Favorite Books on Cuba or Immigration (in reading age order):
- Migrants by Issa Watanabe (reading age: 5-9) – totally without words, the incredibly powerful illustrations are enough to tell the fascinating story of animals who must migrate from their forest to a new land. They make a sacrificial and difficult journey all the while holding onto the hope of a better place.
- A Different Pond by Bao Phi (reading age: 4-8) – a 2018 Caldecott Honor Book. One of the most tender stories of being from another country but learning about it second-hand. As a boy, the author and his father would go fishing in a pond close to their home in Minneapolis, not for fun but for the day’s food. During one of these early morning fishing expeditions, his father tells him of fishing in a pond in their homeland of Vietnam.
- Watercress by Andrea Wang (reading age: 6-10) – told from the perspective of a young girl whose parents “embarrass” her by following their homeland traditions. When she wonders why her parents can’t do things like her friends’ parents, I instantly remembered the times I thought that growing up with Cuban traditions in the United States. Concisely and beautifully told with soft but insightful illustrations.
- Pedro Pan: One Boy’s Journey to America by Michelle Marie McNiff (reading age: 8-12) – Operation Pedro Pan was a clandestine exodus that brought over 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban youngsters from ages 6 to 18 to the U.S. from 1960 to 1962. Pedro, the main character in this riveting story (along with his pet lizard, Pepe!), leaves Havana for the farmlands of Iowa. How he copes and evolves is a poignant and amazing story.
- World in Between: Based on a True Refugee Story by Kenan Trebincevic and Susan Shapiro (reading age: 8-12) – based on a true story, this incredible tale of a young Muslim boy’s exile from the slaughterhouse that his homeland, Bosnia, became to Austria to the United States is excellent! Although it’s a children’s book, I learned so much from it. How Kenan and his family escape, their journey to the freedom offered in the U.S., and the lives they make here make this a real eye-opener and page-turner.
- The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros – this book is not exactly about immigration – the main character, Esperanza, was born in the U.S. – but is set in a Hispanic neighborhood in Chicago. Esperanza is 12 years old when we meet her and her story about coming of age in that place and time is told in 46 short stories. I loved reading (and rereading) this book. As a one-time young Hispanic girl, I could relate with much of it. However, Ms. Cisneros’ poetic writing led me to see puberty and living in an ethnic neighborhood in an entirely new, magnificent light. Oh, and don’t skip the Introduction!
- Brothers: A Pedro Pan Story by Betty Viamontes – a heart-wrenching story that perfectly captures the essence of the Operation Pedro Pan experience. Two young Cuban brothers are sent by their parents to the U.S. to escape Castro’s tyranny, believing the family’s separation will be for a few months. Follow these two incredibly brave boys as they deal with separation, adapting to an entirely new life and language and the good and horrific experiences they encounter. It’s a tearjerker but what a beautifully told important story.
- Cuba: An American History by Dr. Ada Ferrer – this is my favorite book on Cuban history. I have it in hardcover and audible formats and would listen to it on my morning walks, many times having to stop to rewind because it was so good. For example, her explanation of the Virgen of Charity of Cobre (Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre) blew me away. It’s more than a history book, it’s a book truly about Cuba – the good, the bad and the ugly. It also relates the connection that Cuba has had historically with the U.S., which for someone like me, is fascinating.
Internet sites and articles on Cuba:
Here are the five most popular websites (according to Google) that have to do with Cuba. Please note that I am not advocating any of these sites other than to say they all have current events articles on Cuba, many of which I found interesting.
- Havana Times – https://havanatimes.org/
- Cuba | The Guardian – https://www.theguardian.com/world/cuba
- Babalú Blog – https://babalublog.com/
- NYT – Cuba – https://www.nytimes.com/topic/destination/cuba
- Translating Cuba – https://translatingcuba.com/
- National Geographic Kids page on Cuba offers fun facts for kids to learn a little about Cuba – https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/geography/countries/article/cuba
- University of Miami Cuban Heritage Collection – https://www.library.miami.edu/chc/
- Article on Operation Pedro Pan – https://www.franciscanmedia.org/st-anthony-messenger/no-greater-love-operation-pedro-pan/
- NPR article on Nitza Villapol – https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/06/16/481397800/nitza-villapol-the-woman-who-taught-cubans-to-cook-with-just-about-anything
- Great article on the history of Cuban food (actually, this website is wonderful for many reasons, one being you can order all kinds of Latin food staples!) – https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/24FOCZ6WGBsX8Z70FzB_64?domain=blog.amigofoods.com
- Another well-documented article on AmigoFoods.com, this one a drool-worthy list of favorite Cuban dishes – https://blog.amigofoods.com/index.php/cuban-foods/cuban-food/
- Children of the Brigade 2506 Cuba – Facebook forum (need to join)
- All Things Cuban – Facebook forum (need to join)
- Bayofpigs2506 – Instagram page
- Mycubanstories – Instagram page
Cuban Places of Interest in the U.S.:
- Bay of Pigs Museum – Also known as the Brigade 2506 Museum and Library, is the official museum in memory of the Bay of Pigs Invasion’s Brigade 2506 and is located at 1821 SW 9th Street, Miami, Florida. Tel: 305.649.4719; Website: https://www.bayofpigsbrigade2506.com/
- Bay of Pigs Memorial Park – Small park with a newly installed sculpture in honor of the Brigade 2506 soldiers who fought for Cuba’s freedom in 1961. Located at 200 SW 56th Avenue, Miami, Florida.
- Cuban Memorial Boulevard Park – A small grassy median with various monuments including a beautiful wall sculpture of Cuba dedicated to the island’s favorite son, Jose Marti, and an impressive Bay of Pigs Monument complete with an eternal flame. Located at 999 SW 13th Avenue, Miami, Florida (runs between 8th and 10th Street).
- Maximo Gomez Park, also known as El Parque de los Dominos (Domino Park) – A small park in the heart of Little Havana where Cubans gather to play dominoes and socialize. A perfect spot for a shot of Cuban coffee and catching Cuban culture at its most expressive. Located on 8th Street (Calle Ocho) and 15th Avenue, Miami, Florida.
- Hialeah Gardens Museum Honoring Assault Brigade 2506 – New museum boasting a library with memorabilia (over 800 photos), exhibits, and actual veterans to speak with you about the invasion. Located at 13651 N.W. 107th Avenue, Hialeah Gardens, Florida
- Bay of Pigs Air Memorial – Interesting outdoor memorial to the eight B-26 Invader bombers who attacked three Cuban airfields on April 15, 1961. Located at Miami Executive Airport, 12800 S.W. 145th Avenue, Miami, Florida.
- Spy Museum – Intriguing museum in D.C. with a section on the Bay of Pigs Invasion that contains one of the only two surviving battle flags of the Brigade 2506. Located at 700 L’Enfant Plaza, S.W., Washington, D.C.