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This book showed me how little I knew about Cuba Historical Cuba and Modern Cuba It is an interesting collection of personal stories and interactions with the students who were Castro s classmates I am glad I took the time to read it between picking it up at a library book sale and soon giving it as a gift to someone else It is amazing how much history we never learn about unless we pick up a book like this. Probably as good a portrait of contemporary Cuba as you can get from an Irish dude from Virginia Well, contemporary as of a few years ago things have probably changed a bit in the last few years as some barriers to American travel and investment were removed The Castro schoolmate device works well as a source for first hand interviews and the mix of reporting current conditions and providing the history that led to those conditions is seamless I appreciated his first hand anecdotes for their Probably as good a portrait of contemporary Cuba as you can get from an Irish dude from Virginia Well, contemporary as of a few years ago things have probably changed a bit in the last few years as some barriers to American travel and investment were removed The Castro schoolmate device works well as a source for first hand interviews and the mix of reporting current conditions and providing the history that led to those conditions is seamless I appreciated his first hand anecdotes for their candor and acknowledgment that he is not omniscient, but they can be digressive The strangest digression was probably a brief interview with Jerry Brown, governor of California whose only connection to the story seems to be that he also went to a Jesuit school Odd I went in thinking this was a book about Castro s upbringing and path to power It was, kind of, but it was also a travelogue of the author This annoyed me in the first third of the book as it sabout the author than the topic at hand Gradually the author stopped writing about himself so much and it became an interesting look into some of modern Cuba andwhat happened to the Cubans who were exiled in addition to Castro. It s an old journalistic device and it works a charm take an old school class photograph of someone in famous and track down the careers of as many of their classmates as possible, interviewing them in detail about who the blighter was back as a pimply youth, and what they think of how they turned out I ve done it before, but Patrick Symmes study of the forgotten youth of Fidel Castro is a masterful recreation.For one thing, he has clearly done the leg work, wearing out his shoe leather in C It s an old journalistic device and it works a charm take an old school class photograph of someone in famous and track down the careers of as many of their classmates as possible, interviewing them in detail about who the blighter was back as a pimply youth, and what they think of how they turned out I ve done it before, but Patrick Symmes study of the forgotten youth of Fidel Castro is a masterful recreation.For one thing, he has clearly done the leg work, wearing out his shoe leather in Castro s old stamping ground of Santiago de Cuba in Oriente Province, and on the streets of Havana and elsewhere as well as in the offices and restaurants of the Cuban exile milieu Miami Some of Castro s old mates rose as apparatchiks in the new regime, others went into embittered exile, andjust blurred into the obscure poverty of regular Cuban society Castro to my mind is one of the most misrepresented figures of the 20th Century, reviled by the right as a communist and lauded by the left as the same, but the picture that emerges of his youth is farcomplex, if not downright contradictory of those positions As the son of a labour broker, the young Castro first came to the approving attention of the Santiago newspapers for strike breaking a bunch of unruly black Haitian cane cutters by beating them down from horseback with the flat of his machette Not much of a workers champion.An avid reader of Mein Kampf to the bombastic phrases of which he often fell asleep as a schoolboy, he is reported to have celebrated the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939 and imitated Il Duce s speeches from a balcony at the Dolores school, to the amusement of his conservative Catholic peers These may be considered of course, on the one hand the usual experiments of youth, and on the other a rather traditionalist fascination with the Latino strongman archetype Except that this right wing tendency remains constant in Castro s life, as he goes from gun toting thug in the conservative bourgeois Orthodox Party to the self titled Maximum Leader of the Cuban Revolution Not the political trajectory of a freedom loving guy.Symmes evidence suggests how, on his ascension to power by the chance defection to his 26 July Movement of the military governor of Oriente Province, to whom the fleeing dictator Batista had naively handed power in late 1959, allowing Castro to assume command of the demoralised Cuban Armed Forces , Castro s main ideological influence was not Marx whose works he hardly touched , but Juan Per n, the Nazi friendly third way fascist strongman of Argentina This is hardly anecdotal Castro became personal friends with Per n, had him over as a regular house guest during his 1955 1973 hiatus in power, and declared three days of national mourning upon his death in 1974 despite the fact that right Per nism gave life to the death squads of the Operaton Condor era in Latin America.In sum, the No.1 Barbudo Beared One seems to be rather a political chameleon, if not a cleverly disguised neo fascist and forevidence, read my review of Giles Tremlett s Ghosts of Spain I m sure this review won t endear me to those who genuinely believe that Cuba Libre in the rum and cola sense was a gentler revolution than that in the USSR or Per nist Argentina, but then, I m pretty sure they never lived under a red or brown really, is there a difference dictatorship The book began with somewhat of an attitude One of the exiles wallowed in history like a boy in a mud bog , another cackles gleefully , and others unashamedly shook hands why be ashamed to shake hands I almost put it down, but I m glad I didn t A lot of information and some very good writing follows.The book is one part travelog, one part recent Cuban history and one part the story of Castro s classmates at the exclusive Jesuit school Some of the boys supported Castro and his revolu The book began with somewhat of an attitude One of the exiles wallowed in history like a boy in a mud bog , another cackles gleefully , and others unashamedly shook hands why be ashamed to shake hands I almost put it down, but I m glad I didn t A lot of information and some very good writing follows.The book is one part travelog, one part recent Cuban history and one part the story of Castro s classmates at the exclusive Jesuit school Some of the boys supported Castro and his revolution before they fought against him History is intertwined with descriptions of rations, baseball games and streetscapes.The stories of the boys are the stories of the upheaval Some smelled the coffee right away and left Others were jolted out as they saw their liberties and property falling away Some, like Kiki de Jongh remain for reasons that are very unclear.I wonder how this author has slipped in and out of Cuba, as he says, for 11 years He clearly knows the turf, and can write of the changing moods and landscapes He has ferreted out some oral histories inside of and outside of Cuba that add to the literature to be sifted by future historians It seems that Symmes knows some of the interviewees quite well Presumably he hasextensive tapes and notes that I hope will someday be donated to a research institution.In the final pages Symmes gives some ideas about what could happen after Castro s death.I think a good editor could make this a 5 star book The first 50 pages or so need some work Throughout, some phrases could be metaphors or statements, it s hard to tell Some ideas are introduced in a way that you might not catch that the topic is changing and go back to find what you missed Pictures, even blow ups from the cover photo, would be a good addition and for the general reader, a map is needed.The title is deceiving I don t think this book was originally intended to be about the boys For instance, the author is given 2 addresses for one alumni, and dutifully mails the envelopes If this were actually about alums, he would have pursued him and other leads Desi Arnaz had been a boy from Dolores about a decade before the three Castro boys Ramon, Fidel, and Raul arrived The Colegio de Dolores, one of three Jesuit run schools in Cuba, was very prestigious The Jesuit school was not a military academy, but the discipline and very high expectations make it seem so Located in Santiago, Cuba, the second largest city the Colegio de Dolores trained the elite students of the wealthy families to be personally and academically and religiously rigorous Th Desi Arnaz had been a boy from Dolores about a decade before the three Castro boys Ramon, Fidel, and Raul arrived The Colegio de Dolores, one of three Jesuit run schools in Cuba, was very prestigious The Jesuit school was not a military academy, but the discipline and very high expectations make it seem so Located in Santiago, Cuba, the second largest city the Colegio de Dolores trained the elite students of the wealthy families to be personally and academically and religiously rigorous The book begins with a fantastic opening device It s a school reunion and the boys of the 1940 s are now grown men, retired or approaching retirement But this reunion is not on the school grounds instead, a majority of the alums live in the Miama Key Biscayne area where the reunion is set And they do not discuss Castro willingly at the reunion although the author not an alumni does manage to get some information at school Ramon was a sort of ideal student but Fidel and Raul especially Fidel were boisterous They were not stupid at all they just were lively and not very respectful of the rules Fidel excelled at athletics Keep in mind, however, that this memory is from men who fled Cuba Why did they flee Cuba Mostly, I suspect, because they had money and class and did not want to lose anything in the Revolution They are bitter about the loss of their old country and hence are politically conservative Only a few will share somewhat fond memories of Fidel Fidel Castro was able to come to power after the Batista presidency dictatorship Batista was extremely right wing and ran a sort of hedonistic paradise for the very wealthy Fidel s July 26 movement was a nationalist guerrilla uprising Castro governed as a nationalist and communist The book does an excellent job of representing the various political viewpoints of the boys who went to the prestigious school from schooldays up to old age My only criticism is that the book is self selecting all of these boys started out at a prestigious school and the implication is that they had to have money to go there Hence so many became wildly successful business men in the USA and were able to come here without difficulty |READ BOOK ☺ The Boys from Dolores: Fidel Castro's Classmates from Revolution to Exile ⚔ From the author of Chasing Che, the remarkable tale of a group of boys at the heart of Cuba s political and social history The Boys from Dolores illuminates the elite island society from which Fidel Castro and his brother Raul emergedThe Colegio de Dolores was a Jesuit boarding school in Santiago, Cuba s rich and ancient second city, where Fidel and Raul were educated in the s and s Patrick Symmes begins his story here, tracking down dozens of Fidel s schoolmates glimpsed in a single period photograph And it is through their stories their time at the Colegio the catastrophic effects of the revolution on their lives their fates since that Symmes opens a door onto a Cuba, and a time in Castro s life, that have been deliberately obscured from us Here too is the elusive Ra l Castro, a cipher destined to rule Cuba in Fidel s placeWe see Castro in his formative youth, an adolescent ruling the classrooms of the Colegio and running in the streets of Santiago Symmes traces the years in which the revolution was conceived, won, and lost, describing the changes it wrought in Santiago and in the lives of Fidel s own classmates we follow them through the maelstrom of the s, as most fight to leave Cuba and a few stay behind And here, in Santiago today, Symmes finds Castro s most lasting achievement, the creating and sustaining of a myth soaked revolutionary idealism amid the harshest realities of daily lifeWholly original in its approach, The Boys from Dolores is a powerfully evocative, eye opening portrait of Cuba and of the Castro brothers in the twentieth century Patrick Symmes does an excellent job of relating the accounts of some of Fidel and Raul Castro s surviving classmates from Colegio Dolores in Cuba during the latter half of the 1930 s He reveals how the Cuban question is not one that is black and white, right or wrong The revolution was a culmination of socioeconomic and political disparities that could only come to an eruptive boil, and while most Cubans supported Fidel, Che, and the rebels at the onset, things quickly spiraled out of contr Patrick Symmes does an excellent job of relating the accounts of some of Fidel and Raul Castro s surviving classmates from Colegio Dolores in Cuba during the latter half of the 1930 s He reveals how the Cuban question is not one that is black and white, right or wrong The revolution was a culmination of socioeconomic and political disparities that could only come to an eruptive boil, and while most Cubans supported Fidel, Che, and the rebels at the onset, things quickly spiraled out of control When the reality of the lock down the new government was placing on the island became evident, those who could flee, did The book had a dream like effect on me by the end, and I could almost see Cuba as the exiles do, in sepia tones, crumbling and hazy, yet somehow bright as chrome and sparkling water The first chapter was pretty bad.full of unsubstantiated opinions such as when describing a group of ageing Cuban emigres as, Brylcreemed, ordered and clipped You had to draw the line somewhere and this was it neatness of tonsure was a way of fighting back, of defending civilization against its enemies There is no indication in the text that the emigres believe this to be true Nonetheless, I will press on to allow the author to redeem himself.I pressed on only to discover that the bo The first chapter was pretty bad.full of unsubstantiated opinions such as when describing a group of ageing Cuban emigres as, Brylcreemed, ordered and clipped You had to draw the line somewhere and this was it neatness of tonsure was a way of fighting back, of defending civilization against its enemies There is no indication in the text that the emigres believe this to be true Nonetheless, I will press on to allow the author to redeem himself.I pressed on only to discover that the book is littered with the author s opinion Nonetheless, I believe that The Boys from Dolores is a pretty good introduction to revolutionary Cuba and offers insight into Castro through the eyes of his classmates at Dolores Finished the book a couple of days before the news broke that the Obama administration would begin the process of normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba Listening to the news and reflecting on the book, with its focus on the Cuban elite who were in the vanguard of the Cuban diaspora, I was struck by the level of English proficiency among young Cubans, who stand to benefit the most, and their readiness to experience the world outside Cuba testament I suppose to the influence the U.S has co Finished the book a couple of days before the news broke that the Obama administration would begin the process of normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba Listening to the news and reflecting on the book, with its focus on the Cuban elite who were in the vanguard of the Cuban diaspora, I was struck by the level of English proficiency among young Cubans, who stand to benefit the most, and their readiness to experience the world outside Cuba testament I suppose to the influence the U.S has continued to wield over the past decades through family contacts and various exceptions to the trade embargo