DK Eyewitness: Cuba, by DK Travel
In reading this book I was struck by the way that the authors spent about half of the book talking about what could be seen in and around Havana. To be sure, Havana is the biggest city and capital of Cuba, but there is a lot of country outside of the capital city, although this book assumes (rightly in many cases, I think) that most people who visit the nation of Cuba will mainly be looking for information about what is in and around the capital given the limitations of time and comfort in traveling throughout a country as forbidding as Cuba is. As it happens, my family and I are planning a trip to Cuba, which is why I read this book in the first place, and the book’s focus on Havana is quite welcome as far as I am concerned given our own plans to focus in this area. Admittedly, the book does show that there is quite a lot to see when one travels and is written from the point of view of those who greatly appreciate the country and expect those who travel there to appreciate it as well. We will see if that is the case.
This book is less than 300 pages and is divided into four unequal parts. The first part of the book, which is about 50 pages long, encourages the reader to discover Cuba through a welcome message, some reasons to love it, an introduction to where one can explore and get to know the country, as well as some itineraries, a schedule of exciting events, and a brief history of the country. After that the next part of the book contains a bit less than 100 pages focused on the city of Havana, most notably the old city, the center of the city, the area of Vedado and Plaza, and then the areas beyond the compact central core of the city. After that there are about 120 pages on the rest of country, which is divided into Eastern Cuba, the Eastern and Western part of Central Cuba, and Eastern Cuba. After that the book ends with some suggestions as to what the authors think that the reader would need to know about Cuba, such as some suggestions before one goes, getting around, practical information, an index, a phrase book of useful Spanish expressions, and acknowledgements.
This particular book was deeply interesting to me, not least in the way that it focused the attention of the reader on a very small area of Cuba that can probably be explored in a limited amount of time, while also providing at least some look at the wider expanse of Cuba for those who have greater time and an interest in exploring outside of the capital. While my maternal grandfather visited Cuba quite often, at least from what I have heard, during his time as a coastguardsman in the period before Castro’s takeover in 1959, no one in my family has, at least to my knowledge, visited the country since then. It is interesting to reflect upon the fate that a socialist nation has in throwing itself open to tourists in the hope that they will allow the economy to continue to function, and what sort of freedom Cuba wishes to have from its much larger neighbor even as it struggles to provide freedom to its own people. A book like this certainly gave me a lot to think about and ponder concerning the state of Cuba and how it is likely to view a tourist like me to the extent that it recognizes who I am.