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tv   Anthony De Palma The Cubans  CSPAN  December 27, 2020 6:45pm-8:01pm EST

6:45 pm type the authors name in the search bar at the top of the page. >> booktv in primetime starts now. first, former new york times latin america correspondent anthony depalma profiles generations of cubans. then retired editor and reporter wanda lloyd recalls the journalism career and this evening environmental progress founder michael schnellenberger offers thoughts on what we calls apocalypseic environmentalism and later to pulitzer prize winning journalist report on issues fating the working class in rural america. for more information visit, or consultor program guide. now, here's author anthony depalma. hello and welcome to any in conversation with anthony and
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marion depalma and right ruth behar. i'm the ceo of mbaf a national accounting firm handcuffed in miami. at mba faa we are deeply committed to strengthen the community where our employees and clients live and work. especially during thieves challenging times. the miami book fair has been an institution of our great city for decades, and we are honored to support its mission to expand and strengthen miami's literary culture. it's my pressure to introduce this discussion between anthony and marion depalma and ruth behar, who authors admire. anthony depalma send more than 20 years at the "new york times" covering the people, politics ps
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and cultures of countries around the world but his focus most often foal latin america, especially mexico and cuba it and is cuba and its people that resonated with him most. marion depalma, anthony's wife, was born on the island and came to's permanently in the united states in 1962. as i did myself as a child. marian is therefrom the colonial town of -- a historic community in eastern havana and the subject of anthony's book, "the cubans: ordinary lives in extraordinary times." it's an intimate and holy engrossing book at the resourceful not and resiliency of men and women navigating post
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castro existence. you won't soon forget: for me it brought bass memory odd of my childhood and cuba and my brothers in law has a large business in town. leading anthony and miriam's discussion of the book is ruth behar who has written but her own cuban-american experience. letters from cuba, is her most recent. no it tells story of a young jewish girl who flees poland in world war ii and comes to cuba to make a new life for her and her family. it is based on ruth's actual family history, another story that resonated with me as the woman i consider to be my second mother, elena zimmerman goleman, as a similar story over arriving in cuba from poland at the age of five and'sing --'ding there and now it is my flour present
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anthony and miriam depalma and ruth behar. >> thank you for joining us us in celebration of anthony depalma's book the cubans, ordinary lives in extraordinary times. you already know about anthony's long list of accolades and his distinguished career as a journalist and his years of detailed reporting on latin america and specifically on cuba. i hope in our conversation today that we will shed a more personal light on anthony and his work. this is going to be a special and intimate conversation but the cubans and anthony is a aye candidate by his wife, a retired bilingual teacher to whom anthony dedicates his book and journey where his work is set. the very town where miriam is from. we'll hear from miriam and discussing her ties of heritage and memory to the town and i also cuban born, will be bridging in some of my stories
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and my reflections on my long-term efforts to create bridges to and from cuba. so the cubans are going to outnumber anthony but i know he is okay with that. >> i'm okay with that. i'm kind of used it to. >> a minority in our home. >> so let me ask a first question. so you say, anthony, that in the urbans you wanted to avoid the holy trinity of cuban icons, fidel, che and hemingway and let the order cubans tell their open stories and you're wail aware of the power of journalism, the power of being a "new york times" journalist in particular. ow about her vert matthews -- herbert matthews that, man who invented fidel and you used that power to give voice to a group of individuals and their extend families. so could you tell us a little bit about that decision and whether as you got to know the
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people who opened up about their lives, did they still seem ordinary to you? >> well, let me start by saying it's lovely to be here and especially to be here with you, ruth. ruth and i know each other for a number of years and she was one of the spirit pipe i contacted when i began the project to get into a community and we had discussed various options,; just yesterday i received an e-mail through my website from hob some read the book and liked it and he sad just one re great. he by-ed i had put the author's note at the beginning of the book instead of the end, where it is in the book, and he felt he would have understood better what i was trying to do, but i think he actually missed the message there, because what i
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was trying to do really was to keep myself in the background, to be an on server, and -- observer and to give a kind of an independent, not objective but nonpartisan or dispassionate view as dispassionate as you can be about a subject like cuba' cubans so that these voices, which i felt during the course of all my work as a journalist, hadn't really been heard. so the folk cuss was on them. and to directly answer your question, you're right, in the end they are living in extraordinary times, and their lives are ordinary, but they themselves are not ordinary. they showed me -- and i'd like
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to make clear when it started -- it's near her home up to she left there a long time ago, and i didn't find really anybody who knew her so i started from scratch. simply knowing this is a place that i had some background and of course both of you as cubans understand when i say just having even that connection to family or to the town was enough to open some doors and where i found when i started talking there -- of course not everyone poke to me. not everyone was willing to open up with the degree of candor that these people did so it was process of finding them, but in all honesty once i did settle on them -- it was fairly early in the process -- i found out that they really were extraordinary. extraordinary in the degree of courage they showed.
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talking to me, an american. , in the amount of passion that they showed about their particular interest. maria talking about her family and he houston she has lived in her whole life and of course but her passion for spanish dance. a man talking about art and the sun and the light in cuba what it meaned to been an artist when you have to deal with a expect he regime. jorge the tragedy that he lived through with his family and the tugboat and the ability with which he continues to carry himself and his fight for justice against overwhelming odds. karie with her extraordinary story, her extraordinary memory, her extraordinary insights into cuba, and even really who really
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represented a whole different part of the cuban society, die hard communist despite almost unspeakable tragedy and incredible disappointment with the system itself, has continued to remain faithful to the idea of revolution that she has in her -- really extraordinary people. their lives are very ordinary. believe me. the isn't a whole lot of color, not a whole lot of anything. other than garbage and despair but somehow they managed with the dignity to continue their lives. >> thank you for that. let me ask miriam a question. how did you feel about anthony's work? did any of the stores make you feel that they revealed a hair
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legal -- parallel life that might have been used if you stayed in cuba? what did anthony thursday brim meaned to you as a cuban america? were you ever worried that he was going to cuba too often? did they that make your nervous? >> well, as far as -- i thought he was going to stay there for a while. well, he -- going to cuba -- i'm glad he was able to go and be safe. so i was worried that if someone realized he was there to work and to do research for a book, even though it was -- didn't have to do with the government or anything like that, that he would actually be in a position where he would either be thrown out or i would be called in and we would have to take a -- measures to get him out.
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i didn't go as often as he did. only went a couple of timed, one because of my work, but, two, i felt that i should separate myself from his work. i was only there sometimes as support and after -- in the beginning i couldn't go as i had promised to go and people thought that i was -- it was all a myth that he was actually not married to a cuban and i was just this ghost that he had made up. so they were glad and surprised and actually took me in as one of their own. they were very warm and caring people in spite of shortages and what they're going through and have gone through. the -- as far as parallel lives we often talk about what my life would have been if i had stayed,
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and i can't seem to put myself in that place. i was so little when i left. i was -- i left twice. like many cube yap its left in 1960, then came to new york, and we had to return in '6 if okay. with my grandmother and i had an aunt who lived here since the mid-'50s, and my grandfather took soil my grandmother and i had to leave and go back to cuba in 1961 in the heat of what was going on, and then we returned in '62 -- she returned in '6 1. i came by myself when i was ten. and quite a challenge being on a plane on your own, and stopovers and all that, but -- so i can't really imagine myself being there. i don't know what i would have been like and how things would
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have -- we were poor, we work working poor. didn't own property so we weren't the elite who left behind wealth or anything. so, i really don't know what my life would have been the. all i know is that would have been much, much different than it is now, what i'm accustomed to, and i don't know i would have been happy being there. i probably would have been one of those who at some point would have left anyway. my brother remained. my parents were divorced and my brother remained and he came in the '80s i believe, eight '80s, and our lives were so different so different and our ideals and ideas were so different that when he thought we'd finally would have come together again he -- we just couldn't see eye to eye and he
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wasser very resentful of what we had but i can't imagine having been there and have to do all the things these poor people have to do on a daily basis in order to survive. >> but she did come with me twice. >> yes. >> one problem was getting a visa to travel. as an american, and the good fortune i had of doing the book just at that moment, all i had to do is make a reservation online for a daily night from newark to havana. i paid 5 decide for a visa -- 75 decide for a veals see s at the aimed, but because her part -- her cuban passport expired years ago it was impossible weapon attempted to get her passport renewed. it took almost two years nor the
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embassy to get back to her to say, you know what? we can't prove you're cuban but if you want to go cuba we'll give you special visa for cubans. >> and you must pay again. >> and pay again. so it was bizarre but that's no surprise to you or to any other cuban. when we were there in one of the visits we were there, miriam and i walked around. i was visiting all my people. she got meet them and we went to revisit the places of her childhood, which is right in the area where carmen and -- all of that is right there. she was so upset by the conditions that we found that she ended up dragging me into the municipal building to file a complaint with the office of --
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because she was upset to show her husband what had happened to her town. >> the characters in the book who have now become almost friends, were horrified that i would just walk into the municipal building to file a complaint. they said you are going to get thrown out of the country or put in jail but it's howeverring to see the conditions these -- that people live in, the piles of garbage, the amount of insects and rodents around them, and unnecessarily so. so they were -- the municipal building was the -- the people the were a little shocked that i had even gone in and to try to talk to someone to make a change, and what the answer i got was, well, it's all because of the embargo, and we couldn't get parts 0 for the trucks so
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they could pick up the garbage, so i argued with them and said you have carts and donkeys? i think it was ushered out. >> an important point, that one thing i found is that cuba looks much better from a distant. ... >> people who make policy in washington have some idea based on who knows what, but it is always based on a view from a distance. and what i found is the closer you get, it's like walking up to one of those 1957 chevy bel airs
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that the everybody dreams about, and from two blocks away it's gorgeous, it's heart-stoppingly gorgeous. until you know a little bit about cars and paint and everything else and you get up close and you see that there's rust right underneath that shiny paint and the seats are kind of bumpy and lumpy and if you open the hood, well, the general motors iron is long gone, and it's replaced by a lot of toyota or something -- >> [inaudible] >> yes, the first time we went her brother was driving around in an old chevy or desoto, and he had a man's belt in place of the fan belt. so i think doing a book like this, one of the real things it can accomplish is to overcome those misconceptions that are based on distance. here i'm saying, look, i got
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right up close to it. these people allowed me into their house. they opened up the refederal judge raters for me -- refrigerators for me and here's what i pound. what of in mind. -- what you have in mind. >> absolutely. i think that's totally true. i want do you a question about the work of writing because it's very engaging to read, and lot of viewers have said that. it's kind of a mix of journalism and narrative storytelling, a classic vignette, biographical, i would call it a blurred general re, so it would be perfect for -- genre, so it would be perfect for my course. did you feel you were inventing a genre e? if what are your literary influences? and i really loved the circular chronological structure. it begins with hurricane irma in 2017 when you bring us back a little bit beyond that at the end of the book. so you clearly thought a lot
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about structure. so just to talk about that for a little bit, and then we'll come back to questions. >> okay. good. yeah, i like that mixed genre idea. it's not my first book, right? and writing a book as a new york times correspondent or a former new york times correspondent there's a certain model that i could have followed which is what i did with my first book which was on north america, the three countries of north america, canada, the united states and mexico. and in that regard, you do it in a much more journalistic way. you pick a chapter that deals with a particular theme almost as though it's a long article about education or politics or the economy or religion or, of course, music or the cars and culture. i could have done that, but in recent years and especially
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because it's latin america, one of the famous new york times editors, scotty rustin, years ago said about latin america the that americans will do anything for latin america except read about it. [laughter] >> that's horrible. >> there's a lot of truth to it. and so i wanted to go beyond that model which i had used before. you know, it could have been cuba today or cuba opens, and that would have been the format. but i thought, one, cuba is not tibet or me e pal. it's close -- nepal. it's close enough that just doing it that that way wouldn't be sufficient to get the kind of
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readership that i want. because people think they know it, so you wouldn't need to go to a book about cue to find out if you already think you know. and the 60 years since the revolution have been so intense that, in fact, people -- unless they were i growing up in a cave -- feel they know a lot about cuba already. what they know is fidel, che and hemingway, but that's sufficient. so i wanted to go beyond that x. in recent years, there actually have been a number of books that have sort of forged a new form. one of the models that i, that the i had in mind and read several times before i started on "the i cubans" -- the cubans" was behind the beautiful forevers. a very well regarded book about
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a single slum town in -- not even a town, but a slum, dwelling in india. the beautiful forevers were a series of billboards coming from the airport in mumbai. another one that is done in sort of the same mixed genre as you described it ising nothing to envy by barbara demick. with regarded again -- well regarded again about north korea. to me, a country that is very much forbidden that most people didn't i know about. and she did it based on interviews with a few people and through their stories told the large or stories. what she wasn't able to do was actually to spend much time in north korea. so she wrote the book based on, i think, two or three brief trips that she was allowed to take when she was a correspondent for the l.a. times
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in china, and the rest was based on interviews with people who had left. and so by that very nature, there were people who were against the regime, they were dissidents, and she built a very powerful and moving story about it. i didn't want to do that. could have gone to miami and talked to as many cubans as i needed to to get a story, but i didn't want to do that. i wanted to really see what was like. it was a method -- actually, the first time i used this method was while i was a correspondent at the new york times based in new york. we had a period of time when it wasn't an economic crisis, but there were -- the taxes, the water rates, the subway fares and a couple of other things were all rising at the same time. the normal way of doing, of covering that that would be let's go to the strap hangers
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and them what's going -- how do you react to the current increase in fares. and, of course, they would say it's the worst thing that's ever happened, people aren't going to be able to go to work. instead of doing that, i the turned it around, and i did a series of stories by selecting a single block, city block in new york city that was representative of the ethnic, religious, sociological and economic mixture of the city. just simply go there and ask those people how were they affected by these changes. turning things around. and that, essentially, is the model for "the cubans." i could have gone to business people and asked them about the opening, as limited as it is, or dissidents or anyone if else. instead, we take a particular place, establish that place in history, and it's quite with an
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interesting place in itself, and then just find out what those people are like. and if i'm picking a small enough place, their lives intersect to some degree, and it gives you a fabric from which you can create the entire tapestry of the book. >> wow, that's great, and it's so close to what we do in anthropology, you know, in cultural anthropology. you were doing field work, essentially. >> yes. yes. >> yeah, which was great. i found that so exciting, actually, because i think journalism and anthropology have a lot of things in common. and i think as more people do field work as you do or ethnographic work, the two ways of approaching reality and writing about that reality are actually converging in a way. >> sure. one of the great models for that is children of -- [inaudible] did in the late 1950s, early
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1960s about mexico. and, in fact, i had read that the years ago, and i had in mind the idea that he was using a particular community that i didn't know. but when i went back to reread it after having lived in mexico, it became clear to me that he was simply using a neighborhood in mexico city. but the neighborhood itself sort of faded into the background, and it was simply the people in this one family. interesting, oscar lewis was invited to cuba in the first decade of revolution. fidel said, come in, do for cuba what you did for mexico. and oscar lewis said to fidel at the beginning, well, you know, i insisted i have complete freedom to talk to anyone i want and to record anything they say, and they are going to be quite
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critical. and fidel, obvious, boasted that -- of course, boasted that there's nothing they can say i haven't already heard, they can talk to me freely about things, we are a very open society and everyone is in favor, you know? and there are little issues, and we so them. so oscar lewis began his work. but 1968 when the first, he had to make his first reports and fidel found out what he was actually going to write he stopped the project. he actually accused oscar lewis of being a cia spy and shut it down. >> yeah. [laughter] >> and oscar lewis never completed it. those papers, those reports that he did are in a university at i think the university -- [inaudible] >> urban a that champagne, yeah. but did publish three volumes based on that. >> yeah. based on the original
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manuscript. >> which is why -- [inaudible] yeah. and it has amazing information. it has amazing information about the literacy campaign and, like, first-person testimonials about a lot of key experiences from that time. so it's still very useful from that perspective. yeah. so i guess going off of that, your book has a really interesting narrative arc, and it moves between, as i see it, between hope and despair. on the one hand, we have -- in her we see strength and hope and unshakable commitment to the principles of social justice. she wants true equality to exist in cuba promised by the revolution. she gives up her party card to show the truth of her commitment. and then on the other hand, of course, we have jorge garcia who lost, you know, 14 members of his family in the sinking of the tugboat in 1994. he blames himself for what happened, suffers from grief,
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anger, still in cuba becomes committed to basically spending his life telling the story of the loss and then leaves for miami in '99 with his wife and daughter. there are many other important characters in the book, but cath a ya and jorge represent for me kind of the diaspora and their intersection in very powerful ways. so i wonder if you and miriam as well can tell us more about this arc of hope and despair and what it tells us about cuba. >> yeah. i'll take it, and then i want you to jump up. >> connie really does that. and her life story, as it turns out -- i didn't know her before i began the book -- but just to will the e the people who are watching now this is born in -- [inaudible] of 1956. within three weeks of fidel and the 81 arriving on the southern
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coast of cuba to begin the belligerent stage of the revolution that ended up in january of 1959 with him talking over the whole island -- taking over the whole island. so her own personal story covers the novel arc. i mean, what could be better? she's also a black cuban woman who was brought up by a single mother in a sugar mill town in the -- [audio difficulty] and very quickly as she, as it affected her life, the changes that were brought in and the idealism with which she was originally you should shred in -- ushered in in the early years when there was enough money to do this, right? because the soviet union was underwriting everything. she benefited greatly from it. she went from being in her sugar
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mill town where there was a school for the black jamaican cubans and a school for the white cubans, where there was a cultural center for the black cubans and a cultural center for the white cubans, and they were not allowed to cross. to a point where in the 1970s she was able to get on a boat and be sent to europe to study for her graduate degree at the university of kent, part of the soviet bloc. and she tells this incredible story about getting onboard this ship with other over a thousand other students, and all of those students were carrying the same suitcase. they were wearing the same underwear expect same clothes. for -- and the same clothes. for her, that meant we, yes, were equal and as a black woman, that was really the most significant thing for her. so i was quite surprised when
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after hearing her whole trajectory of going from this little black girl in a sugar mill town to becoming vice minister of light industry for the entire country, she reaches a moment of reckoning where her mother has to go in for treatment in the hospital. now, but you just started by telling somebody that story, you'd say, well, of course, the mother didn't get the care she needed, so she was disappointed with the revolution and, therefore, turned. but, no, it's exactly the opposite. it's very counterintuitive. what she finds is that her mother is -- because they live in -- [inaudible] is supposed to go to miguel enriquez, this sort of mediocre little neighborhood hospital. they call it. [speaking spanish] but it really isn't so good to be there. she's supposed to go there, that's where she's assigned. but once they find out that it's the vice minister's mother, the
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government intervenes, takes her over to the -- [speaking spanish] the big, fancy, renouned hospital on the waterfront in havana, and she gets the best treatment that cuba can afford. she's grateful for that, but there's something inside her that says this isn't right. this isn'ting because i'm cuban or because my mother is cuban, this is because my mother is my mother and i'm the vice minister of industry. something there that she finally -- it opens her eyes to the extent it doesn't -- it leads in a way eventually, the story leads to a moment of despair. and how could it not? she was not only vice minister, but a high ranking member of the communist party. so she had dedicated her life. she bought this hook, line and sink or. she was a revolutionary. believing in a revolution that
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had at its core a false promise. so, or yeah, eventually with that realization there's a moment of despair. but what comes through, i hope, in the book and it certainly came through for us is that that moment of despair did not lead to surrender. he showed -- she showed that cuban ability, and i'm reluctant to say you nook, but it is certainly is -- unique, but it certainly is formidable in cuba that in the face of that despair, imagine your whole life sort of devoted to a lie, she reinvents herself. reinvents herself as an independent woman, a capitalist and an entrepreneur using the skills that she had developed over the years and understanding that any business she would start in any of those businesses
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she is that business' most important resource. it's not the material, it's not the place, not the -- [inaudible] it's the person. and it's a real switch from a socialist mindset. she does all that -- >> yeah. >> -- gives up her card, but she never gives up her love for her homeland. and that, i thought, was just such a moving narrative that she could have been the whole book. her life could have been the whole book. i was reluctant to put that much focus on her because she still lived there. and although she's protected to some extent because of her status and her position, she still has to live there. so it was better to move some of it away. but very much that story from despair, from hope to despair, back to hope and how wonderful that the fan that she uses to
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keep herself cool while she's watching the election of the new president and the new constitution and all of that stuff that. >> she doesn't really believe in, the -- that she doesn't really believe in, the fan has on it in english a word that she didn't really understand, but it's hopeful. for people in china, they probably didn't know what it meant either. [laughter] >> i can't tell you how much i loved that touch. i mean, you, you're so good at choosing these significant details, and that one which is, like, in the third sentence at the beginning of the book is so perfect. that was such a perfect detail to include, yeah. [laughter] >> hope should be every cuban's middle name. they're hopeful for everything; hopeful that things will change, they would have a better meal the next day or are able to get a meal the next day, hopeful
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that they could come to the united states and see what it's all about, hopeful for freedom, hopeful for so many things. >> hope that that flimsy raft doesn't tear apart while they're trying to cross the straits of florida. >> that's right. absolutely, absolutely. so hope is their middle name. i don't know about despare. i don't think -- despair. i don't think that the people who are there have, feel despair always. they're always thinking ahead and thinking of how to make things better every day. and if they, if they let despair take the best of them, they wouldn't have any hope, and they wouldn't be able to function. and it's unbelievable what, how some families make ends meet every day and how from the gunning, from the moment that they wake up, they're thinking about what comes next.
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and that's, that takes a lot of hope. more than despair. >> yeah. but, you know, at the same time what they're doing by their adaptability by -- [speaking spanish] everything. is that, this was a surprise to me to understand the extent to which they understand that about themselves, and that is they understand that this adaptability, this ability to -- [inaudible] >> i saw in one, so many instances of it. when you see a motorcycle that people are reliant on and they're trying to keep it going but there are no parts, and the price at the gas tank is a -- [inaudible] right in how do you do that? well, you are adapting to the very worst conditions. yes, that's their greatest strength.
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but at the same moment, it condemns them to a system that doesn't change. and they realize that if you were to be super critical, you could call it complacency. if you were more inclined to be empathetic, you'd say after so many years and so many shortages and so much restriction and censorship and hardship in this geo political situation they find themselves in, it is simply survival mode. >> but they were born into survival mode. many of them don't know what it was like before, or they don't know what it is to have. so they, this is all they know. >> well, i mean, they even -- her his and people, some of the others that age still think of the first two decades of the revolution as the golden period. it wasn't really golden by global standard, but for this many compared to what came
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afterwards when it was really bad and what they now fear becoming another special period meaning worse than before, they look at that as, you know, as being -- [inaudible conversations] >> things weren't that bad. >> you could be hopeful. >> uh-huh. with regard to connie, i was also struck, i mean, you talk about anti-black racism throughout the book, and when we get to 2018, there's someone who says you all are so professional and courteous that i feel like i'm in a business run by whites. you hear stuff like that in cuba. that's kind of the other sort of upis the eking thing after all these years of revolution and efforts to create gender and racial equality that it's such antiquated at tuesday about things -- attitudes about things like being black or white, and i thought that was very, very interesting towards the end of the book. >> sure, sure.
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>> on different fronts that yet again confronting, you know -- [inaudible] >> and when there are shortages all the time, people tend to sort of become much more friable, right? -- tribal, right? so there isn't a whole lot let me keep what i have and keep it from the others. and i think that's one of the, one of the real negative side effects of the life that they live. despite that, they can be very generous. but when it comes right down to it, there's so little that you really have to be most concerned about yourself and your family. so that allows that kind of attitude and many others to -- not to flourish, but to survive at a point which they might otherwise have disappeared. >> yeah. one thing is that they were very generous with us with their time, with whatever they would
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seek out for dinner, they would invite us over, and they made us feel, like, at home. they never treated us with anything but countrymen who was back and welcomed. >> yeah. i think that's absolutely true, and we see that at the end of the book when congress is spelling out cuba and what each letter signifies. and i think that cuban warmth is very much something -- [inaudible] in cuba they have a lot less than we do in the united states, but they would give a lot more of what they have, you know, to be kind and to be welcoming. and i guess finally on that, another question that i have -- i guess it kind of follows -- is about departure and return. and those are such intense scenes in cuba. we're all familiar with the cuban good-bye where you say good-bye ten times -- [laughter] you kiss everybody and you kiss everybody again good-bye. so we though how pawn -- know how painful good byes can be and
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how beautiful a return can be. so i appreciated having the artist be one of the characters in this story. the artist who could have stayed in the diaspora but chose to return to the island and be part of the island because of the life, the inspiration, the way rife is unpredictable in cuba, and that can have a charm. so i wonder if you want to talk a little bit about that relationship between departure and return. and many of the protagonists we meet eventually decided to leave cuba, and that includes connie's twin sister and her two nephews and her own beloved only child. and then there's a -- who decides to return. so i'm really curious about those. and i think you did a really nice job in kind of showing that happening in both directions as opposed to just everybody wants to leave cuba which is the common assumption. things are so difficult there. but you have an artist, you know, a great artist who decides
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to return and be part of this artistic community. so i'd love to hear more about that and the whole -- [inaudible] return among cubans. >> well, i don't -- with good-byes, well, you're cuban, so we don't really say good-bye. i don't think -- you're always, you say hasta pronto e which means, you know, i'll see you soon. it's never a good-bye. it's never cemented that you're gone and you will -- you are expected to come back. and when we have have said our good-byes, especially toward the end the last time i was there, they expect us to come back at some point. we have, we had planned go back and spend some time with them, bring them a copy of the book and, unfortunately, due to covid we just can't travel.
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but, yes, the -- >> but what about when you left in 1962? >> in 1962 there was, it was -- we were expected to come back. my father didn't leave. my father said -- he was are e married, and he he said, you know, if we don't all leave, the whole family doesn't leave, i don't leave anyway, this isn't going to last long. [laughter] i'll say it again. so we were expected to come back. it wasn't a total depar church -- departure. so, you know, time has shown that, you know, we stayed, and i became more is and more americanized. and, to be honest with you, although i enjoy returning and seeing, you know, my country and meeting people and their warmth and everybody in the street
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wants to talk to you, wants to know where you're from and what are you doing here, i can't find myself being able to say for a fact that i could live there again. i'm no longer the cuban that i would have been if i had -- in the '80s. i left too early, and my life is here, and i don't know i can do the things that the people there can do to make a life for themselves. >> you don't think you could use a battery e for hair coloring the way they did? [laughter] >> no. >> a story from years ago, when she was just a little girl,
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there were so many of your friends that were leaving that one day you'd find out -- >> they're gone. >> -- they're not there, and they'd say, where did they go? they went to new york. you would look up in the sky, and there'd be planes loving from the airport, and you thought that -- >> that new york was up there. [laughter] >> else could it be? or -- where else could it be? even was saying in the north, in the north. well, where is north? >> and so many people when they leave cuba, it's often the first time they're getting on a plane. >> right. >> people in the jewish community who have left israel, for many of them they get on a plane for the first time when they're leaving the country. they've never traveled before that. they're not accustomed to travel -- >> let me ask you a question, how could -- in that same light,
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how could it be that there are so many cubans who don't know how to swimsome. >> yes, i know. that's so interesting. it comes up in the book -- >> they live on an island. and it's a long, narrow island, so you're never that far from the sea. but there are -- most people, i think, don't -- >> i wouldn't say most. i think we all have a love for the beach. you know, we can't stop marveling at it and how beautiful the beaches are and the vistas are. but. >> not the water? >> no. [laughter] i think because we're surrounded by it and it's so familiar, we enjoy it, with splash in the water when we're there the, but we really, we're not avid swimmers. over here in the united states, you know, there are very few
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beaches. [laughter] that small area in new jersey or in florida where there's plenty of water or california, so you enjoy -- you learn how to swim, you know, you join the y. so you can never get over that my grandmother who died at 98 had never gone beyond her ankles in the ocean. >> i think this is, there's a kind of respect for the option. >> yes. >> we understand its power, and it may have to do with things like hurricanes, and, you know, the moods of the ocean change so much. it's so beautiful, but it can also. sweep you away, take you away. maybe this is going too far, but there is the association with the history of slavery. just like all the africans who died at sea and who were buried
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at sea. and this kind of goes into my question, i want to ask you about religion before we close. and, you know, i think about the whole force of the ocean and that these are, like, deities that you have to respect to a certain extent. i always wondered in that had something to do with it as well, you know? let's not play too much with the ocean, the ocean's a serious thing. >> i would say that to my children because i can't swim. i joke about, you know, splashing and hold my head above water, but i was saying that, you know, i respect the ocean, i don't fear it, i respect it, and i enjoy it and i love to be in the water but don't get me past my neck. [laughter] >> i hear you. >> yeah. you know, i was told one time that he haunted living on an
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eye -- hated living on an island. he would much rather have lived in europe or the united states simply because he could then get in a car and drive without ever reaching the end. there was something about being on an island where the end was right there that closed him in. he came back not because of the island, but because of the sun and the light. he was willing to do that. but i always -- i never even considered that, because we think about living on an island as something luxurious and wonderful. but for him it was not. but the religion, of course, was a very big part, but, you know, i don't think -- with lived in mexico -- we lived in mexico, and i've covered other latin countries, and the cubans never really were religious in the same year that, say, mexicans
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are religious, were and still are. and i, it, of course, you have a whole mix. there are the jewish cemeteries although there's no synagogue, plenty of old catholic churches, most of them falling down. the big, yearly ceremony was the august a 15, this holy day of the assumption. so many for decades the procession that was the big social and religious event of the year was absolutely prohibited. now they are allowed to bring the statue of the virgin out of the central the church and march it through the streets, and i was able -- fortunate enough to be there for one of this many. but people like maria dell
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carmen who remember it from their youth, and if mary remembers it as well, it was an enormous and vibrant and memorable ceremony was a 20 minute rush around two blocks, very close to the studio before they brought her back in. i think in the case of people who are at the center of the book, when connie went through her moment of reckoning with the revolution, she not only left behind her party membership and her position and her cell phone and her car, she also gave up her -- [speaking spanish] and she's now pretty much an evangelical, pentacostal, she's searching for religion. and the messages we get from her have tended to become more religious. and so it has become an
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important part of her life. i think she brings her his along, and he goes along with it -- >> that man is wonderful. [laughter] >> lily, lily hernandez who is the president of the lock cer one of connie's real friends, connie was her maid of honor when she got married and they lived right down the street from each other but had completely different world views, has an altar in her bedroom. >> does she really? wow. >> but her son who lives in the same building and has nothing to do with the party or the revolution and is desperate to get out is raising two daughters who are now yes e hove v.a -- jehovah witnesses because of the mother. >> because of the mother. >> began in the church and then was at -- [speaking spanish] which is sort of the center of a lot of this. but left. montalto's studio was across the
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street, but he never indicated to me that religion was any big part of his life. >> or his art. >> or his art. >> but maria dell carmen who i grew up on the other side, religion and spanish dance have been sort of the firmament that allowed her to survive when, in fact -- this was very interesting -- she, like many cubans, never bought into the revolution but never left. so there's a whole part of the society that is living within a system that they don't really have any alliance to or allegiance. how do you do that for 65 years? >> that's interesting. >> well, she did it by are maining faithful -- remaining faithful whatever that meant. so when she, after-not able to get the career she wanted because she was brought with in
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by the young communist league and asked do you believe, she knew that if she said no, she'd get the job or the position in the university that she wanted which would lead her to the job which would lead her to the life that she wanted. she couldn't say no. and. >> suffered thing consequences of that -- and she suffered the consequences of that. and instead of becoming the research scientist that she wanted to be, she became a food safety inspector in havana harbor. but even when she worked in the fleet, she would at the end of her shift at 5:00 walk up the street, and she found this little chapel that had managed to survive alongside the fruit market. and making sure that nobody saw her go in, would go in for mass. and while she was in there one day, or she would often talk to one of the monks who ran it, she wanted to talk to the monk, and
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she came down the hallway to talk to him and then stopped short because she saw that he was actually speaking to someone else. and nervous that that other person would see her or something like that would happen, she turned around. but before she did, she noticed that the person the monk was speaking to was wearing a uniform that looked forward, and it -- familiar, and it turned out that person was a captain in the fleet. and eventually, after several years, they married. [laughter] >> it's a great story. >> even today she continues -- she can't dance anymore, and there aren't, i mean, most of the spanish community, the societies, the society that she belonged to, they have really cut back. there's nobody to support it anymore. but she remains a participant in the school for spanish dance
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that her friend started 25 years ago. and every summer when they have their graduation ceremony, she's the narrator the who gives a history about the pieces that they're playing, what the girls are doing and how it all, you know, so it has become -- the religion and the culture have allowed her, and i can't imagine with how many other untold number of cubans, have been able to survive in a system that they don't agree with that's very harsh and very demanding by relying on those things. >> yeah. the culture is so strong, cuban culture x that includes religion. it's so strong that it's something people have been able to hold on to. and to allow for these kind of everyday acts of resis dance, you know? maybe it's not major resistance against the system, but people try to live the life they want to live, and that's kind of like
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an everyday act of resistance. to have continued to go to church during the years when they were trying to oppress or jewish traditions that i know about, you know, in jewish tradition you need ten people to perform a ceremony. and in cuba again at the time that religion was being spun processed, they -- suppressed, they often couldn't get ten people. they would make up for the misse five people, four -- [inaudible] and then the tenth was god. that became known as the cuban minion, right? people found ways to survive through these everyday acts of resistance. not huge going out and protesting, but these everyday acts, and i think we see that in so many ways around cubans. and i guess to end, because i think we're close to time now,
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we're at time, well, i'm so glad that you wrote about -- and this is thanks to miriam. and i think it's important because, you know, we have so much writing about cuba where people say they're writing about cuba, but they're usually writing about a havana, you know? this is a point i often bring up in my class. they say it's cuba, but they really have just gotten to know havana. nothing wrong with that, that havana's a great city, i was born this, i love it, i love going back. but that also means we don't know how complex cuba is and that there are many different cubas. and by working there, you were able to show us there's many ways to be cuban and that there's life beyond havana and interesting things going on in ever different parts of the country. so i wonder how you think we could encourage people to look beyond havana, to look at other places, other cities and towns
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in cuba? what do you think we could do to encourage understanding of the island in this largest sense? >> well, right now if we're talking about americans, it's very difficult. to physically be there, right? >> yeah. >> all the airports are closed except for havana, if there are the so many restrictions. but i think if, you know, that's part of what my book is and the books that you've written do that as well to give a sense that there are i cuban people with a rich and long history and culture that's not this fantasy land, cinderella type thing that you see in havana vieja. which all kudos to -- [inaudible] they've done a great job. it makes money, and the money's piled back into training people. but it's unfortunate that
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there's so many americans who will say, oh, i was in cuba and, you know, i saw -- we stayed at the hotel, and i went down and bought a great meal, and there's all -- it's not even havana. it's this tiny section of that van from a. -- havana. and then you leave, and i suppose it's better than nothing, but, you know, the people-to-people experience that was allowed in the last administration, you know, it was a great idea but it really fell short because it left people with a skewed idea of what cuba was like. so they came back saying, well, it's not so bad. really it's quite lovely. and it is quite lovely. but when i would take people, i would say even if we're going in havana, come with me. we'll go two blocks over from obispo. we'll go to the next block and
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we'll find somebody outside, you know, try to fix a car, and i'll talk to this many and say, hey, do you mind if we come inside? andwood walk inside the house -- and we'd walk inside the house and talk a little bit, and i would either ask or once i felt comfortable enough open up the refrigerator and say, my goodness, you have two eggs and a pot of something and nothing else in there? and then you start to understand what it's really like to live there. so i don't think it's possible right now to come up with a whole lot of alternatives to visiting havana. but i would encourage people that if they are in havana even on a people-to-people that you don't need to go far, two blocks over. when you take that ride in the '57 chevy, can the driver to open up the hood and ask him where got that or what kind of brakes are on the car. because while -- going back to
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something i said at the beginning that cuba looks much better from afar and once you get close you start to see things, it works even when you're there. being in havana viejas in part part of it -- party part of it, you come away with one impression. but just looking a little bit closerrer. so it requires, i think it requires a little bit of work on the part of individuals -- cuba is the kind of place that opens itself up to you. but you've got to work at it a little bit. the more you work at it, the more it will open up. but it's not the kind of place where you can just go there and you come back and understand it. although there's manager -- something about it that tempts people to do that. i can't tell you how -- well, i'm sure you know better than i do, how many cuba experts there are out there who will in a moment of candor say, well, i was there last, you know, i was
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there telephone years ago for a week -- ten years ago for a week, but let me tell you what it's really like. [laughter] >> already drank the kool-aid. they know everything. >> yeah. >> yeah. and, you know, we a saw it even in the campaign. you know, you'd have a candidate talk about how great the education system is. well, not taking one side or the other, you simply know that that is based on a lack of information, not -- that's not a projection based on a real understanding or even a rudimentary understanding. that's based on reading the headlines or drinking the kool-aid. >> uh-huh. >> so i think if we're in this situation, right, where we should be neighbors, we should be friends because physically we're so close are finish. >> right. >> and there's so much of our cultures that's intertwined. that bridge is there although it's kind of rickety right now
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and maybe there's somebody there asking for or demanding a toll that we can't pay. but the reality is we should be understanding each other, we -- it should be manager that's important enough -- something that's important enough because it's policy there and it's a big part of the policy in the united states that affects our relationship not just with cuba, but with all of latin america and, you could argue, with most of the rest of the world which sees our position towards cuba as something far different than the folks in washington who support it or the folks in miami who support it the way they see it. the rest of the world is not looking at it in the same way. so we do ourselves harm by this relationship. there's get it straight. but in order to get it straight, you start with the way you would do any project. let's understand what's at
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stake. and that's really what i tried to do. >> absolutely. no, you did. it's such a wonderful book, and you mentioned that you want to go back and bring a copy of the book to your friends. it's a book -- is the book being translatedded into spanish? do you envision one day presenting it once, you know, we're past covid, presenting it in cuba? how do you envision, i guess, that part of the story? >> yeah. well, i even picked a spot where we were going to have a get-together and bring all of the people, all of the individuals together. there was one place up on a hill that actually was an old house, but it -- they would set up a party. that didn't happen. i don't know if it can ever happen. will be what i said about scotty rustin and americans not wanting to read about latin america? i think there's also an aspect of latin america not wanting to
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read any more about cuba. so as of right now, we have translations in chinese and korean going forward but not in spanish. [laughter] so my hope is that eventually, yes, i can at least hand lily and montalto and maria -- jorge garcia has a copy already. >> yeah. >> his grandson is living in cuba. so i'd like to hand a copy to him. and maybe montalto would open up his studio, and we could do something unofficial there, and that would help give me an opportunity to talk to some folks. >> [inaudible] >> there is, yes, there is also a version that was already printed and is available in the united >> in europe. >> that's great. well, thank you both so much. i could keep going, i have more
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questions, but i think we're way past -- [laughter] we were supposed to peek. so thank you so much, this was so much fun, miriam and anthony, thank you. it was really great. >> great questions. you really understand this, and is so -- >> yeah. [speaking spanish] >> i don't know if you saw the necklace i was wearing, but -- [laughter] just special -- >> actually, that word got me in trouble in cuba. i had a had that said cubanita on it, it got me thrown off a bus. >> because? >> -- [inaudible] tourist. >> oh. >> i only wear it here. >> this was gifted to me by a mexican friend, and i thought today seemed like the right day to wear it. >> beautiful. >> great. >> yeah. so thank you so much. >> thank you. >> a thank you. take care. you have a good night. >> you too.
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>> hasta pronto. >> hasta pronto. [laughter] ♪ ♪ >> you're watching booktv on c-span2, every weekend with the latest nonfiction books and authors. booktv on c-span2, created by america's cable television companies. today we're brought to you by these television companies who provide booktv to viewers as a public service. ♪ ♪ >> during our weekly author interview program "after words", lou dobbs offered his thoughts on president trump's impact on american politics and made the case for his reelection. here's a portion of the discussion. >> without donald trump in that white house, all bets are off. there is no way that anyone should dismiss what is happening in the party of hate, the democrat party, as simply are the rick, as simply -- rhetoric,
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as simply a political squabble. this is a battle for the soul of the nation, it is a battle for the direction of the nation and, indeed, for who we will be as a people. and it's -- and i don't mean that to be melodramatic in any way, it's just the fact. you talk about puerto rico and d.c. are states, that changes who we are, that changes what we are. because that means then the democratic party has sufficient power to pack that court, to insist upon a -- might as well simply go straight to toaltarian because -- totalitarian because that is what the left wants here. they don't want to be bothered by little things like law or a constitution or history or her
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taj or -- heritage or consistent and constant virtuous values. the idea that a political a party can threaten death and destruction on the streets of america and still be regarded as a political party, to me, is, it's nauseating to see a what the democrat party has become. now, my colleagues in media don't, for the most part, care to talk that directly about it. but i do. because i believe that's exactly what we're staring at, and it's a very ugly face, indeed, in american politics right now. the choices are tough. they really are tough that we're going to have to make over the next several years. and we're going to need a tough leader, and this president has proven he's tough, he's strong, he's smart as hell. by the way, they never want to
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acknowledge how smart donald trump is. they always say he's got great instincts. [laughter] i love that idea. he's got great judgment, he's a great leader, he's smart, and he cares about this country. >> to watch the rest of this program, visit our web site, click on the "after words" tab to find lou dobbs' interview and all previous episodes of the program. ...


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