History, Ephemera, Industry, Et Cetera


Books of History, Ephemera, Industry, Et Cetera


Not a novel of politics, not a history of Cuban music, not an autobiography, but an anecdotal and musical journey of a soul, “a Cuban, an exile, a Cuban-American” liberated by and with the music. A double album compilation on Un-Gyve Records and an exhibition of the album artwork coincides with the publication of With a Cuban song in the heart which includes both the English and Spanish versions of the text.

Rich in sentiment, anecdote and history, it is a sincere and authentic book which will inform and delight its readers. I recommend it with enthusiasm.

— Oscar Hijuelos

The guano roofs of the huts creaked as if complaining about the daily curse—salazón…. We were going to raid the boat Relámpago II to escape Cuba for Jamaica…. The ground burned under our feet and the solar fury of that latitude called tropic of Cancer punished rocks and reef…. Almost the entire landscape melted under the onslaught of the sun, and that was my biggest concern: that the records my sister and I had hidden inside two towels under a straw hat would melt too. This was the only treasure we took away from Cuba.

— Iván Acosta, from With a Cuban song in the heart

With this book, Iván Acosta takes us by the hand on a musical and historical journey. To his way of seeing it, you cannot speak of one without the other. Luckily for the reader, Acosta’s taste for music is ample and exquisite.

— Mirta Ojito

Iván left Cuba with his family on a hot afternoon in August 1961 when he was sixteen years old. Thirty-one people jammed onto a ninety-two-foot boat, fully aware that they could be shot or spend the next twenty years in prison if caught. Or they could drown if their boat drifted into the raging tropical storm sweeping across the Caribbean at the very moment of their departure.

…only minutes to gather your things. What would you grab to remind you of the life you left behind? A doll? A toy? A ring?

Iván reached for two 12-inch long-playing records, one by Luis Bravo and the other by Ramón Veloz. To take records is both an amazing and fabulous choice. It’s a simultaneous act of remembrance and revenge.

— Marc Myers, from his introduction to With a Cuban song in the heart

With a Cuban song in the heart is a book about mambo and rumba and all the elements of salsa. And yet, it is not a book specifically about music. It is a book about life (Cuban) and the pursuit of freedom (human) and happiness (Cuban-American). But it is not a book about politics. It is a book about diversity and religious syncretism, about folklore and Cuban history told through droll narrative, inspired lyrics and classic album covers. It is a book about losing and gaining freedom, about preserving culture and family. A book in which recent political events figure and many of the lives that changed in the process. A book about love: love for a nation that does not allow itself to be destroyed; love for traditions that cannot be lost; love for music so universal that no one can silence it.

— Ileana Fuentes

With a Cuban song in the heart features the artwork from 280 album covers from Iván Acosta’s collection of over 5,000 long-playing discs—a collection which hangs in the living room of his New York City home and which includes the two albums that he and his sister smuggled out of Cuba on that August 28th, 1961; and by which he weaves a story of real life passages from his childhood in Santiago de Cuba and “tidbits of history that lay dormant in those album covers… local lore and landmark events.” Not a novel of politics, not a history of Cuban music, not an autobiography, but an anecdotal and musical journey of a soul, “a Cuban, an exile, a Cuban-American” liberated by and with the music.

Iván Acosta was born in Los Hoyos, a neighborhood in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba. Playwright, theater director, filmmaker, songwriter and producer of Latin Jazz concerts, Acosta has lived in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City, since December of 1961, the year he fled Cuba. His play El Super, gained international recognition and migrated to the big screen in 1979, winning more than 20 awards in international film festivals, and hailed as the most important and emblematic film of Cuban exile. Acosta is a founding member of the Cuban Cultural Center of New York (1972).

ISBN: 978-0-9829198-7-3 compact disc edition
ISBN: 978-0-9829198-8-0 vinyl LP edition