I’m an unabashed admirer of Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo, who passed away in Havana today, at the age of 77.
His eventful life was the stuff from novels and movies are made. Born in Spain, his family moved to Cuba, after his father and brothers fought against Franco’s dictatorship. He soon followed, joining Castro’s army in the fight against Batista, raising to the status of commander. Then, disappointed with Castro, left for Miami where he organized an armed commando group –the later much discredited Alpha 66– and returned to Cuba, only to be captured and spend 22 years in jail. You’ll think at that point he would just retire in Miami and spend his old years sipping cafecito at Versailles. Instead, he founded the moderate organization Cambio Cubano, advocating for a peaceful resolution of the Cuban conflict, including talks with Castro’s government. And then, in a move that surprised everyone, after being shunned in Miami by the fanatical fringe for his now moderate views, he visited Cuba in 2003 and declared he was staying in his country and would claim legal status for his opposition organization –which he did, even to the face of El Comandante himself.
Cuban exiles have a name for those who act purely on principle no matter what, refusing to bend for politics, convenience or personal gain. They are called “verticales” or verticals. Well, in this exile where so many who define themselves as verticals don’t deserve it, Menoyo was the most vertical of verticales.