Cover image for Cuba-- : going back
Cuba-- : going back
Mendoza, Tony, 1941-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Austin : University of Texas Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
153 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
F1765.3 .M46 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Imagine being unable to return to your homeland for thirty-six years. What would you do if you finally got a chance to go back? In 1996, after travel restrictions between the United States and Cuba were relaxed, Cuban exile Tony Mendoza answered that question. Taking his cameras, notebooks, and an unquenchable curiosity, he returned for his first visit to Cuba since summer of 1960, when he emigrated with his family at age eighteen. In this book he presents over eighty evocative photographs accompanied by a beautifully written text that mingles the voices of many Cubans with his own to offer a compelling portrait of a resilient people awaiting the inevitable passing of the socialist system that has failed them. His photographs and interviews bear striking witness to the hardships and inequalities that exist in this workers' "paradise," where the daily struggle to make ends meet on an average income of eight dollars a month has created a longing for change even in formerly ardent revolutionaries. At the same time, Cuba¬óGoing Back is an eloquent record of a personal journey back in time and memory that will resonate with viewers and readers both within and beyond the Cuban American community. It belongs on the shelves of anyone who values excellent photography and well-crafted prose.

Author Notes

The American-born daughter of a Cuban mother and an Irish American father, Andrea O'Reilly Herrera is Associate Professor of Literature and Director of the Ethnic Studies Program at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

In Cuba everything is prohibited and what is not prohibited is illegal, or so goes the old saying. In this wonderful travelogue and political discussion, loaded with fantastic photographs of modern Havana, Mendoza returns to his roots, his family having emigrated to the Midwest in 1960, when he was 18 years old. Now he returns to the island, expecting to find people hating the U.S. Instead, the natives largely despise the Castro revolution and think the country has steadily declined over the last 40 years. In fact, it took Mendoza a week to find someone who would defend Castro. Despite a superb educational system with no illiteracy, and a model medical system, most Cubans remain at the poverty level. With everything either prohibited or illegal, Cuba compares with Orwell's 1984, with any dissatisfaction resulting in entire families losing jobs and income. Mendoza comes across as an earnest, thoughtful man trying to retrieve his roots and see how far his country has come four decades after his leaving. --Joe Collins

Library Journal Review

In 1996 after a 36-year absence, Mendoza--a photographer by trade--returned to his native Cuba. This book, based on the photos and interviews he conducted on his trip, is a remarkable first-hand account of today's Cuba. Burdened both by the loss of Soviet aid and the American embargo, he concludes, Cuba is a testimony to the failure of Castro's socialism. He reports that he encountered very few Castro supporters and found numerous Cubans willing to speak out against the failed social experiment. He often heard them say "Fidel is no economist"--something he reflects upon through the lens of his camera. Like others, Mendoza decides that Cubans would be better off if the United States did not push so hard for an end to Castro and left him alone to deal with failure. Similar to Andrei Codrescu's Ay, Cuba! (LJ 3/1/99), this volume is best summarized in a series of photos of a Havana park bench. In each succeeding photo, the bench, much like Cuba, is dismantled by time and the very people its aims to please. Highly recommended for most libraries.--Boyd Childress, Auburn Univ.Lib., AL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Andrea O'Reilly HerreraLeandro SotoRafael E. SaumellHector R. RomeroSara RosellEfrain J. Ferrer and Vivian de la InceraEnrique PattersonJulio J. Guerra MolinaLuis Cruz AzacetaSilvia CurbeloHeberto PadillaMaria BritoIleana FuentesLuz Irene DiazMaria Emilia CastagliolaJuan Manuel AlonsoGabriella IbietaTony MendozaAdela Betancourt JabineMaria Antonia SotoFrancisco SotoFlora Gonzalez MandriRachel Werner BaldwinAlicia Serrano Machiran GrantoGina Granto-PenqueAda Manero AlvareCarlos Alberto AlvareRicardo Pau-LlosaMaria Cristina GarciaOlga MendellVirgil SuarezSilvia CurbeloAndrea O'Reilly HerreraNilda CeperoRaquel RomeuJorge Luis RomeuGustavo Perez FirmatLourdes GilMarta Elena Acosta StoneMayling C. BlancoVirgil SuarezCarolina HospitalNilda CeperoElias Miguel MunozKenya Carmen Dworkin y MendezJose KozerHeberto PadillaRicardo Pau-LlosaJorge GuitartConnie LloverasVirgil SuarezCarlos J. AlvareEmilio M. MozoNilda CeperoPablo MedinaCarlota CaulfieldLeandro SotoGrisel Pujala-SotoHeberto PadillaRaul FernandezCarmen HerreraRafael SorianoRocio RodriguezLuis Cruz AzacetaMaria Martinez-CanasOrlando Rodriguez Sardinas (Rossardi)Roberto G. FernandezJesus J. BarquetYara Gonzalez-MontesGisele M. RequenaMaria de los Angeles LemusVictor Andres TriayAlberto ReyMargarita EngleCecilia Rodriguez MilanesGabriel RodriguezMaura BarriosAndrea O'Reilly Herrera
Prefacep. xi
Acknowledgmentsp. xv
Introductionp. xvii
Section I The Interior Exile ("insilio")p. 1
Testimonio de un artistap. 3
Oh, La Habanap. 4
Manena's Cuban American Recipesp. 13
Life in Exilep. 13
The "Sandwich" Generationp. 20
The Thirteenth Suitcasep. 26
Sin calcetinesp. 34
Beyond Fearp. 43
Dead Rafter IIp. 47
Balsero Singingp. 48
Section II "Merely a Player"p. 51
Los que se alejan siempre son los ninosp. 53
Merely a Playerp. 54
Portrait of Wendy, At Fifty, With Brap. 58
The Wooden Suitcasep. 64
Once upon a Time in May of 1961 ...p. 66
Crossing into the Mainstreamp. 67
Fragmented Memoriesp. 69
Going Backp. 78
Section III Crossing the Generational Dividep. 83
An Afternoon with Ernesto F. Betancourtp. 85
Growing Up Cuban Americanp. 92
My Life in Exilep. 98
Lost Memories and Nostalgic Obsessionsp. 100
Thirty-Two Years Laterp. 107
Island of Colorp. 112
Life al revesp. 116
On Being Cubanp. 121
One Mother's Testimonialp. 124
Tia Ada's Arroz con lechep. 128
Losing Edenp. 128
Section IV Snapshotsp. 133
La hora de los mameyesp. 135
Abuip. 137
A Cuban American Memoirp. 143
Song for the Royal Palms of Miamip. 146
Photograph of My Parentsp. 148
First Shift at Hershey's, 4 A.M.p. 149
Inhabited Womanp. 151
Burialgroundp. 152
A Journal from the Bay of Marielp. 153
Political Exilep. 165
Section V The Culture Warsp. 171
The Facts of Life on the Hyphenp. 173
Against the Grain: Writing Spanish in the USAp. 177
From "The Necessary Treasons"p. 179
Understanding del Casalp. 181
A Cubana in New Yorkp. 187
Arrozp. 192
What Kind of Cuban Are You?p. 193
Tropical Flavorp. 195
Flags and Rags (On Golden Lake)p. 196
Next Stop Ninety Milesp. 202
Section VI "The Bite of Exile"p. 207
The Bite of Exilep. 209
Autobiographyp. 210
Culture and Exilep. 211
The Wages of Exilep. 214
Foreigner's Notebookp. 223
In the Wildernessp. 225
Living on Borrowed Groundp. 225
Clotheslinesp. 226
Letter to His Niecep. 228
exiliop. 230
sombrasp. 231
Paradoxp. 232
Where Are You From? A Cuban Dilemmap. 233
The Chosenp. 235
Even Names Have Their Exilep. 236
The Photo That Watchesp. 238
Section VII "Grace under Pressure"p. 243
Cubans in the U.S.p. 245
Exile: Reality or Imaginationp. 248
Entre el gato y la casap. 249
Musicians in Motionp. 252
From "Celia Cruz"p. 253
From "La magia musical de Cachao"p. 255
Yesterday/Ayerp. 257
El descanso del heroep. 258
Head and Vesselp. 259
From Outside Cuba/Fuera de Cubap. 260
Historia rota (Broken History)p. 260
Exiliop. 262
Abodep. 265
Lluvia y primaverasp. 267
Autobiography, Historiography, and Mythography in Matias Montes Huidobro's Desterrados al fuegop. 269
Section VIII "Inheriting Exile"p. 277
On Being an American-Born Cuban from Miamip. 279
From "Stories My Mother Never Told Me"p. 284
ABCs in South Florida Suburbiap. 289
Appropriated Memoriesp. 299
Inheriting Exilep. 306
Un Testimoniop. 309
The Grand Finalep. 312
Memoirs of a Tampenap. 313
Una cubanita pasada por aguap. 317
Cata's "pie" de guayabap. 320
Select Bibliographyp. 321