An Innocent in Cuba: Further Curious Rambles and Singular Encounters


396 pages
ISBN 0-7710-5506-5
DDC 917.29104'64




Reviewed by J.H. Galloway

J.H. Galloway is a professor of geography at the University of Toronto
and the author of The Sugar Cane Industry.


I don’t think An Innocent in Cuba is supposed to be a guidebook. There
is no information on hotels and restaurants, and little advice on what
to do or where to go. If you are the type of tourist who thinks of
travel in terms of standard international hotels, well-known
restaurants, beaches, golf, and guided visits to places of interest, the
author does not approve of you. Among his targets are some Germans, who
are summarily dismissed because they “seem to adhere to the
don’t-make-eye-contact-with-the-natives school of bourgeois travel.”

An Innocent in Cuba records a journey, but it is not a travel book that
immerses the reader in Cuba’s history, culture, and economy. There are
comments about Hemmingway, Fidel, and the Revolution, but the reader
will get no understanding of the role of the sugar industry or of
Spanish colonialism in the making of Cuba, past and present. The brief
list of “Suggested Reading” does not include a good history of the
country. The use of the word “innocent” in the title is perhaps
there to indicate that the author advances bravely unprepared into
territory new to him.

McFadden’s Cuban journey lasted 33 days. He spent some of those days
in Havana, the rest on a tour of the eastern part of the island in a
rented car. He does comment on the scenery and the towns he passes
through, but a good deal of An Innocent in Cuba consists of reports of
his meetings with “locals,” people in modest circumstances for the
most part, often linked to tourism. Unfortunately, the author does not
succeed in making these encounters interesting. Those planning a visit
to Cuba should read more than just this book.


McFadden, David W., “An Innocent in Cuba: Further Curious Rambles and Singular Encounters,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 19, 2024,