As months went by, Batista’s grip tightened, and the dark and tired political landscape gave way to new vibrant colors, fueled by youthful enthusiasm, idealism and candor. At the University a new set of student leaders was beginning to push aside the corrupt clique that had previously controlled the student federation. Union politics took a new direction, as challenges to the ruling officials were no longer based on specific grievances or demands but on rejection of their connivance with Batista and his government. The Triple A offered a way to rid the country of the dictator and to bring democracy and civilian rule back, and by so promising it helped to erase old antagonisms and forge new alliances, dividing the opposition into two clear camps: those denying the government legitimacy and prepared to fight and those willing to reach some sort of accommodation with Batista—los duros, the hard, and los flojos, the soft; the revolutionaries and the patsies.
In truth, however, neither I nor anyone I knew had any clear idea of what we meant by “revolution,” although we had no qualms throwing the term around, referring to it frequently, emotionally captivated by it. At the University, the word “revolution” had almost mystical connotations, denoting no specific plan of action or objective but embodying a sense of epic idealism that united the anti-Batista students and gave them the impetus to brush discrepancies aside. The Batista military coup had magically transformed the previously languid campus into a spirited center of activity allowing, actually prodding, students to reconnect with their historical tradition of political militancy. The Federación Estudiantil Universitaria, the University Students’ Federation, commonly referred to as the FEU, quickly became the country’s most committed and vocal antigovernment force, with public meetings, marches and