Cuba (Libro) Va!

Just a month in and Cuba Libro—the island’s first English-language bookstore—is proving a wild ride. Quite like Cuba itself, it’s chaotic and fun; full of daily randomness like blackouts, fumigation, and marriage proposals; receiving limitless solidarity from family, friends, and strangers; and is a precipitous, perennial learning curve—Cubans are crazy for cappuccino for instance and there’s huge demand for music magazines.

A day doesn’t go by without interesting people dropping in, from DJs and doctors to ambassadors and world travelers, and novel experiences are always unfolding or just about to. Already we’ve scheduled art shows through January with magnificent exhibits by local artists of drawings, graffiti, even puppets and tapestries, plus the water bottle refill service is catching on.

Cuba Libro has also sparked a fury of donations from people living here and others who wished they did; we’re happy to report that our public has very good taste. The most recent acquisitions include George Eliot and James Joyce, Steinbeck, Stendhal and yes, Our Man in Havana. And just the other day, as we sipped our espressos in the garden with a Cuban philosophy professor, something extraordinary (and historic) happened: a gentleman rode up to our door on a bicycle, extracted a padded manila envelope from his satchel and delivered our first donation sent through the US, and received by the Cuban postal services. It was postmarked August 13, from Northfield, Illinois, and was placed in our hands on August 27th. Big ups to author Libby Fischer Hellmann for going to the effort and expense (sending this 1-pound book cost $16) to support Cuba Libro. Next time you’re in Havana, the coffee is on us!

As we told some friends about all the exciting things afoot, they said, ‘Cuba Libro has some kind of angel watching over it.’ Actually, we have three and everyone who has come in so far has felt them in one way or another. Angels, magic, mana, aloha – whatever you call it, we’ve got it, not unlike Cuba itself.

Follow Cuba Libro developments at our FaceBook page and on Twitter @cubalibrohavana.

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