Although Cuba is only ninety miles from Key West, Florida, the ideological split between the United States and Cuba has been insurmountable since the beginning of Castro's revolution. In this book, the author Ian Michael James concentrates on the lives of three displaced Cubans as he intertwines their stories through the pages. Yet, while doing so, James brings to the forefront the tragic story of a divided country under a dictator's fierce regime where family members have to take heartrending decisions and separate from each other.
With the initiation of a regime that was supposed to free the Cubans but failed miserably to do so, families separated for reasons of political oppression, economical circumstances, or the fear for their lives. This in turn led to the Cubans’ different and complicated ways of looking at the events in their lives and those of their compatriots.
Of the three people whose lives are brought to view, the story of Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo is the most political. Eloy fought together with Castro and many other men to bring freedom to his people from the Batista's corrupt regime. When the revolution succeeded and Castro became the new tyrant, Eloy turned against the new government and Castro turned against Eloy. Barely avoiding execution, Eloy spent twenty years in prison. When he came to Miami after being released in 1986, Eloy had mellowed. He thought a dialogue with Castro could be possible. Later on, he could not live away from his fatherland, and he moved back to Cuba.
Paquito D'Rivera was very young when Castro took over Cuba. He had some freedom later on as a musician but not enough opportunities for the achievement he desired as a jazz saxophonist. He defected, leaving his family behind. It took many years for him to see his family again.
Nancy Lledes Espinoza, a chemical engineer, was born in 1962, three years after Castro's revolution. She grew up believing in Castro and his regime. After she fell in love and got married, however, she and her husband started seeing things differently. Eventually, Nancy and her husband defected, although separately, putting their lives in danger and leaving their families behind. Nancy's mother was and still is a staunch defender of Castro.
After an the ink-drawn map of Cuba in its beginning and a preface by the author, Ninety Miles: Cuban Journeys in the Age of Castro holds sixteen chapters, in which the lives of these three people are told, not one by one but all at the same time and interlinked with the chronological events. Still, the story is not confusing because of the masterful narrative and effective language.
The book is in hardcover, 216 pages, and with ISBN-10: 0742540421 and ISBN-13: 978-0742540422.
The author, Ian Michael James, a graduate of Duke and Stanford universities, is a correspondent for The Associated Press and currently their bureau chief in Venezuela, according to the biography given on the inside cover of the book.
This book is written with deep historical and political insight, highlighting the trauma of the Cubans. In addition, it is an exemplary piece of journalistic achievement, and it reads like a suspense story, capturing the reader from its beginning to its end. I highly recommend Ninety Miles: Cuban Journeys in the Age of Castro to anyone who has any amount of interest in this subject.
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