He sat at the table with Velasco Alvarado, Brezhnev gave him a bicycle, Fidel announced his birth during a speech at the Plaza of the Revolution and Pinochet himself gave him a lemonade. With these vibrant adventures it’s hard to end up being a common person. The person who all this happened to was, in turn, an amusing hedonist, born conversationalist, tolerant, pertinacious and the worst guerrilla one could imagine. Decanting Cuba Libres by the gallon for the skirmishes that happened in bed and for the battles he escaped from with a fork and spoon.
Juan Juan Almeida brushed up against power and got scratched, without it doing him much good to be the son of the Comandante down from the Sierra Maestra. His ancestry was more of an aggravation, since they made him pay for not rising to the epic height they expected from the offspring of the “heroes.” His military training, studies in the Soviet Union, and even classes to turn him into a Cuban intelligence agent, showed him what was hiding behind the mask of Utopia. So his book, “Memoirs of an Unknown Cuban Guerrilla,” is the story of a brazen witness, someone who hobnobbed with those who call us to sacrifice, while living a life of pleasure and excess. According to the author, they are those who “speak like those on the left, think like those in the center and live like those on the right.”
This chubby, forty-year-old limps with one leg but jumps with unvarnished humor from every page of his memoirs. He seems to want to tell us that from the yacht, the hunts in the keys and the perfectly chilled vodka, our daily difficulties seem tremendously blurry, far away and unimportant. From a travel-filled roguish life, Juan Juan fell, abruptly, into the position of a marked and persecuted man. A series of interrogations, searches and detentions let him experience the day-to-day reality of the most critical, the opposition and the dissidents on this Island. “Memoirs of a Guerrilla…” is the story of a fall, of a collapse that he tells without rancor, rather with nonchalance. It is narrated by someone who learned, quickly, the most widespread meaning of the word “guerrilla,” that which implies fighting for status, killing for certain possessions, lying to remain in power.
As a teaser for those interested in Juan Juan Almeida’s book, published by Espuela de Plata, here is an excerpt.
“I’m just a man who grew up and was trained among the corrupt, immodest, modern corsairs who played at being strict, simple guardians of honor but who forget to shut up in front of their children. Because this boy grew up admiring these destructive and heroic vicelords, an excuse for leaders, they made me see that an assault on a barracks, in a country with laws, could be a just thing. They made me see that to subvert countries with foreign ideas, using illegal methods, was a necessary thing. They made me see that the problems of the state can be solved most easily if we banish our own citizens. They made me see that to repudiate, discredit, stomp on, hit, spit on or imprison were good options for those who don’t think as the system requires. They made me see that the people are an amorphous and distant mass which is borne in mind from the dais to praise them a bit, incite them a little more, before returning to the air conditioning. They made me see so very many things that I ended up confused like millions of Cubans, so that we no longer know the exact difference between good and evil.”
Juan Juan Almeida is the son of Juan Almeida Bosque, age 82, third ranking member of Cuba’s Council of State, Hero of the Republic of Cuba, and one of the original Commanders of the Revolution who fought with Fidel in the Sierra Maestra.