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Book Review
By

Jose B. Gonzalez

 


Book Review: Finding Maņana by Mirta Ojito
Resources for Teaching Finding Maņana

 

I have to admit that I first approached this book not so much by thinking of its potential but rather by thinking of the books I've enjoyed by Cuban Americans writing about their migration to the U.S.  Books like Waiting for Snow in Havana came to mind. and with those thoughts came this bit of doubt that this book couldn't have much more to offer than what has already been published.  It didn't take long for me to realize that I was wrong.  By the time I finished reading Finding Maņana, I had come to the conclusion that it was the best book written on the Mariel Boatlift, period. 

Ojito's well-researched book recounts her family's tense days leading up to the moment that they left Cuba as part of what would become an historical mass exodus to the U.S.  She takes us back to her schooldays, providing a sense of what it was like to be part of a family that was no supporter of Castro and what it was like to be ostracized for those very same reasons.  Educators documented the family's suspicious apathy toward the Cuban government and as a result, Ojito found that her opportunities in school were limited.  Yet as a teenager, she felt a love-hate relationship with Cuba that didn't make it easy for her to leave.

As Ojito retells her family's tale, she brings to life a whole cast of characters who were involved in one way or other, directly or otherwise, with her family's exit from the island.  These individuals include Hector Saniustiz, the driver of the bus that slammed into the Peruvian embassy in Cuba and whose actions started a complex domino effect that ended with President Carter's decision to allow what would be 125,000 Cubans to enter the U.S.  She also provides an intriguing portrait of Ernesto Pinto, the diplomat in charge of the Peruvian embassy, whose rational mind helped keep a very volatile situation under some control.  Reminding us that her voyage was in part luck, in part determination, she also describes the role of Captain Mike Howell, one of the many American heroes who sacrificed their lives in efforts to bring Cubans to the U.S. in what were often challenging maritime conditions, in boats that were barely salvageable.  She also provides a touching portrayal of Bernardo Benes, the man who was responsible for negotiating with Castro and his government for the release of political prisoners in Cuba, and the man who ironically would wind up being ostracized for his role in the Mariel Boatlift.

It's hard to imagine why any professor of Latin American history would not use this book in his or her course.  Pulitzer Prizewinning journalist, Ojito knows how to tell a story.  But more than that, she has a way of bringing history to life.  She reminds us that events like the Mariel Boatlift may have resulted in the arrival of thousands upon thousands of people, but behind those events are individuals whose actions and emotions are very real and are part of a history that cannot be ignored or easily forgotten.  Finding Maņana is guaranteed to make you think of the Mariel Boatlift in ways you hadn't imagined. 

 

Jose B. Gonzalez is the Editor of LatinoStories.Com, the Co-Editor of Latino Boom: Anthology of U.S. Latino Literature, and an award-winning poet and educator who has been a featured speaker at various colleges and universities nationwide.


Copyright 2006 LatinoStories.com design and content by John S. Christie and Jose B. Gonzalez
Copyright 2006 Latino Boom: An Anthology of U.S. Latino Literature, Pearson Education, Inc.
Copyright 2006 Latino Fiction and the Modernist Imagination, John S. Christie

 
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Last Updated: July 06, 2009