Author Documents Historic Architecture in New Book, Draws Parallels between Maine, Cuba

By Abbate, Lauren | Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME), October 6, 2014 | Go to article overview

Author Documents Historic Architecture in New Book, Draws Parallels between Maine, Cuba


Abbate, Lauren, Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME)


What do the northern state of Maine and the small Caribbean island of Cuba, located 90 miles off the coast of Florida, have in common? According to Michael Connors, author of 10 books about Caribbean design, the two places share an important similarity: the people.

"The people in Maine are, at least they way I find them, very hospitable. They're industrious, and they're resourceful. And the people in Cuba are exactly the same way," said Connors, a summer resident of Deer Isle for the last 50 years.

Connors, whose book "Havana Modern: Twentieth Century Architecture and Interiors" was released Sept. 30, has long harbored an infatuation with the Caribbean island that largely has been isolated from the U.S. during the last half century because of a harsh political climate.

"Once you get to know [the people of Cuba,] though, and they get to know you, they're unbelievably generous. They'll give you the shirt off their back," Connors said. "I [gravitate] toward that. If people in Maine weren't like that, I wouldn't be here."

A New York City native, Connors admits he is not always accepted wherever he goes. From his experiences throughout the Caribbean Islands, he has found Cuba's generosity and hospitality is unique. He cites the islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe as being "very standoffish," almost unwilling to accept outsiders. His travels throughout the U.S. have led him to believe Mainers share the same regional uniqueness as Cubans.

"There are places in America I would not be accepted as an outsider. I'm accepted, as an outsider, on Deer Isle," Connors said. "Those kinds of relationships are more than just genuine: They're heartfelt. And that's the kind of feeling you get down in Cuba, and that's the kind of feeling I get in Maine also."

However, Americans have not been able to soak up this particular piece of paradise because of a U.S. travel embargo placed on Cuba after the country's socialist revolution in 1959. The embargo bars traveling to the island for purposes other than humanitarian, cultural or educational. Individuals must apply to obtain a special travel visa from the U.S. government, depending on which travel criteria they meet.

Connors' architectural research and position as a member on the board of trustees for Fundacion Amistad, a nonprofit organization focused on fostering Cuban-American relations, allows him to travel to Cuba for all three of these reasons.

Cuba was colonized by Spain until 1898, then was occupied by the U.S until 1902, when it officially gained its independence. The island has a rich architectural history, which, according to Connors, is unparalleled throughout the entire Western Hemisphere.

"I don't care whether you go, to New York, Mexico City, Boston . …

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