In brief: The Havana Habit

The Havana Habit
Gustavo Pérez Firmat
2011, Yale University Press
245 pages, hardbac

POOR Mexico, the great dictator Porfirio Díaz is once famously said to have stated, so far from God, so close to the United States. We might reverse this aphorism in the case of the US itself: Poor America, so far from God, so close to Cuba. For such has been the influence of this small Caribbean island just 750 miles long on its mighty neighbour that, upon reading this book, one is left wondering if an entirely new history of the Americas needs to be written in which the assumed influence of Europe on the American psyche is downgraded and this indigenous, Latin influence played up. The Havana Habit is an excellent little book that not only probes the importance of Havana and greater Cuba in the cultural history of the US, but also fits into the pocket (meaning that Americans secretly heading for the island with a backpack in defiance of their country’s absurd prohibitions on doing so can easily take it with them). Pérez Firmat has done something remarkable, forcing Americans to reflect on their complex and troubled relationship with Cuba on much more equitable terms at a time in which the country is racking itself over the position of the Latino in US society and its future. – GO’T