From the author of Chasing Che, here is the remarkable tale of a group of boys at the heart of Cuba's political and social history. Chosen in the 1940s from among the most affluent and ambitious families in eastern Cuba, they were groomed at the elite Colegio de Dolores for achievement and leadership. Instead, they were swept into war, revolution, and exile by two of their own number, Fidel and Raúl Castro. Trained by Jesuits for dialectical dexterity and the pursuit of absolutes, Fidel Castro swiftly destroyed the old Cuba they had come from, down to the hallways of Dolores itself. At once sweeping and intimate, this remarkable history by Patrick Symmes is a tour de force investigation of the world that gave birth to Fidel Castro – and the world his Cuban Revolution leaves behind.
Symmes, whose Chasing Che retraced Che Guevara's transformational 1952 motorcycle trip through Latin America, writes a history of the Cuban revolution that also explores the qualities that define what it is to be Cuban. He draws on his own visits and extended stays in Cuba, and the half-century-old memories of a group of formerly privileged boys, now mostly exiled, who along with Castro attended Dolores, a Jesuit school that until the revolution, educated Cuba's elites. The Dolores alumni speak poignantly of prerevolutionary Cuba and the "necessary" revolution in which many participated. Equally poignant are their descriptions of events as the revolution lurched toward socialism and repression, events that led them to self-imposed exile. The memories of several expats who were part of the Bay of Pigs fiasco make compelling reading. To the Dolores alumni the Holy Grail is a Cuba without Castro, but Symmes, whose picture of Castro is unsympathetic in the extreme, nonetheless worries that a Castro-less Cuba will, without remorse, leave its poor bereft and evolve into a society that is more free but less just. Symmes's writing is lyrical and evocative; his powerful and complex picture of Cuba and the exile community is well worth reading.