Havana without Makeup: Inside the Soul of the City

Herman Portocarero

Havana without Makeup is the ultimate insider’s view of Havana, a wide-ranging exploration of its complex facets as seen by few. Its aim is to capture the soul of a city and a society that have evolved on their own terms at the moment before they face inevitable transformations.

Opening on the eve of the announcement of reconciliation between the U.S. and Cuba, the book then looks back at the cultural, political, economic, and religious influences that led up to this historic moment and beyond. Readers are led by a brilliant renaissance man and writer who has been at the vanguard of the city’s struggles for more than twenty years. Portocarero’s anti-tourist guide to Havana examines the built environment of “the most sensual ruin on the planet”: why are large parts of the city so neglected, and what changes may we see over the coming years? Examining all things Cubania–racial issues, la revolución, baseball, Hemingway, communism, synagogues, Santeria, Cimarron culture, and much more–Portocarero overturns every stone in his endeavor to bring us inside the city he loves.

Illustrated with original photographs, this is a unique and essential account of Havana’s history, its present, and what its future may hold.

  • "[Portocarero is] an ardent advocate for a city electrified with life and passion. Havana emerges as a city like no other: a place where humans, in many ways, are at their most vibrantly human."—Kirkus Reviews

  • "The story Portocarero weaves here is rich and fascinating, and vital to understanding an often mysterious place."—Patrick Oppmann, CNN Havana Correspondent and Bureau Chief