Chapter One, page 17
of the Ojito family, she said. My family’s reluctance to join was
her record. If she wasn’t able to make revolutionaries out of all her
she would be perceived as a weak, untrustworthy leader.
How much longer do you think I can protect you? she said.
My father understood the implicit threat. Soon after, my parents became members of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, and I became a junior member of sorts, volunteering to distribute vaccines for children, helping to weed community gardens, and knocking on doors reminding people to attend the next block meeting.
On October 6, 1976, after years of relative peace between Cuba and the United States, terrorists planted a bomb in a Cubana de Aviación plane on its way from Venezuela to Cuba. The plane blew up in midair, killing all seventy three people on board—including most of the members of Cuba’s youth fencing team. The pilot of the plane was the father of one of my eighth-grade classmates. Our school, and the nation, was in mourning; it was Fidel’s finest hour. This was exactly the kind of disaster he needed to stoke the flames of nationalistic ardor.
We had gotten too lax, he told us. Too sure of our revolution, our accomplishments, our resolve. But we must never forget that our enemies lay in wait.
The country was thrown into a revolutionary frenzy from which it was impossible to escape. Though I had never felt especially drawn to Fidel and had managed to avoid listening to most of his speeches, I felt a duty to go with the rest of my classmates to La Plaza de la Revolución to hear him give a eulogy for the victims. When the buses came to school to pick us up, instead of hiding in a closet or a bathroom as I used to do, I boarded, sat by a window, and sang my heart out, defying the enemies of the revolution to try our might.
I didn’t get to see Fidel. Hundreds of thousands of people thronged the square and the streets of the neighborhood that surrounded it. As I made my way through the crowds trying not to lose sight of my friends, I could hear snatches of Fidel’s speech, booming overhead. Blood. Principles. Death. Yankees.
Once again he was blaming the United States.
Fidel’s fury frightened me .My chest tightened, and I began to feel an urge to get away. I forged ahead but couldn’t move. Too many people. I couldn’t even think of going back. A mob was pressing at my back. Making a sudden turn to