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An English-language bookstore opens in Havana. Here’s where to get more information: subscribe to Connor Gorry’s blog HereIsHavana.com

December 11, 2013

The following excerpts from Connor Gorry’s blog are posted here to inspire you to visit her blog and subscribe.

 

ACTION POINT
can we make donations?   what books do you have in yuour home, Mario, that can be donated?   I can replace those books at some piont.   let’s get the AMEN book out there 

  
This is a recent article about Connor Gorry’s bookstore
 
 
 
 

HAVANA (AP) — Cuba’s first English-language bookstore offers a selection that would just about stock the lobby of an average Vermont bed and breakfast. Next to what’s available in English elsewhere in Havana, it might as well be the Library of Congress.

The brainchild of a longtime U.S. expat, Cuba Libro launched Friday as a bookshop, cafe and literary salon that offers islanders and tourists alike a unique space to buy or borrow tomes in the language of Shakespeare. Cuba Libro also gives customers an occasional glimpse of opinions hard to find elsewhere on the island.

“I know how hard it is to get English-language sources here,” said New York City native Conner Gorry, 43, a journalist living in Cuba since 2002. “So I started cooking this idea.”

Cuba Libro is a play on “libro,” the Spanish word for “book,” and “Cuba libre,” the rum-cola cocktail that, legend has it, was invented in 1900 to celebrate the island’s independence from Spain.

The concept was hatched two years ago when a friend told Gorry that she had a sack of about 35 books she didn’t know what do with. More donations swelled the collection to the 300 or so volumes on sale at opening day.

Locally produced English-language fare in government stores includes the occasional translated Cuban novel, two weekly newspapers full of the bland official-speak of state media and a smattering of tourist magazines. Beyond that, it’s mostly works like the translated writings of Fidel Castro and Ernesto “Che” Guevara, and pro-government literature denouncing the United States.

One state bookshop offered a few dog-eared texts pushing the definition of random: “Diving Physiology in Plain English,” a volume published by the Undersea Hyperbaric Medical Society, and “Woe Unto You, Lawyers!” a first-edition critique of the legal profession from 1939 that, judging by a sticker inside, once belonged to the Columbia University Law Library.

Gorry said Cuba Libro is not in the business of offering anything that could be considered “counterrevolutionary.” But the collection does include views not commonly found on an island where the government controls nearly all media.

 

Along with back issues of the New Yorker and Rolling Stone, there’s a summer 2010 edition of ReVista, the Harvard Review of Latin America, dedicated to Cuban ally Venezuela. It’s generally sympathetic to the late President Hugo Chavez but also includes an essay by critic Teodoro Petkoff calling Chavez’s government “an authoritarian, autocratic and militaristic regime.”

 

“I hope (the store) flourishes,” said Carlos Menendez, a 77-year-old retired economist who dropped in for a coffee and was delighted to find “Freefall” by Joseph E. Stiglitz, 2001 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics.

Cuba Libro operates on food-service and used-book-sales licenses made possible by the reforms and is run with Gorry’s help as a kind of unofficial cooperative, or group-owned private enterprise, by five Cubans.

Washington’s economic embargo bars U.S. citizens from financial transactions with the Cuban government, and Gorry said she has taken pains not to run afoul of laws back home.

“I’ve had to tread extremely carefully, everything above-board and legal, because I’m an American, I’m a North American, I am beholden to U.S. laws,” she said. “And so I’m not in agreement with those laws, but I abide by them.”

Cuba Libro is already planning English classes taught by native speakers. And those who can’t afford to buy books will be able to borrow in a lending-library format.

Meanwhile staffers are reaching out to diplomats and other foreigners to build the store’s stock.

“Getting donations is going to be another interesting piece of it, because importing books here is very difficult,” Gorry said.

 

 

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speaking of connor gorry, here is an excerpt from her blog

 

 

Six Highly Annoying Cuban Habits

 

Are all the Cubans you know shouters? And do they always crank the music to 11 à la Nigel Tufnel? In your world, is a Cuban whisper an oxymoron? If so, you know that calling Cubans loud is redundant and the ruckus here is a full volume affair.

Even without this modern white noise, it is damn loud here. Some people aren’t down with this. I get it, but personally, I adore it (except when regguetón is involved) since I’m from a fast talking, high volume NY family; I feel right at home with all this bulla. I love that I don’t have to think twice about cranking Queen or audible climaxes (see note 1). Meanwhile, there are other Cuban habits which are highly annoying and chap my ass…

The farmer hanky: I was at a wedding not long ago (see note 2) and while I was smoking my cigar in the patio, another guest used a farmer hanky from the balcony above. For those unfamiliar with the practice, a farmer hanky is when you close off one nostril with a strategically placed finger, cock your head to the side and let the snot fly. 

Barging in: After a decade here, I still don’t get the compunction to burst through a closed door without knocking. It doesn’t matter if it’s a boudoir, baño, or office: Cubans are loathe to knock. 

Flushing reluctance: This is another truly puzzling and widespread habit here. Innumerable are the times I’ve walked into a stall to find the toilet filled with a cocktail of piss. 

PZP: Thanks to fellow blogger at Cachando Chile for coining this acronym for public zit popping, something I find so repulsive and popular, I’ve mused on it before. Daughters squeezing their mother’s blackheads; lovers giggling with glee as they lance a good one.

Phone etiquette: Anyone who knows this place even half-well knows no one can dial a wrong number like a Cuban.  I’m talking to the tune of several wrong numbers a week. —– 

Please join me in subscribing to her blog.   Here is the link:  

 

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