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Cuba: A Day in the Life | Stan Dotson

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Front Cover.JPG

Cuba: A Day in the Life | Stan Dotson

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On the day after the big announcement, finding a Granma (Cuba’s daily newspaper) to read about the big news was a challenge, because people had quickly scarfed up all the copies for souvenirs. Well before it was printed, though, the news began trickling out. Midmorning on December 17, 2014, rumors of a prisoner exchange circulated. Something unusual between the U.S. and Cuba was reportedly in the works. Both Alan Gross, the U.S. citizen imprisoned in Cuba for five years on espionage charges, and the remaining three of the five “Cuban Heroes” imprisoned in the U.S. for fifteen years on the same charges, had been released and were returning to their respective homes, as were other lower profile political prisoners. Later in the day, even bigger news spread as people learned of the two administrations’ secret negotiations designed to end their fifty-six-year-old Cold War, thanks in part to the intervention of Pope Francis (who happened to be celebrating his birthday on this day).

            In the ensuing months since December 17, many articles have emerged in major publications and many news stories have aired across broadcast and cable television, all documenting aspects of Cuban life. The pieces are captivating and well-produced, but I have been disappointed in one respect: the stories typically center on Havana, the capital city that has suddenly started to charm, if not bewitch, so many people who are now eager to visit this metropolis seemingly frozen in time, before “everything changes.” As accurate as the portrayals are, they only show one thin slice of Cuban life, the urban scene of the country’s power center.

            While we did spend some time in Havana, Kim and I got to know many other urban and rural communities in eleven of the sixteen Cuban provinces, where we worshipped in twenty-seven churches and ate home-cooked meals in fifty homes. We were astounded by the incredible range of cultural diversity we found along the way. A “typical Cuban,” or a “Cuban identity,” is as hard to pin down as our own here in the U.S. What made the year fascinating for us was in part the timing, being there in the midst of the major narrative unfolding, seeing how people in different communities reacted to the prospects of a new day for our countries. For me, though, even more fascinating than this large public narrative was the impact of the thousand private stories of everyday Cubans, small but compelling stories of human resilience and creativity, humor and pathos. 

 

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