By Luis Sexto
Yesterday I read a book that looks at Havana from a pretty much forgotten,
or at least for many, unknown perspective. Only a few among those who live
in the seductive Cuban capital will recognize certain names, references to
places, businesses and people. «They took me to the Decima,» or «coming into
the El Encanto,» or «Carratala told me,» or «Miguelito the Niño hit me.»
What do these names mean to most people? Almost nothing, I guess.
That’s why this book was written, so that these memories do not vanish with
the passing of time. They are memories, memories that ooze blood, pain,
doubt, fear, anguish and, especially, integrity and heroism. In
Clandestinos: heroes vivos y muertos (Clandestine fighters: live and dead
heroes), author Gaspar Gonzalez-Lanuza, a great promoter of culture and the
arts who also fought in the war against oppression, keeps alive the actions
and dedication of those people in Havana who rebelled against the injustice
and corruption during the Batista administration, putting their lives in
peril by supporting the Rebel Army, fighting in the mountains. The
clandestine struggle was a paradoxical front rearguard of the guerrillas.
I like memories. It is a pleasure to know about the lives of people who, yet
unknown, tell us about their participation in events that have always been
summarized by historians, trapped in generalizing. Memories and anecdotes
are the most important and attractive part of history.
Gonzalez-Lanuza —son of a renowned internationalist fighter in Spain— brings
alive his participation in the Cuba’s 1950s revolutionary struggle,
subordinating his exploits to those of collective action. The author
minimizes his personal story, highlighting the actions of his partners and
leaders; people who demonstrated exceptional degrees of courage and
Among the books highlights are previously unpublished details that greatly
impacted fighters, such as the murders of Lydia and Clodomira Acosta.
Gonzalez-Lanuza was in a privileged position; he had the mission of
protecting Lydia. But all his experience in the clandestine struggle, his
care and concern were unable to prevent the tragic and heroic end of the
clandestine messengers. With his proximity and links to both women,
Gonzalez-Lanuza provides the reader with great detail of the tragic event
and the final resting spot of their bodies.
Clandestinos: heroes vivos y muertos is a good and enjoyable read. While
maybe not an example of high prose —the author is not a professional
writer—, the book is neither a dry account, characteristic of reports. At
times the style tries to be objective; at others, lyrical, trying to show
the intimate circumstances surrounding the clandestine fighters. And the
author achieves this intimacy, especially in the final chapter where he
tells us about his arrest and tortures. When we write, we must try and find
the most impacting effect to try to captivate the reader. I would have liked
to have read the chapter entitled «En la Decima Estacion (At the tenth
station)» at the beginning of the book. It is the best of all chapters
because it is the most personal one.
This book, published this year by the Ciencias Sociales Publishing House,
revives a Havana that has already vanished with the passing of time and one
which is important to remember. It brings us closer to a stage in history
when the best of the Cuban people reached an instant of glory, opening the
road for future successes; a stage which we should never forget.