Matanzas - the name means literally 'slaughters' - is the Cuban city nearest the United States. Known at the heyday of the nineteenth-century sugar boom as the 'Athens of Cuba', it is renowned for its art, its music, and its rich African heritage. It is also the place where Latin American baseball began. Yet most Americans have never heard of it. Miguel Bretos' fascinating history of his hometown remedies this oversight. Though he came to the United States as a Pedro Pan child and has lived all over the world, his family is still closely tied to the city where they lived for generations. After forty years he returned to his homeland 'with the longing of an exile, the anticipation of a child, the curiosity of a visitor, the resentment of a victim, and - hopefully - the objectivity of a scholar'. Bretos unfolds the Matanzas story from the aboriginal Tainos to the coming of revolution with solid research, wit, clarity, and the kind of vivid detail that can come only from an insider. But he also deftly inserts Matanzas into a larger picture. More than local history, this original work is Cuban history from a local perspective.
Miguel A. Bretos is retired as senior scholar from the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery and is the author of four books, including Cuba and Florida: An Exploration of an Historic Connection, 1593-1991.