The enduring impact of the Cuban revolution on the lives of ordinary citizens is the subject of Huergo’s disjointed debut novel.
On the 50th anniversary of the Moncada Barracks raid, Fidel Pérez, lovesick and inebriated, ventures onto his brother’s balcony after a night of drinking. Rafael hears his brother’s cries as the railing gives way and rushes to save him, but both he and his brother plummet to their deaths. As their battered bodies lay on the ground below, the neighbors gather, and Fidel’s former lover’s cries are heard above the throng as she laments that Fidel and his brother have fallen. The shouts are taken up by the crowd, and as rolling blackouts hit Havana, its citizens misconstrue the meaning of the words and sweep toward the town’s center. The author focuses on four individuals among the crowd that converges at La Plaza de la Revolución: Saturnina, an elderly woman who lives on the streets and still grieves the loss of her son, Tomás, a Fidelista who once provided food and shelter to anti-Batista dissenters and who she believes will live again; professor Pedro Valle, arrested and tortured by the Castro regime 10 years ago and now flooded with remorse as he “converses” with his friend and colleague, Mario, who “was disappeared” as a subversive; Justicio, who witnessed the Pérez brothers' deaths and ekes out a living with his bicycle cab; and young Camilo, a university student who knows no other life than the one under Castro’s fist. His mother abandoned the family when she fled Cuba in 1980, and now he finds himself becoming a spokesperson for a new hope. Huergo’s writing is expressive, and her opening premise is creative, but what follows is often difficult to understand. Her frequent use of Spanish dialogue and her didactic approach to storytelling often interrupt the flow, and the reader must reread passages several times in an often fruitless attempt to grasp meaning and differentiate between past and present.
Huergo writes with heart even though her account lacks consistency.