An interesting read. Pleasant yet thought provoking.

I thoroughly enjoyed Heather Murray’s “Among Friends”. Part travelogue, part insightful long-term observation of the enigma that is Cuba.

One of the few socialist countries in the world. A major producer of tobacco, a cash crop with a dwindling consumer base and subject to a long running embargo on crucial trade. An embargo that failed to dislodge Castro and punished his people instead. A place where all health care (including plastic surgery) is free, but people have barely enough to eat.

Heather Murray explores Cuba over a number of years, contrasting her own idealistic support for the revolution in her younger years with the reality of the revolution in her later years.

The questions are raised gently and demand consideration. Would Cuba’s socialist revolution have succeeded in its goals if it had not been economically crippled by the US Embargo? Why does the Embargo still stand? What next for Cuba now that Castro is gone? What are the important things in life? Money? Or a good basic standard of living for all?

Heather Murray paints a fond picture of Cuba. Glory days proudly on display against a backdrop of grinding poverty, alleviated by world class musicians, dancers, and doctors. I feel she has captured the joie de vivre and resilience of the Cuban people well.

One line in particular stays with me – “But that was Cuba: a beggar dressed in silks and gold inherited from times past.”

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