismissed as mere claims by the readers as the counteractive propaganda of the Castro regime does.

Secondly, Yoani has been a direct victim of the unjust Cuban rule of Fidel Castro alongside his generals. She was sentenced for an alleged felony after the establishment of her blog, Generation Y, where she staged most of her political fights against the Cuban Castro Administration. Her nasty experiences and sufferings in the hand of the brutal Cuban law enforcement agencies leave no reader in doubt about the tormenting situations upon which the common Cubans live. Consequently, Generation Y is the only media that keeps the whole world posted about the political injustices of the Cuban government since the party newspaper is marred with political propaganda and an empty shell of fabricated economic achievements. In general, Havana Real is the only window through which the outside could view the sufferings of the Cubans in their own country.

Nevertheless, there is one major weakness of the book though. The author spent too much of her time dwelling on her past experiences with the Castro Administration but fails to feature the role of other political revolutionaries in Cuba. As things stand in the book, readers would be swayed into believing that she (Yoani Maria Sanchez Cordero) is the only revolutionary and political activist of the Cuban dissident movement that ever exists in Cuba yet Oscar Elías BiscetGonzález, Mario Enrique Mayo Hernández, Nelson Aguiar Ramírez and many other activists, too, defiantly push for the liberation of Cuba. Not even one of these revolutionary are appreciated in the book yet they play a very pivotal role in the liberation of their country against dictatorial regime of Fidel Castro.

Another weakness of the book is that is does not provide an adequate background information about Cuba. It is based on the mere assumption that all readers are conversant with the political, geographical, economic and social system of the Caribbean country. The emission is a serious oversight that hinders international students from understanding the book in its intended political, economic and cultural context. To ensure that all readers understand all aspects of the book, the author needs to provide sufficient background information about Cuba for instance demographic patterns, econometrics, political structure and cultural diversity.

Generally, the book is well written in a clear and simple language that could be understood by all readers no matter their levels of studies. The highly descriptive language used by the author to narrate her ordeal throughout the book moves the readers a great deal. Additionally, the book is systematically organized into chapters and section for easy reading. I find this book correspond to our deliberations for the much desired freedom and independence of the contemporary media. I highly recommend this book as required reading in future section of this class because of the factual information it offers concerning suffering of Cubans and the dire need of the liberation of the society from the corrupt government.

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