In Havana, a Book in Exchange for Nothing

Suelta masiva de libros en La Habana (Foto: Fernando Medina)

Massive book giveaway in Havana (Photo Fernando Medina)

Dozens of people gathered in a park in Havana, the Cuban capital, last Sunday to participate in a massive book giveaway. The initiative, led by blogger [es] and Global Voices author Rafael González [es], focused on [es] leaving books somewhere in the park with an inscription on the first page that read: “This book belongs to whoever finds it in exchange for giving it away again after reading it so that other people can enjoy it.”

The original initiative, started on Facebook [es], was taken up by González, who contacted the creators. Lu Di Piertro commented in regard to this: 

La idea no es nuestra, ya existe desde hace un tiempo y no sé exactamente quién la empezó. Un amigo, Rodri, que está también de organizador de este evento pensó en armar una suelta masiva y me propuso que hiciéramos este evento y gratamente fue muy aceptado. Nos parece bueno (el evento) por muchas razones (…): lo importante de leer, lo hermoso de dar, lo emocionante de soltar y la incertidumbre de no saber y confiar; fomentar la solidaridad y el espíritu del compartir social y culturalmente, abrir el corazón y atravesar fronteras. 

This idea is not ours, it has already existed for some time and I don't know who started it exactly. A friend, Rodri, who is also an organizer for this event thought to put together a massive giveaway and proposed to me that we do this event and it was very pleasantly accepted. (The event) seems good to us for many reasons (…): the importance of reading, the beauty of giving, the excitement of releasing, and the uncertainty of not knowing and trusting; encouraging solidarity and the spirit of sharing socially and culturally, opening your heart and crossing borders.  

Meanwhile, another organizer, Rodri Bristot, added:

En lo personal, lo que me impulsa a organizar este evento de Suelta Masiva, tiene que ver con una idea un poco romántica: creo que hay cosas en la vida que debieran ser gratis, como la educación y la lectura; los libros no debieran ser solo para quienes pueden pagarlos, si no que deberían ser más accesibles, que la gente los encuentre en los espacios públicos sin tener que resignar algo (dinero o trabajo) para adquirirlos.

Personally, what drives me to organize this Massive Giveaway event, has to do with an idea that is a bit romantic: I believe that there are things in live that should be free, like education and reading; books should not only be for those who can pay for them, they should be more accessible, people should find them in public spaces without having to give something up (money or work) to acquire them.

Varios marcadores fueron compartidos en la cita (Foto: Fernando Medina)

Several bookmarks were shared during the event (Photo Fernando Medina)

On the morning of Sunday, April 6, González, along with a group of about 50 youths, adults and children, gave away their books in H y 21 Park, located in El Vedado, Havana. People looked behind the benches in the park, searched the roundabout in the center between the roots of the trees, and even approached newcomers to get books firsthand. 

Cuban writer Dazra Novak described the experience [es] from her blog [es]: 

He soltado cuatro libros hoy -con el mes, el año y la ciudad anotados en la primera página-, espero que los beneficiados la pasen tan bien como yo al leer dos de esos títulos, tan bien como la pasé al escribir los otros dos. No sé por qué sospecho que en algún momento volverán a mí para que yo pueda enrumbarlos de nuevo. Ahora que lo pienso, hoy –mañana, siempre- todos deberían hacer lo mismo.

I gave away four books today – with the month, year, and city listed on the first page -, I hope that the recipients enjoy themselves as much as I did when reading two of these books, and as much as I did when I wrote the other two. I don't know why I suspect that at some point they will come back to me so that I can send them off again. Now that I think about it, today – tomorrow, always – everyone should do the same.  

*Cover photo by Fernando Medina.


Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Stay up to date about Global Voices and our mission. See our Privacy Policy for details. Newsletter powered by Mailchimp (Privacy Policy and Terms).

* = required field
Email Frequency

No thanks, show me the site