On my most recent visit to Cuba this past March, I brought my family with me, because I wanted my children to see what Cuba looked like before everything changed. I didn't realize quite how quickly that change would come.
In Havana, we stayed on the Plaza de Armas, a square that is in the heart of the old city, a carefully restored neighborhood in a capital that is otherwise collapsing on itself. Each morning, booksellers would set up stands in the square, and each morning, my 13-year-old son would roam about, talking to the booksellers and taking pictures of their shelves. One morning, he rushed back to the hotel to report on a fascinating conversation. One of the booksellers had asked him, "What do you think of Communism?"
We had briefed the children on the nature of totalitarian societies, and on the need to be discreet in public commentating—especially since I was in Cuba as a journalist, and especially since the government had shown interest in my movements. "What did you say?" I asked. He answered: "I said, 'I think it's interesting,' and then he said, 'Well, I think it's bullshit.'''
It is easy to understand why a bookseller on the Plaza de Armas would think this way: Censorship laws, and custom, and the secret police, guarantee that the only books sold on the square are mildewed Chomskys and Che hagiographies.