Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Book Review: CUBANOS IN WISCONSIN by Silvio Canto, Jr.

I have not met Silvio Canto, Jr., a Cuban-American now living in Dallas. I knew he had been born in Cuba, but I did not know until his memoir was published recently that he had grown up in, of all places, Wisconsin.

This memoir, “Cubanos in Wisconsin,” is a warm, personal, and tough-minded account of what so many Cubans of Canto’s generation faced after the 1959 Cuban revolution that brought Fidel Castro and his communist dictatorship to power in the small island only a few miles from the southernmost point of Florida.

This is both an historical document and a very private story with Canto’s friends and family coming to understand that the optimism and hope for democracy in Cuba after the fall of strongman Batista was replaced with fear, suffering and antipathy to the new repressive regime, and the realization by  Canto’s parents, and so many other Cubans, that the only solution to their dilemma was to leave their homes and emigrate to the U.S.

Canto, who now hosts his own radio show from Dallas several days a week, often interviewing other Cuban-Americans, Spanish journalists, political and cultural figures from South Americans, and a variety of non-Hispanic personalities on a wide range of
subjects,, writes with considerable charm, humor and insight about leaving Cuba and settling into an entirely different climate and culture. One Cuban pastime Canto brings with him to his new home is baseball, and thanks to Cuban-born Tony Oliva
(a cousin of a family friend) rooting for major league teams.

[Full disclosure: I appeared on Canto’s program once a week as an unpaid political commentator during the 2012 election campaign.]

While this book is a fascinating and revelatory account for non-Cubans, I thinks its greatest value might be for younger generations of Cuban-Americans, born in the U.S., who have only known the American way of life, albeit with the struggles
of integrating themselves into U.S. culture. In that sense, this book recounts the inspiring story of so many ethnic groups, Italian-Americans, Irish-Americans, Jewish-Americans, Chinese-Americans, Southeast Asian-Americans, and so many
others, who have come to the U.S. in the past two centuries for relief from hardship and oppression in their home countries.

Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman.  All rights reserved.

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