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A Korean woman who fell in love with Cuba

Posted April. 03, 2024 07:41,   

Updated April. 03, 2024 07:41


"Every morning, I open the windows, and the clear sunlight rushes in, and at that moment, I feel alive."

That's how Jang Hee-joo, the author of the new book "Love is Not Begged in Cuba," described her life in Cuba. During a backpacking trip in the Caribbean Island country of Cuba in the winter of 2010 while studying art history in graduate school, she fell deeply in love with the charm of Cuba. Since then, she has been living in Havana, the capital, after marrying a Cuban man, working as a tour guide and a commentator at the National Museum of Fine Arts.

Her new book is an essay that captures Cuba's culture and economic situation from the perspective of a resident rather than a traveler. Cuba became Korea's 193rd diplomatic partner on February 14, when the two countries officially established diplomatic relations.

The book's title, "Love is Not Begged in Cuba," is a phrase written on the walls of Cuban family courts. It shows an aspect of Cuba that values immediate passion over strict standards of ethics and morality when it comes to love.

Living in Cuba differed from backpacking trips that only lasted a short while. Especially with the strong containment policies towards Cuba by the Trump administration, it became difficult to obtain goods. Due to the scarcity of everyday items, they had to exert "inventa” - showing creativity and ingenuity in repurposing old items. The predominantly male-dominated culture also felt unfamiliar. They even lived without electricity for five days during Hurricane Ian in 2022. When asked why they stayed in Cuba enduring endless inconveniences, they replied, I love the optimistic atmosphere here, brought by the sun. You can even talk with strangers sitting next to you on the bus."

Even when enjoying swimming in the sea spread out in front of their house, they encounter the cheerful nature of the Cuban people. Instead of saying "The waves are high, so it's dangerous," an elderly woman on the first floor says. "If you go to the sea now, you'll ride the waves all the way down to Korea with no plane ticket." “I love the relaxed atmosphere and their sense of humor embedded in everyday life in Cuba,” Jang said.

사지원 4g1@donga.com