HARLINGEN — Do you really know as much about your neighbor as you think?
Many Americans may think they know a great deal about their neighboring country, Cuba, located a few miles off the coast of Florida.
However, too often about the only thing they know about the island nation is Castro, the Cuban missile crisis, and the Spanish-American War.
However, there’s so much more to it than that. There’s Tito Puente and Afro-Cuban Percussion, world-famous ballet dancers, and Desi Arnaz who used to entertain audiences with Lucille Ball in the 1950s. And so much more.
Emilio Cueto wants to tell you all about it today at the Valley Byliners 2018 Workshop.
“Many scholars have studied deeply the influence of the U.S. in Cuba. Cuban politics, Cuban history and Cuban culture,” said the Havana native who will talk about his book “Cuba in the USA.”
“What I’m trying to do is the reverse,” said Cueto, 74. “I’m trying to show that there’s also a presence of Cuba here. Our presence in American bibliography in libraries is huge.”
He referred to books about other countries to provide context.
“You can go to a library in the U.S. and ask for a book on Costa Rica and you might not find much,” he said. “I’m not sure the local library in Nevada will have anything on Argentina. But if you say Cuba, any little library will have something, if nothing else than there was the Spanish American War in 1898.”
Cueto moved to the U.S. in 1961 as part of the Peter Pan project, a federally-funded program which allowed Cuban youth to move to the U.S. with their parents’ permission. He currently works with the Smithsonian Institution by guiding visitors around his homeland.
Valley Byliners President James Arnold is looking forward to the presentation.
“The thing that interested me is that, so often, when we think about other people, we tend to think about the little bit that we know about them and we tend sometimes to stereotype,” he said. “In Cuba there were two very bad dictators, one was Batista and the other was Castro. But the actual people of Cuba we don’t know that much about.”
Cueto will tell attendees a lot more about Cuba than the politics.
“There’s Cuban American dancers, Cuban American music, Cuban American actors,” he said. “You have music by Americans like the Cuban danzon, many, many musicians have composed music from Cuba. They composed poetry to Cuba, they have set novels in the Cuban islands, so that part I find most interesting in the book.”
And don’t forget one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway is set in Cuba. He left Cuba in a hurry, leaving enough of his belongings in Havana for the Hemingway Museum.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: “A Day in Cuba” hosted by the Valley ByLiners featuring Emilio Cueto
WHEN: Today, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
WHERE: Harlingen Public Library Auditorium
410 76 Dr.
ADMISSION: $20 at the door
A catered meal provided by J&B’s Café can be ordered for an additional $7.50 to be paid at the door.