Before Fidel: The Cuba I Remember

Before Fidel: The Cuba I Remember

Before Fidel: The Cuba I Remember

Before Fidel: The Cuba I Remember

Synopsis

Before Fidel Castro seized power, Cuba was an ebullient and chaotic society in a permanent state of turmoil, combining a raucous tropical nature with the evils of arbitrary and corrupt government. Yet this fascinating period in Cuban history has been largely forgotten or misrepresented, even though it set the stage for Castro's dramatic takeover in 1959. To reclaim the Cuba that he knew--and add colour and detail to the historical record--distinguished political scientist Francisco José Moreno here offers his recollections of the Cuba in which he came of age personally and politically. Moreno takes us into the little-known world of privileged, upper-middle-class, white Cubans of the 1930s through the 1950s. His vivid depictions of life in the family and on the streets capture the distinctive rhythms of Cuban society and the dynamics between parents and children, men and women, and people of different races and classes. The heart of the book describes Moreno's political awakening, which culminated during his student years at the University of Havana. Moreno gives a detailed, insider's account of the anti-Batista movement, including the Ortodoxos and the Triple A. He recaptures the idealism and naiveté of the movement, as well as its ultimate ineffectiveness as it fell before the juggernaut of the Castro Revolution. His own disillusionment and wrenching decision to leave Cuba rather than accept a commission in Castro's army poignantly closes the book.

Excerpt

The plane was about to take off—a Super-Constellation on its daily run from Havana to New York. The four propellers whirling at half throttle, the doors closed, the stewardesses making sure the passengers were not walking up and down the aisle on takeoff, as Cubans were prone to do if left unattended, and shepherding them towards their assigned seats. It was early September 1959 on a sunny morning in the middle of the rainy season, like most mornings at that time of the year unless a storm was making its way from the Caribbean Sea into the Gulf of Mexico. It had taken me ten days, ten days to decide I didn’t want to stay, ten days to turn down the two jobs I had been offered, a commission in the new Cuban army and a position at the labor union’s national headquarters, and to forgo any others that might have come my way. I had returned to Cuba to take one of the two jobs offered, probably the one with the army. My exile was over, I thought. But here I was ten days later waiting for the plane to take off. Still, I sat there, questions and doubts in my mind, looking out the window and not seeing anything. We had struggled to overthrow a tyrannical government and had succeeded. We fought the good fight and won, and looking back I could see a path strewn with bodies of friends and acquaintances: Chúa, blown up; Porfirio, who made it through World War II in the Pacific without a scratch, torn apart by the Cuban secret police; Mario, tortured and shot and his wife crying and comforting their kids; Ñico, always in a hurry, his skinny long legs permanently in high gear—at least he died fighting; Fructuoso, and our never-ending discussions about Argentina and Peronismo, assassinated; also Carbó, who I liked but could never bring myself to take seriously; Machadito, who I always ran into, for some . . .

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