"Cuban Notebooks"Among the generally unreasonable provisions of the federal code that illegally presumes to regulate the press in Cuba is one that says writers the feds don't think have "significant" experience can't need more than one trip to complete their "articles." This ensures the relative ignorance of even well intended articles.
A book in progress
The "travel ban" makes Cuba an easy place to lie about, an easy place to carelessly write about, an easy place to be inaccurate about. Who's going to object? The "exiles" and embedded reporters free to speak up can welcome friendly lies and ridicule politically incorrect facts safely. Those most likely to defend Cuba from errors and cheap shots fear jail or fines or harassment if they speak up. The result is that it's standard for "licensed" insiders to take their preconceptions to Cuba, stay a few days, and send their preconceptions back with Havana datelines.
Specifically determined not to do that, I delayed this book for far too long, while my heap of Cuban notebooks grew. The subject is complex, ever changing, and ambiguous, and I am emotionally too close to it. I know too well how hard it is to get unwanted truths on the table. And I'm getting old. And all occasions are definitely conspiring against me. So the heap of notebooks collected dust until the spring of 2004, when I put my life in California in storage, my website on the screen, and my feet on the road.
I was carrying all those real, spiral wired reporter's notebooks, so I was glad to take the weight out of my pack as I milled them one by one through my new pocket PC into chapters - light as cyber air and ready at last for publication. But they still weighed heavily on my mind. I was still reluctant. I have for a long time viewed my travels and reflections as a private project aimed at the very carefully objective achievement of philosophical near certainty. And, even after years of traveling and living in Central America and Mexico, backed by a lot of other relevant experience and reading, my four previous trips to Cuba, though they already added up to several months of hard work in all parts of the island, hadn't made me as certain as others who have barely touched Havana think they are.
With the most clearly fascist and dangerous administration ever in Washington threatening the island and with the internet offering a way around establishment gatekeepers, though, if I was ever to defend Cuba - join way too few others in the defense of Cuba - the time had come to do it. But I meant to do it still with the care that, to me, demanded another (and another and another) look.
So, except for Chapter One, the writing and publishing of this book, Cuban Notebooks, on this website (iammyownreporter.com) began while I was traveling for another two months in Cuba (my 5th visit) rechecking my facts and taking more notes. I continued to write from all my notes as I traveled through South America (from June to November '04). And then I went back to Cuba for a sixth visit in '05 and took more notes. There are now ten chapters posted, three more are on my mind, and I intend to visit Cuba at least one more time, still looking for more facts, probably next January.
The book starts, in Chapter One, below, with my first Cuban notebook from 1989, my first impressions of Havana only (since, like most one-time visitors, I saw only Havana), but the first impressions of an experienced observer, transcribed directly from the notes I made then for my eyes only.
The next three chapters are also from my 1989 notes, supplemented by follow-up research and by later notes from '00, '01, '02, and '04. Chapters Five and Six are based mostly on my 5th trip to Cuba in April, May, and June of '04, and Chapters Seven, Eight, and Nine make use of notes from all my trips through '04. Chapter Ten is about the first week of my 6th visit to Cuba mainly in April of '05. By now, the book reflects a total of about seven months of deeper research than I think almost any other American has done. I hope what you read here will provoke a healthy suspicion of all you've heard before and an interest in a different Cuba.