Most people regard Fidel Castro either as a great revolutionary or a bloody dictator. Few know him as a world-class crackpot inventor and frustrated would-be scientist whose madcap ideas destroyed Cuban agriculture and the island’s economy. During his half century in power, Castro experimented with everything from creating a New Cuban Man to cloning his favorite champion milk cow. None of the experiments worked. Now, thanks to Jose Alvarez, we have an entertaining and encyclopedic history of Castro’s hair brained efforts to re-engineer the island. This book is must reading for anybody interested in Cuba.
Jose de Cordoba, Latin America correspondent for The Wall Street Journal.
In this book, José Álvarez combines his long career as an expert on Cuban agriculture and an even longer career observing, studying–and during the 1960s–enduring Cuba’s failed policies and Fidel Castro’s authoritarian, I-know-best, ruling style. It is thoroughly researched, written in exquisite prose, and sprinkled with the characteristic irony and irreverent humor of the Cuban intellectual. At times, readers will find themselves in García Márquez’s hallucinating Macondo or in Vargas Llosa’s unforgiving Peruvian jungle; but this is not a book of fiction.
Luis Martínez-Fernández, Professor of History at the University of Central Florida;
and author of Revolutionary Cuba (University Press of Florida, 2014).
In choosing Cuba’s disastrous experience with agriculture to illustrate some of Fidel Castro’s bizarre delusions, José Álvarez has found a novel way to tell the familiar story of the failure of Castroism. Fidel’s agricultural follies would be a more amusing tale had they not yielded a harvest of scarcity and hunger for the Cuban people.
Tom Gjelten, author of Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba:
The Biography of a Cause (Viking, 2008).
Dr Alvarez rightfully points out that the Soviet Union and other communist/centrally-planned economies have failed at controlled mass agriculture efforts because they neither recognize, nor want to allow, site specific agricultural management that is necessary to allow for maximizing production from the optimization of the local soil, environment and biological resources. Dr Alvarez’s book is insightful across a broad scale of political, cultural and economic aspects. Aspiring politicians, leaders, and anyone with an interest in understanding Cuba or other attempts at such totalitarian governments will benefit from reading it.
Zane R. Helsel, Professor and Extension Specialist in
Agriculture Energy at Rutgers University; and a life member of the
American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.
In this appraisal of socialist Cuba’s economic development, Dr.Alvarez shows how and why Fidel Castro’s unbridled megalomania devastated the country’s political economy and stifled its social progress. The interconnectedness of charismatic rule, narcissistic personal traits and autocratic decision-making form the pathological matrix defining Fidel Castro’s behavior. As the cause of colossal blunders and irreversible damage to the economy and social system, that matrix drove Castro’s wretched choices and ignorant decisions while the arrogant leader exercised direct power. And Dr. Alvarez properly attributes Cuba’s economic ruin and descent into insolvency and mendicancy to Fidel Castro’s quixotic fixation with himself.
Juan M. del Águila, Retired Associate Professor of Political Sciences
at Emory University and author of Cuba: Dilemmas of a Revolution (Westview Press, 1994).
This book by one of the world’s experts on Cuban agriculture has an amazing amount of information, but Álvarez manages to make it extremely interesting and with frequent touches of humor. It is a wonderful reading, which I recommend for experts and the general public alike.
Carmelo Mesa-Lago Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Economics and
Latin American Studies at the University of Pittsburgh and author of numerous books on Cuba.