"Cuban Notebooks"1 July, 2007 - Among the generally unreasonable provisions of the federal code that illegally presumes to regulate the visits of US journalists to 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
4 March 2004
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 explained when I first posted this foreword on March 4 2004), 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 (because I invented communism when I was a child, have been thinking about it all my life, and worked closely for more than a dozen summers with the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua, emotionally relating to the people there and thus despising Ronald Reagan and all arrogant US ignorance).
Also, as a life-long realist and militant advocate of population reduction, 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 begun with my first 1989 visit to Cuba went on heaping through my 2000, 2001, and 2002 visits and collecting dust until the spring of 2004, when I put my my website on the screen (thus in my opinion unnecessarily legalizing my Cuban travels), my life in California in storage, 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 mostly private philosophical near certainty that might be used in a book someday. 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.
But in 2004, with the most clearly fascist and dangerous administration ever in Washington threatening the island and with the internet offering a way around establishment gatekeepers, 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), so I'd written nine chapters and posted most of them before I went back to Cuba for a sixth visit in '05.
But, working so fast in 2004 and enthusiastic about the present, I'd barely used my '00, '01, and '02 notes. So I decided to combine the first four already posted chapters (based on my fist visit to Cuba in 1989) into a new Chapter One, add a new Chapter Two about my ten years of experience in Central America between my first two visits to Cuba, and write new chapters about my second, third, and fourth, and visits. I did Chapter Two, OK, but then started bogging down, though, worried about Fidel's health and the possibility of missing the end of an era, I went back to Cuba for a seventh and possibly final visit in January and February of 2007.
The book now 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, supplemented by follow-up research and by later notes. After posting the new Chapter Two about the 1990's, I had a problem. In 2000, in Santiago, I'd lost a notebook, so, handicapped by my aging memory, it took a long time to write and post Chapter Three. I just, finally, posted it, though I'm still copy-editing it. I'm now starting to write another chapter, a new Chapter Four, also on the year 2000, based on a second notebook from that year. The still posted beginning of a Chapter Four based on 2001 notes will become Chapter Five, and all the chapters posted after that will be pushed back to accomodate a new Chapter Six, distilled from the document, "Cubans Choose Socialism" on this website, and another new chapter, not yet numbered, based on the documents "From Maracaibo," "From the Andes," and "From the Cone" on this website will be inserted after the chapters currently posted as Chapter Five and Chapter Six, based on my fifth visit in '04. Except that a lot of stuff from Chapter Nine will be moved to the new Chapter Five, the other chapters, with new numbers, will stand. Chapter Ten, which may wind up being Thirteen or Fourteen, an excellent piece, posted for some time now, is about the first week of my 6th visit to Cuba mainly in April of '05. Notes from my 7th visit in '07 are still resting in the document titled "2007 Updates From Cuba," which you can click onto on the front page, but will eventually become the next to last chapter. I still believe the last chapter will be based on one more trip to Cuba that I haven't made yet.
Besides a lot of off-island research including ongoing contact with friends made in Cuba, this still birthing book and its stray pieces reflect a total of about eight months (maybe a couple more yet to be added) of deeper on-site 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.
(Go to Chapter One to continue reading)