Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Back to the Future?

Havana, Cuba prior to the 1959 Communist Revolution is a place that fascinates me. I have always been a sucker for spectacle. I imagine breath-taking beach scenes and a tropical paradise. I imagine narrow streets teeming with nightlife. I imagine brightly light casinos blasting their illumination onto passers by. I imagine Afro-Cuban rhythms and distant echoes of trumpets lifting people off sidewalks and into nightclubs packed with stylishly dressed people.

It turns out that what I imagine is almost exactly how it was. Of course, what I fail to imagine is the bloody apparatus of political dictatorship coupled with a tight Mafia control that perpetuated this mythical tourist fantasy land. I also fail to imagine the crippling poverty endured by the people living in the countryside and the decades of exploitation they suffered by foreign owned companies focused on the production, sale, and exportation of sugar.

In Havana Nocturne, T.J. English does a superb job of painstakingly, yet very entertainingly, explaining all the forces at work and their varying motivations that culminated in the creation of a gambling paradise for the Mafia as well as a potent political insurgency that left its mark on history and inspired similar uprisings internationally.

Related Titles:

The Mafia in Havana : a Caribbean mob story

Havana before Castro : when Cuba was a tropical playground

The silent don : the criminal underworld of Santo Trafficante, Jr

Gangsters, swindlers, killers, and thieves : the lives and crimes of fifty American villains

Fulgencio Batista

The early Fidel : roots of Castro's communism

Fidel Castro handbook

Che Guevara : a revolutionary life

Compaanero : the life and death of Che Guevara

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