Monday, January 09, 2006


Although the title at first may not seem relevant to the prior "Back To The Future - Episode 2" post, it is. I wanted to catch your attention. A friend and follower of this blog commented on my translation of the title for the literary column written by Atanasio Rivero y Azpiri for Diario de la Marina. If you recall, or, if you do not, feel free to revisit Episode 2; the name of the column was "Duelos y Quebrantos." I had translated it as "Duels and Afflictions," but suspected there was something wrong with said translation, even though the official dictionary of the Spanish Royal Academy was consulted. "The correct translation," wrote our friendly critic, is "Mournings and Afflictions." Indeed it is, as Mr. Rivero Sr. was not interested in writing about dueling. His love was Cervantes and Don Quijote or Quixote for our non-Spanish speakers. All this piqued my curiosity, and decided to undertake a mini-Quixotic quest about these things. Your blogger was hoping, among other things, to find somewhere on the web, an image of the column written by Mr. Rivero. Alas, my tilting at this windmill did no good, although a reference to the Centennial issue of Diario de la Marina was found here - and to those of you who know your Cuban/Spanish literary personalities, you will find many listed here, in the index to the articles, including poetry, written by said personalities for the Centennial issue, published in 1932:

  • Diario - Numero Centenario

  • It is in Spanish. And if you desire to actually view images of Diario de la Marina, and perhaps find our Ingenious Knight's column, at a price, of course, CD-ROMs of the Diario, spanning the years 1947-1957, can be obtained through the University of Florida, Gainesville. Go here for more information (it is in Spanish) about what is available -
  • Diario de la Marina CD-ROMs

  • On the home page, look in the left-hand column for a link labeled "Magazines and Periodicals. That will take you to the page with the listings of periodical materials and CD ROMs available. The University of Miami has Diario de La Marina collections spanning the period 1832-1960. This may be a worthwile endeavor-to search these archives-so you can sample Cuban journalism at its best, before it was replaced with rags such as "Granma," which should be renamed the "Havana izvestia-pravda," since it contains neither news nor truth.

    I did find a reference to an article he wrote for the Diario on July 17, 1906. It was titled "Comidilla," meaning a person's taste, preferences, or even quirks. Unfortunately, this is all - it was part of a list of literary works, but not a complete article. So, Mr. Rivero was writing for Diario de La Marina right during the early days of the Cuban Republic. Given that dad obviously read his "Duelos y Quebrantos" column, and taking his age into account, but without giving it away...Mr. Rivero must have continued writing into the late 1930's, and even the '40s.

    And where does the title of this post figure here, and what does it mean? Well, dad shared a tidbit about "Duelos y Quebrantos," telling not only what the column was about, things having to do with Spanish literature, with an emphasis on Cervantes, but also that Mr. Rivero always ended the column with the expression "Ajili-Mojili!" You may recall prior mention of his interest in Don Quijote and quixotic matters in general. Apparently Mr. Rivero, from what has been gathered by your blogger in researching him, had some interesting opinions, theories, and observations about the writings of Cervantes and evidently with an emphasis on the adventures of Don Quijote - or Don Quixote, as you wish - de La Mancha. In his writings, he seemingly liked to throw in playful, sometimes not so obvious references to the life and adventures of the Ingenious Knight. And hence, "ajili-mojili." Defined by the Spanish Dictionary of the Royal Academy as "a kind of sauce or pebre for stew." And what the windmill is "pebre?" Well, according to our reference, "a sauce which is made of pepper, garlic, parsley, and vinegar, used to season different dishes." So, we - or Don Quixote and Sancho Panza - surely, you know Sancho - have our sauce. And what might that sauce go with? Ah, a staple of Don Quixote's diet, and possibly Cervantes' as well: "Duelos y Quebrantos."

    The Royal Academy's academicians describe "duelos y quebrantos" as a "fried mixture of eggs and fatty animal parts." Fried fat and eggs - how's that for spiking up your cholesterol? Perhaps that is why much strong red wine was drunk in those knightly days. You needed something to clean your plumbing after clogging it with "duelos y quebrantos" with a touch of "ajilimojili." And perhaps, if you were reduced to looking forward to such a diet, day in, day out, you might understand why the dish translates to "mournings and afflictions." Nice, ironic description, nice play on words. A very Spanish thing, indeed a very Habanero, very Cuban thing.

    And if you wish to explore the Quixotic or Cervantian diet in a bit more detail, and assuming you master the Castilian Tongue, you may want to link up with this interesting article: "Apuntes sobre la alimentacion en la epoca de Cervantes." This to be found in - click on the link with the title of the article to open the .pdf file. You will have to cut and paste to your browser so you can go there. Unfortunately, was not able to link directly from the blog site.

    These days, in Havana, "duelos y quebrantos," spiced with "ajilimojili" might well be considered a meal fit for an Ingenious Knight, or an Ingenious Cuban, as the case may be. For one must be very ingenious these days, in those latitudes, in order to dodge and stay out of the way - and out of reach - of the windmilling, out-of-control bearded ogre and his grumpy gnomes and trolls. And "resolve" a meal or two in the process..."resolve"...another word which is word play in Havana these days. Meaning "doing whatever it takes and no matter what it takes to live life normally in an abnormal place and time." Wonder if that will make it into the Royal Academy Dictionary? Wonder what Mr. Rivero would have written regarding "resolve" in Diario de La Marina? But he would have had to do it before May 11, 1960...when the windmilling ogre strangled the Diario and buried it forever, there being no Don Quixote to tilt at, and skewer him with, his lance. Mournings and afflictions fulfilled.

    Before ending this interlude, we may as well take a look at the work environment within which Mr. Rivero labored - in "Back To The Future - Episode 2" we took a look at some exterior shots of the Diario de La Marina building at the turn of the Twentieth Century.

    This is the library at the Diario, circa 1920. The writers had its considerable resources at their disposal - so they could perform the rigorous, disciplined research a journalist worthy of his or her name would need to undertake in order to write accurately, with relevance and coherence. Wonder if New York Times writers did that, and do, today? I wonder what Mr. Rivero thought of Herbert Matthews' writings, if he got to read them? Or those regurgitated by that Ukrainian-famine denying nut, another New York Times pseudojournalist, Walter Duranty, the Stalin gluteus-osculator of the 1930s?

    By the way, the photo of the Diario library is from - the web site is called "The Old Times."

    So we started, at turn of the century - the 20th, that is - Havana, and digressed into Cervantes, Don Quixote, food, Atanasio Rivero, Havana this too manic for you? No, it is meant to show you another aspect of the Havana that was. Don't let anyone tell you it did not produce great writers, great literature, great newspapers, yes, even great electronic - or perhaps we should say electric - media people. One could do books, blogs, web sites on any one of these topics.

    Let's just concentrate on Havana newspapers at this point, since the Ingenious Knight and Mr. Rivero have taken us down this path. Diario De La Marina was an important one, but by no means the only major or important one. There was Prensa Libre, there was El Mundo. There was a newspaper like news magazine, heavy on the photographs and printed on semi-gloss paper, which I recall well, as I enjoyed looking at the pictures - "Rotograbado." The title means "rotogravure" or "offset press" publication. Want to see something funny, from one of the Quiroga vault clippings?

    I always hated the costume. Sorry, good people from Galicia, Spain, as it is a regional outfit, from Galicia. I wanted to wear a cowboy or army outfit, like my friend Hugo in the photograph. But, hey, we made the pages of Rotograbado! This was published around February 1957, during carnival time. Anybody out there remember the Comodoro Yacht Club? We were members. That was a nice place, except now only foreign "tourists" can go there. Hugo and Alina Ayala: Wherever you are, if you see this, a hearty hello! And a "Cuban Hug." They were our neighbors/playmates at Focsa. As with us, their parents did not stick around to find out what lovely surprises the bearded weirdo had in store for them.

    And then there was my favorite publication, a weekly satirical paper, featuring many famous, at the time, satirical writers and caricaturists, whom no doubt many Habaneros from "those days" remember fondly - Prohias, Silvio, Arroyito, Fresquito Fresquet. Surely, you remember "Zig Zag." I recall the vendors, when the new issues were out, hawking it, shouting "Vaya el Zi' Za'!" - "here's Zig Zag," or "there goes Zig Zag!" You could buy this, the Mad Magazine of Havana, from the newsboys or at the newstands, such as Mr. Pando's at the Focsa building, "Vidriera N," or "Countertop N," here advertised in the Focsa's own in-house publication, "Algo" Magazine, from July 1958 -

    Of course, weirdo-beardo, being humorless and thin-skinned, did not like Zig Zag. So, one of the first publications to be stomped on by "it" and "its" minions, was Zig Zag, this unfortunate event taking place around July 1959. That should have been a wake-up call for Habaneros - he who is humorless must be up to no good...

    And here is an image of Zig Zag, not from those days, but from later and better days, when it rose again, phoenix-like, in exile - the front page format is very much, if not identical, to that of the pre-weirdo-beardo Zig Zag - this from the collection of Cuban exile newspapers at the University of Miami, originally published February 16, 1963. Take a look here if you want to explore Cuban periodicals in exile; you will even get to see the front page of Diario de La Marina in exile, the issue of October 8, 1960:
  • Cuban Exile Newspapers at the University of Miami

  • So, in the unlikely event someone shows you this image, weirdo-beardo...IN YOUR FACE! And "happy" Saint Valentine's 2006 to you, too. Maybe you will get flowers - heh,heh.

    Back to "Ajili-Mojili!" or "ajilimojili," whatever works for you. In researching this topic, I even found an "Ajilimojili" restaurant in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Apparently quite a popular joint. It is in the Condado neighborhood. Perhaps if you visit it someday, you may think of toasting the memory of Mr. Rivero, Diario de La Marina, Cervantes, Don Quixote, Havana, Zig Zag, Prensa Libre, Rotograbado, El Mundo, and so on, ad infinitum. If you do, clink your goblets, mugs, or glasses and give a hearty "AJILIMOJILI!" in their honor. Shoot, you can do this in your favorite restaurant - outside Havana, that is.

    I get the feeling that, somewhere out there, the Ingenioso Hidalgo Atanasio Rivero y Azpiri would be amused - if not quite pleased - with all this...


    Friday, January 06, 2006

    Back to the Future! Episode 2 - "In which our intrepid time travelers continue their quest"

    Happy New Year, everyone, Habaneros and all men and women of goodwill, throughout the planet. Hopefully 2006 is being good to you so far. And now, let us continue our travels - set the dial on the Time Machine to about 100 years ago, in a place and time now far, far away...eerily opening a window into the past, showing that the future of Havana, in many ways, would reflect that past more than we would have liked.

    I said we would travel "to about 100 years ago." Oops, I was wrong! We're going back 107 years for starters - how time flies!

    The photo's caption is self-explanatory - a view of Aguila and Vives streets, looking east, May 27, 1899. The photo was taken during the US administration, less than a year after the Spanish-American War ended. The small legend on the left of the photo, at the bottom reads: (illegible) "Dept D of H." This could have been printed by a health department or similar organization to document necessary street work and drainage needed to improve conditions. Don't forget those were the days of yellow fever, one of many mosquito-borne diseases.

    This reminds me, for some reason, how years later, my buddies, sister, cousins, etc, would run behind health department jeeps spraying what I believe was DDT, getting into the white clouds of pesticide mist, playing around in the unusual but in its own way pleasant chemical smell - until horrified parents or passers-by would yell at us to get out of the poisoned atmosphere. We called the pesticide jeep "la tifa." Can't say exactly what that translates to, except it has nothing to do with Queen Latifah. I am sure by now many of your are shaking your heads in disbelief at this quaint non EPA-approved custom, but remember the 50's were the days before Nanny Government started telling us how to be good boys and girls. Forgive me. I was young and stupid. Now I am old and stupid. Say, could chasing "la tifa" too many times turn people into ugly, bad-mannered, ill-humored green fatigue wearing types who impose Nanny Governments From Hell?

    Here is another Cuban street scene, this one dating to about 1902-1903.

    The caption, by Pedro Pablo, states: "Angel Hill (Loma del Angel) - before, the Five Corners (Las Cinco Esquinas); prior to that, Coffin Alley (Callejon del Ataud) after Sword (Espada) street."

    Such interesting street names/places - Angel Hill, Coffin Alley (!) - did grave matters take place there? Sorry, couldn't resist engaging in the lowest form of humor. Sword street - did swashbucklers and duelers congregate there to settle their differences by the clash of Toledo steel? It would be wonderful to know how these places came to be given their colorful names - bet Pedro Pablo would have known, but unfortunately he is not available.

    If we're going to talk about coffins and streets where perhaps coffinmakers plied their trade - hence the name of the street, perhaps - we may as well take a little macabre detour, or tour, for those who enjoy horror literature and movies, and otherwordly places, and visit locales no city can do without...

    Because, in the end, no one gets outta here alive. The photo on top is of the city morgue, captioned "Municipal (City) morgue, today Avenue of The Missions (Avenida de Las Misiones)." What missions were carried out at the Avenue of Missions, have no earthly - or UNearthly idea. And the one on the bottom would be familiar to most, if not all Habaneros, then and now - and to visitors who make their morbid pilgrimages there, as do those who want to sneak a peek at Jim Morrison's or Oscar Wilde's graves in Pere-Lachaise Cemetery - the gate or portico to Havana's biggest cemetery, Cementerio de Colon. Pedro Pablo's comments on the back of the photograph: "Gate of Colon Cemetery - without the statues. To place the statues, it was necessary to cut them in half. While being installed (the statues) a worker died." Ghoulish, isn't it? An unfortunate laborer dying in a work accident at a cemetery. Regretfully, there is no name - wonder if the poor man rests in Colon cemetery to this day? Perhaps somewhere there is an old newspaper of the time to give us the sad details. Whoever you are, rest in peace.

    Here are some contemporary photos - taken about 6 years ago, of Colon Cemetery gate or portico - you can see the statues on top of the gate, and maybe say a prayer for that unknown laborer who perished placing them there.

    These came, not from "our" vault, but from the website of another talented photographer - Julius Nicolai Von Schmidt. Don't let the name fool you - he's Cuban.

    There are all kinds of Cubans, all over. A couple of years ago, while interviewing a lovely lady, who I thought was from Finland...found out she was born in Cuba, of Finnish parents. She told me there was once a small colony of Finns in Cuba. Someone ought to do a blog on Cuban ethnicity, a fascinating subject.

    If you wish to see Mr. Schmidt's wonderful work and his images of Cuba past, go here, the source for the contemporary photographs of Colon Cemetery -
    Pray he does not mind if I display some of his photos, so that you may get an idea of the changes - for good and bad - Havana has undergone over the years. His website is fantastic, and you should explore or navigate through it. You will not be disappointed.

    Alright, enough about cemeteries and other end-of-the-road subjects. Let us go to the park; it is a beautiful day. It is a beautiful day as I write these words, somewhere in Florida. Clear, blue skies, if a bit chilly. Hope it is not too cold where you are so that you can be inspired to go to your city's parks and enjoy them.

    Going to the park was somewhat of an event in Havana. Most people's homes and apartments did not really have enough land around them to make a proper "play area" by the standards of most kids. In fairness, however, kids are very adaptable and will make the best of the space they have, limited only by their imagination. Like the time cousin Fernando flipped a wooden office desk at his parents' so that, magically, it became a "Sherman tank" crewed by two daredevils, slugging it out with Kraut panzers in the Normandy or the Ardennes of our imagination...Regardless, much play would take place in local parks and parklands. Mom and dad would take me to places like "La Coronela (The Lady Colonel - bet there's a story there)" and "El Laguito (The Little Lake);" and there was "El Bosque de La Habana," literally, the "Woods or Woodlands of Havana." Yes, there were remnants of the woodlands that once had dotted the site of Havana.

    "Parque Central," reads Pedro Pablo's note - Central Park. Yes, Havana had a Central Park too. Eat your heart out, New York! Did you ever go to Central Park? Did you ever gorge on Matias Lopez Chocolate, advertised on the building in the middle background and to the left of a tiny-looking statue , as "the best in the world?"

    Here is another view of Central Park, from Neptuno (Neptune) street -
    The photo is captioned "El Diario de la Marina, today Hotel Plaza." "El Diario de la Marina" was a very important newspaper in Havana, indeed, in all of Cuba. It was owned by the prominent Rivero family, and published for over a century, until finally silenced, because the bearded brute could not handle the truth, on 11 May, 1960. Pedro Pablo unfortunately does not give us a clue as to when Diario de la Marina's building became the Hotel Plaza. However, on a web site I will not name, as it promotes travel to today's Cuba - and yours truly will not be a party to that as long as ordinary Cubans in Cuba do not have the right to enjoy the same amenities and hotels foreigners do - the hotel is said to "have been inaugurated on December 29, 1909."

    There is an interesting connection between our family and Diario de la Marina. One of my father's aunts, Aurora Quiroga, sister of Elvira Quiroga-Pedro Pablo's mother-married one of the Diario's journalists, Atanasio Rivero Sr. Despite the name, he was no relation to the owning Rivero family. My father explained that Atanasio Rivero Sr. wrote a literary column in the Diario, for many years, under the title "Duelos y Quebrantos," or "Duels and Afflictions." My translation may not convey the meaning as accurately as it should. He wrote much about Cervantes and other authors, but apparently Cervantes - whom you should recognize as the author of "Don Quixote," was his favorite subject. As evidenced by Mr. Rivero Sr.'s headstone at the Almudena cemetery in Madrid, which reads, according to dad: "Here Lies The Ingenious Knight (a definite allusion to "Don Quixote") Don Atanasio Rivero y Azpiri." In Castilian, for those who have mastered the Iberic tongue, "Aqui Yace El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Atanasio Rivero y Azpiri." If you are in Madrid and happen to wander through Almudena cemetery, perhaps you can stop by and say hello to this Ingenious Knight.

    And since we've just been to Central Park at Neptuno street, we may as well continue on to Prado and Neptuno streets, and watch the men in their suits and the ladies with their hats and umbrellas catch some shade under the trees lining the median...
    The photo caption: "Prado and Neptuno - urban horse-drawn trolley." Looks like a 3-horsepower model to me. Check out the spiffy carriage on the right - no doubt the latest 1-horsepower sports model around 1900.

    Now look at these contrasting images of the same places, from the Von Schmidt website, 50-100 years later.

    Central Park, 1947 - more autos than you see in Central Park today. I suppose, for some folks, that's progress. I suppose the bearded grouch with his fleet of Mercedes-Benz cars would just as soon let Habaneros ride the 3-horsepower trolleys so popular in 1900-1903...

    Here is another of Central Park at Prado and Neptune streets, also in 1947

    Remember Hotel Plaza and Diario de la Marina? Here is the Plaza in 1947. The surrounding area has definitely changed by then.

    And here is the Plaza in Anno Domini 2000...

    Notice the bracing to the building on the right - wonder how long it has been there? No doubt an example of urban-renewal-by-neglect; things do not seem to be looking up for poor Havana these days, rather they seem to be falling down - something which the guy in charge seems to be doing himself, these days. Maybe somebody should brace him in - with iron bars - into a very, very, small box. There, he could make the best of the available space, limited only by his warped imagination...

    Here is a shot of Prado and Neptuno in 1947 - with the median and the trees -

    How many things have changed? For one thing, the 3-horsepower trolleys and 1-horsepower carriages have been replaced by more modern, many-horsepowered, conveyances, mostly from Detroit; Fords, Chevys, Dodges and later, until 1960, others like Corvettes, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, MG, Renault (remember those?), Fiat, and many others, like the Isetta - remember that one? Corvairs too - I have a Corvair story for you, but later.

    Let us continue our walks through the parks in 19th-early 20th Century Havana. We have three more to visit in this episode.

    "Parque de San Juan de Dios," writes Pedro Pablo. "Park of St. John of the Lord," is my best translation - do not recall being there, but then, that would have been 50-60 years later. The geometry of the image is interesting - triangles, diagonals, hexagons/pentagons.

    "Parque de la India;" literally, "Park of the Indian Maiden." Taken on a sunny day, as evidenced by the shadows on the sidewalks and walkways.

    And here are two views of the same park, from Von Schmidt - taken at different angles;

    This one from 1947-the sky was beautiful on that day.

    And this one, from 1997 - almost 100 years separate the black and white image from the most recent one. At the time the turn-of-the-20th-Century photograph was taken, the Cuban "Capitol" had not been built. The sky was mostly cloudy that day in 1997 - was this Nature's way of commenting on, not only the physical, but also the political ambiance??

    "La Punta (The Point) park with Neptune's fountain; City jail or Detention center; 'La Cucaracha,'" small engine which took passengers to Vedado (a close suburb); Headquarters of the Engineers, place where the Medical Students were shot in 1871."

    This should not properly be called a park, but it is a parklike area. There is a lot of history revealed in the description written by Pedro Pablo, which could fill volumes by itself. "La Cucaracha" was a small, steam-powered engine, obviously able to haul two carloads filled with passengers. Here you have a foreshadowing of the coming motorization of La Habana's streets. The Engineer's Quarters or Headquarters are to the right of the large building, which is the jail. If you want to know more about the Students of Medicine executed in 1871, and why they came to such sad end, you can read about it in "Cuba - The Pursuit of Freedom," by Hugh Thomas. You may also visit many links on the web, for example, this one:

  • Estudiantes de Medicina Fusilados el 27 de Noviembre 1871

  • It is in Spanish, but no doubt you can find information about this tragic episode, one of many which Cuba has experienced in the past 100+ years, using key words, such as "execution of medical students Cuba 1871." Good 'ol Google and other capable search engines ought to do the trick.

    Some things haven't changed since 1871, in Havana, and other places...

    -To be continued-

    Sunday, January 01, 2006

    Happy New Year!?

    Was going to take the day off, in celebration and appreciation of a New Year, and to count the blessings God has bestowed on us over the many New Years we have experienced. Instead, decided to do a - relatively - short post for two reasons:

    Wanted to wish a very Happy New Year to family and friends, including the family I refer to as the Brotherhood-and-Sisterhood of the Blogosphere. You know who you are. I pray all your dreams and wishes will come true in 2006, and may you enjoy health, which is wealth, peace, love, and prosperity. These wishes, goes without saying, but needs saying, are extended to all Habaneros - with certain exceptions as you can imagine - whether in Havana, or anywhere else on the planet.

    Inspired by one of our commentators, decided to describe the one Havana New Year's day engraved in memory, one which, for some reason, appears to have overwritten other memories of New Year's days past in Havana, as sometimes happens when a painful experience erases more pleasant memories of the same event.

    When I awoke the morning of January 1, 1959 something was stirring. The apartment was quiet - mom and dad were up, sis I believe was still asleep. She liked to stay up into the wee hours, and no manner of persuasion could get her down 'til she was ready. Always a party girl!

    Mom and dad had partied the night before, with friends, family, neighbors, no doubt. The place and details I do not know, but it was at the Focsa. The morning of the first, the TV was on - I saw black-and-white images of men riding jeeps, armed men, but wearing mostly civilian clothes. I thought that was odd, but looked on, fascinated. A reporter shoved a microphone towards a happy-looking man, who with gestures, spoke into the mike and said something like "now we are free, the people are free, bla bla bla." Batista was gone, mom and dad informed me. I don't recall my response and emotions too well - memory blurs, and politics, to an 8.5 year-old, are not that important. Maybe they should be, or should have been.

    In later years mom and dad would tell how, early that morning, they received a call from a friend or neighbor, doesn't matter, other than this person would turn out to have been a closet sympathizer of the bearded maniac all along. The caller asked if mom and dad knew "Batista was gone." Dad says he told the caller he had heard nothing about it, and was surprised at the news "since Batista's Fourth of September party flag was still waving from Morro castle." The Fourth of September flag had been created as a symbol in commemoration of the September 4, 1933 military coup, led by Batista, against then-president Cespedes. However, to continue the story, dad realized the caller's information was accurate, not only by taking a look at the boob tube, but also since around noontime, the Fourth of September flag was hauled down.

    The Fourth of September Flag - from Cuba Historical Flags

    Maybe this is why the events that day are seared into my memory bank: Late that morning, or perhaps early afternoon, my then 16-year old cousin, Fernando, came running down the long hallway towards our apartment, beaming, grinning, yelling "Viva Fidel!" at the top of his lungs. He walked in, greeted the family, who did not seem to share his enthusiasm, and then, as teasing teenagers will do to the young ones, asked me to say "Viva Fidel!" I either said "No!" or shook my head, rapidly from side to side, as little, bullheaded Taurus boys did, and sometimes still do. This seemed to get cousin Fernando riled up, and again he insisted I scream "Viva Fidel!" I would not. Finally, and this must have happened when mom and dad were not in sight, he put me in a head lock and insisted I scream "Viva!" or he was gonna rap my skull with his knuckles real hard! I still refused. So, he rapped my thick skull with his knuckles real hard. No words out of the bullheaded one - so he cracked the knuckles on the bony, closely-cropped head several more times, to no avail. The stubborn little bullheaded boy had won! No "Viva Fidels!" outta that mouth, then or afterwards.

    Years later, Fernando would ask, as we would reminisce and talk about the incident, "What is it you knew that we didn't...?" In fairness to my dear cousin, have to tell you that within months of that fateful day, he had made a 180 degree turn and became a staunch opponent of the toxic bearded buffoon and his band of monkeys, going so far as to become involved in groups seeking to overthrow the olive-green slug before it was too late. His father shipped him out to New York in December 1960 out of fear the slug's stormtroopers were closing in on him - as in fact happened to the group he was operating with a few months later, with dire consequences to those heroic unfortunates. What caused that 180 degree turn, I do not know exactly. All I know is that around mid-1959 he went with his parents on a tour of Oriente, driving to see the places where the "revolutionaries" had made their little war against Batista. His father told me years later, speaking about that trip, that when they returned to Havana, Fernando said to him, referring to the bearded one, "Papa-este tipo es un hijoputa..." Translation: "Dad, this guy is a sonofabitch." I think you shared the wisdom of a certain bullheaded little cousin, Fernando.