A searching story of Cuba’s revolutionary generation, now almost gone.
There was a time when Fidel Castro was a guileless schoolboy, one who in 1940 wrote to Franklin Roosevelt and asked for a handout: “[I]f you like, give me a ten dollars bill green american, in the letter, because never, I have not seen a ten dollars bill green american and I would like to have one of them.” It is worth considering that Castro soon complained, “The Americans are assholes. I asked for ten dollars and they didn’t send me a cent,” the birth of a lifelong grudge. With his classmates at Colegio de Dolores, an elite Jesuit school, Castro learned revolutionary discipline if not revolutionary politics; indeed, said one of those classmates many years later, “To think and work. That’s what they taught. Some learned it, others didn’t. The pre-revolutionary society owed a lot to the Jesuits.” The famed, ill-fated attack on the Moncada Barracks took place just a few blocks from the school; when Castro and his brother Raul fled the scene, it was down familiar alleys. One by one, their classmates left, even as other intellectual admirers streamed in to join the revolution; a Cuban who stayed for a time after the revolution, Guillermo Cabrera Infante was shocked when a visiting Turkish writer who had spent years in prison warned him that his turn was coming, that dictatorship was looming, as the heartbroken exiles knew. It’s a strange dictatorship at that: Symmes (Chasing Che, 2000) observes that in Castro’s Cuba everyone can read, but almost no one is allowed to. And when Fidel dies, as most of his classmates already have? Then Raúl—whose classmates nicknamed him La Pulgita, the little flea—will take charge. Notes the author: “If he has any instinct for survival, he will announce the day after Fidel’s funeral that nothing is going to change, and then start changing everything.”
Essential for Cuba watchers.