Book Review: My Lost Cuba

susan_headshotBy Susan St. Marie

Throughout the years while my family and I would sit around talking about life in Cuba and traveling to the country, my dad would often say that he would never go back to visit until Castro was dead. That there was no way he would go there knowing that his money would be going to that government.

While I understood his feelings towards Castro’s Communist Regime, I could never fully understand where he was coming from, having only seen Cuba one way throughout my whole life. I had often wondered why he wouldn’t want to go back and see what had become of his home country, why he wouldn’t want to share that part of his life with me.

In 2000 I had the opportunity to travel there with my mother to see firsthand what life is like in Cuba. While I was able to see how people lived by rationing food, recycling broken parts for cars and other appliances, I also thought that maybe, just maybe there might be some positive aspects to communism. After all, everyone was entitled to a free education, housing and medical care. But is it really free? And at what expense?

Celso Gonzalez-Falla takes us back in his novel, My Lost Cuba, to 1958, the last year of Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorship to show us a time where farms flourished under private ownership, horses were bred for show, and people traveled freely.

Mike Rodriguez, Don Miguel’s son is called back to his family farm while studying abroad in the States. While Don Miguel is distant from the workers of his farm, Mike takes us into the lives of the workers and life in Cuba and on the farm.

My Lost Cuba doesn’t just take us into the City of La Habana, but into the provinces of the country onto a farm in Camaguey. Ironically this is where my dad was raised and had a farm with his family. Gonzalez- Falla also talks about the differences and changes between the generations and the politics being plagued to the country, with the story ending December 31, the day before Castro takes power.

In 1960 Celso Gonzalez-Falla was underground against the Castro regime. To avoid arrest he sought political asylum in April of 1961 after Bay of Pigs at the Chilean Embassy. He left Cuba that June and went on to Texas.

Gonzalez-Falla wrote My Lost Cuba because he has children who were born both in Cuba and in The United States and he wanted them to have a clear picture of Cuba before Castro changed it.

While there are many books out there about Cuba prior to Castro’s takeover, none bring out the factual history in novel format the way Gonzalez-Falla lays it out.

While his book lacks plot which is an important part of any novel, it’s an important book that should be read so that we can all realize and get a feel for what the older generations are describing to us. This is a book that so descriptively tells us about life before Castro, a life that was so loved and cherished that I feel our older relatives may have a hard time conveying to younger generations.

It’s because of this book that I can finally understand what my dad has been trying to convey to me all these years and it is my hope that the changes Raul Castro has been slowly implementing will give me the opportunity to travel there once again to have the chance to see it through my dad’s eyes.