In This Review

Dancing with Cuba: A Memoir of the Revolution

Dancing with Cuba: A Memoir of the Revolution
By Alma Guillermoprieto trans. by Esther Allen
304 pp, Pantheon, 2004

Guillermoprieto is one of the most perceptive commentators on Latin America, a writer whose political analysis is sensitive to culture and history and punctuated by telling details that illuminate larger dilemmas. This bittersweet remembrance of youthful hopes and disillusionment, of the contrast between the idealism of revolutionary aspirations and the clay feet of day-to-day revolutionaries, is set against the story of six months she spent in Cuba as a dance teacher in 1970. Once begun, this marvelous book is almost impossible to put down. Guillermoprieto introduces us to a fascinating cast of characters, some -- such as the sinister eminence of Fidel Castro's intelligence service, Manuel Piñeiro Losada -- observed up close, and others -- such as Castro himself -- from afar. There are wonderful depictions of her students, their privations and small, courageous rebellions against the petty tyrannies of the craven commissars that infest the lower echelons of the "revolutionary" regime, and memorable vignettes of revolution enthusiasts who flocked in from overseas. These foreign delegations, she writes, "entered into a blissful and almost lubricous realm of shared fantasy. The cows received the most applause. They were so irresistible, so calm, fat and stupid, so oblivious to the triumph of their own existence." This is the tale of a writer discovering herself -- a book to be savored.