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Vida Clandestina: My Life in the Cuban Revolution

Overview

Vida Clandestina is the first U.S. publication of the dramatic memoir of an important Cuban revolutionary who led a dangerous double life from 1952 to1959. Educated at University of Miami, then a high-ranking manager and engineer for Shell Oil, Enrique Oltuski was also a leader in the urban guerilla 26th of July Movement in Havana and Santa Clara, risking his life to join forces with Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, and working at the highest level of the Cuban government in the ...

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Overview

Vida Clandestina is the first U.S. publication of the dramatic memoir of an important Cuban revolutionary who led a dangerous double life from 1952 to1959. Educated at University of Miami, then a high-ranking manager and engineer for Shell Oil, Enrique Oltuski was also a leader in the urban guerilla 26th of July Movement in Havana and Santa Clara, risking his life to join forces with Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, and working at the highest level of the Cuban government in the forty-three years since.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Castro's Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Merchant Marine recounts his role as a secret revolutionary among the middle classes in the cities and plains of 1950s Cuba.
Born the son a well-to-do shoe manufacturer in central Cuba, sent to Miami to study engineering in the early '50s, Oltuski was groomed to be a solid member of Cuba's upper-middle classes. Despite his parents' best efforts and his father's protests that a revolution was no place for Jews, however, Enrique was a revolutionary at heart, dedicated to social justice and the overthrow of military dictator Batista. After his graduation in 1954, Oltuski joined the movement in earnest, first in Miami, where he attempted to secure arms for the struggle, and then in Cuba, where as a traveling executive with Shell Oil he was perfectly placed to spread propaganda, organize strikes, and plant the occasional bomb. The author rose through the ranks to join those who had contact with the revolution's superstars, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Oltuski's less glamorous station was in the plains, where he and his comrades were kept busy "collecting money, supplying arms and clothing, committing acts of sabotage, executing enemies, producing underground newspapers, recruiting and organizing member of the revolutionary movement." Through his tale of secret meetings, assignments, commutes, and endless discussions of revolutionary theory, Oltuski is able to elucidate the messy progression of the uprising; woven among the sometimes dry political details are the author's recollections of youthful partying, womanizing, and marriage. We end the story with our man in place as an utterly unqualified buy highly enthusiastic minister of communications; an epilogue noting his current position attests to his political staying power.
A rare and valuable insider's take. (&75,000 as/promo; author tour) (KIRKUS Reviews, July 1, 2002)

How could Enrique Oltuski's well-written memoir of his double life during the Cuban Revolution not be compelling? The son of Polish-Jewish immigrants, his relatives consumed in the Holocaust, the young Oltuski chafes at his comfortable middle-class life in Havana and, still a teenager, burning with nationalist fever, finds himself drawn into the revolutionary conspiracies against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. From the outset, he's living on parallel planes. During a stint at the University of Miami, his public persona has him dating the exotic daughters of the Latin American oligarchy while in his "underground" life he's trying to buy arms for the revolution back home.
After college he takes a high-ranking day job with Shell Oil Co. but devotes his real passions to organizing the guerrilla movement in Havana and to collaborating closely with Che Guevara and, of course, Fidel Castro. Right up until the day of the revolution's triumph, neither the police authorities nor even Oltuski's parents know of his secret role as "Sierra"—a key organizer of the rebellion.
This memoir's greatest strength is in leading the reader deep behind the scenes into the rivalries and alliances that arose between Castro's Rebel Army fighting in the mountains and the often chaotic network of insurgents in the less glamorized urban underground. The factional divisions that would soon after the revolution erupt in blood and betrayal and leave Castro standing alone and unchallenged are all sketched here in their embryonic state. But in those heady days of the late '50s, the cream of Cuban youth was united against a Batista regime that they viewed as a clumsy and repressive extension of the foreign (namely, American) domination of their island nation.
Oltuski's crisp recounting of the dreams and ideals that drove the Fidelista revolt abruptly ends with his being seated as a cabinet minister at age 28 in the first revolutionary government. "I swung around in the giant chair to look out the large window," he writes of his first day in office. "Life went on, and I thought, 'What the hell do I do now?'"
Least satisfying about this book is that it covers only the period of the revolutionary war. Oltuski went from hisposition as minister of communications to working five years at the side of Guevara. And he's spent the last 31 years as deputy minister of fisheries, where he continues at age 72.
This begs a second volume of memoirs, one that details how those early passions wound up ossifying into the sort of regime under which he holds the same high post for three decades and the jefe maximo is shooting for a neat half-century alone in power. What stories Oltuski could tellus about compromise, disillusionment and realpolitik!
Today's Cuba, of course, doesn't permit that sort of writing, especially from within its own borders and certainly not from one of its government ministers. In the mostinauthentic passage of the book, Oltuski writes: "People also always ask me what will happen to the Cuban government and society when Fidel dies. The answer isnothing. Nothing will happen...." Fat chance. (Marc Cooper Is the Author of Pinochet and Me: a Chilean Anti-memoir. Copyright 2002 Los Angeles Times)

Now the Cuban deputy minister of fisheries and merchant marine, Oltuski was one of the more elusive members of the Original Cuban guerilla group led by Fidel Castro. A middle-class Jew educated in the United States, he became a leader of the urban underground while continuing to work as an executive of Shell Oil. This autobiographical description of the revolution recounts his double life as a respected member of the Cuban elite while at the same time he was organizing urban resistance in Havana, raising money for the revolution, and even beginning an underground newspaper. The book is an interesting read, with a large number of stories that have never been told. It provides additional insight into this period of Cuban history, which has recently received significant attention with the opening of Cuban archives and the publication of accounts written by the leaders of the revolution. (Library Journal, September 15, 2002)

Library Journal
Now the Cuban deputy minister of fisheries and merchant marine, Oltuski was one of the more elusive members of the original Cuban guerrilla group led by Fidel Castro. A middle-class Jew educated in the United States, he became a leader of the urban underground while continuing to work as an executive of Shell Oil. This autobiographical description of the revolution recounts his double life as a respected member of the Cuban elite while at the same time he was organizing urban resistance in Havana, raising money for the revolution, and even beginning an underground newspaper. The book is an interesting read, with a large number of stories that have never been told. It provides additional insight into this period of Cuban history, which has recently received significant attention with the opening of Cuban archives and the publication of accounts written by the leaders of the revolution. This book will be of interest to libraries with Latin American and Cuban collections.-Mark L. Grover, Brigham Young Univ. Lib., Provo, UT Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Castro’s Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Merchant Marine recounts his role as a secret revolutionary among the middle classes in the cities and plains of 1950s Cuba. Born the son of a well-to-do shoe manufacturer in central Cuba, sent to Miami to study engineering in the early ’50s, Oltuski was groomed to be a solid member of Cuba's upper-middle classes. Despite his parents’ best efforts and his father's protests that a revolution was no place for Jews, however, Enrique was a revolutionary at heart, dedicated to social justice and the overthrow of military dictator Batista. After his graduation in 1954, Otulski joined the movement in earnest, first in Miami, where he attempted to secure arms for the struggle, and then in Cuba, where as a traveling executive with Shell Oil he was perfectly placed to spread propaganda, organize strikes, and plant the occasional bomb. The author rose through the ranks to join those who had contact with the revolution's superstars, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Oltuski's less glamorous station was in the plains, where he and his comrades were kept busy "collecting money, supplying arms and clothing, committing acts of sabotage, executing enemies, producing underground newspapers, recruiting and organizing members of the revolutionary movement." Through his tale of secret meetings, assignments, committees, and endless discussions of revolutionary theory, Oltuski is able to elucidate the messy progression of the uprising; woven among the sometimes dry political details are the author's recollections of youthful partying, womanizing, and marriage. We end the story with our man in place as an utterly unqualified but highly enthusiastic minister ofcommunications; an epilogue noting his current position attests to his political staying power. A rare and valuable insider's take. $75,000 ad/promo; author tour
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780787961695
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 8/26/2002
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.47 (h) x 1.09 (d)

Meet the Author

Enrique Oltuski is the Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Merchant Marine in Havana, Cuba.

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Table of Contents

Foreword (Eduardo Torres-Cuevas).

Preface: Why I Wrote This Book.

A Brief History of Cuba.

Map of Cuba.

Before the Plains and the Sierra.

ONE: Batista's Coup d'Etat.

TWO: First Revolutionary Impulses.

THREE: Student in the United States.

FOUR: Journey to Latin America.

FIVE: Attack on the Moncada Barracks.

SIX: Return to Cuba.

SEVEN: Revolutionary Quest.

EIGHT: Joining the 26th of July Movement.

The Plains.

NINE: Conspiracy in Havana.

TEN: The Civil Resistance Movement.

ELEVEN: The Fight in Las Villas.

TWELVE: Strike of April 9.

THIRTEEN: The Sierra Assumes Command.

Photographs.

The Sierra.

FOURTEEN: Che in Las Villas.

FIFTEEN: The Sierra Maestra.

After the Plains and the Sierra.

SIXTEEN: Batista Flees.

SEVENTEEN: Fidel Marches on Havana.

EIGHTEEN: Government Minister.

NINETEEN: The Revolution Takes Power.

Epilogue.

Glossary.

About the Author.

About the Translators.

Index.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2002

    A Jewish Writer's View of the Cuban Revolution

    This book is a good read, with some fine sex and romance. But it is so much more than that! This autobiography was translated masterfully by Thomas and Carol Christensen, who translated Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. This eminently readable book opens when its Cuban-born author Enrique Oltuski, a young middle-class Conservative Jew comfortably studying abroad at the University of Miami, first learns of the anti-democratic 1952 coup d¿etat led by Fulgencio Batista canceling the Presidential elections that had been previously scheduled. That summer, outraged at the brazen seizure of power by Batista, the author Oltuski returns to Cuba from Miami and begins participating in anti-Batista activities while immersing himself in a study of the Cuban patriot Jose Marti. Summer vacation ends and the author promptly begins to alienate his gentried friends with his opposition to United States foreign policy in Latin America. Soon he leads a student delegation on a tour of various Latin American countries including Panama, Colombia and Chile. Oltuski returns to Cuba with a first-hand sense of the shared destiny experienced by Latin peoples, as described by both Bolivar and Marti. The author then returns to his home in Santa Clara, Cuba and is engaged in vigorous debate with his Jewish friends about the appropriate response to Batista¿s coup and learns that there has been an armed uprising in Santiago during Carnaval (an attack on the Moncada barracks) led by a certain attorney Fidel Ruz Castro. Over 100 people had died in this 1953 uprising. Oltuski knows that Cuban history has been changed with this uprising and wanted to immediately join in the uprising against the deeply corrupt Batista regime. But that night of July 26, 1953 he unexpectedly falls deeply in love for the first time with a sublime Cuban woman. He returns to Miami to finish his Bachelor¿s Degree in architectural engineering at the university and begins to design shopping centers in Miami which served as his cover while he participated in the Cuban revolutionary underground from Miami. He returns to Cuba shortly after Fidel Castro is freed from prison for his role in organizing the assault in Santiago. He reunites with his love Maria, and in December of 1955, after extensive arguments and discussions with his peers, joins Castro¿s 26th of July movement in Santa Clara, a group which took its name from the date of the Santiago armed uprising. After his release from prison, Castro felt compelled to flee Cuba and he communicated with members of his organization with manifestos which were smuggled in from Mexico and anxiously read by his followers. The ranks of the 26th of July movement swelled with young idealists. The author was hired to work for Shell Oil designing gas stations in Havana and he would commute to see Maria in Santa Clara on weekends. They were married shortly thereafter. Along with two friends, he decided to start a newspaper in Cuba and they named it Aldabonazo (¿Bang!¿). Later, the name was changed to Granma and it would eventually become Cuba¿s most influential newspaper. Some of the people caught distributing early copies of this newspaper were tortured. They waited in Havana for Fidel Castro to return to Cuba from his exile in Mexico. Throughout this period, the author lived a double life. No person within Shell Oil Company knew of his outside activities, which included acts of sabotage directed at property targets while avoiding harm to civilians. After Fidel Castro was arrested in Mexico City, he received permission from Shell Oil for a short leave of absence, ostensibly for personal reasons, but secretly to assist Castro in Mexico City. However, Castro had already left Mexico on a large boat headed for Cuba, together with Che Guevara, Camilo Cienfuegos, Raul Castro and 78 others. The author then returned to his Shell Oil job in Cuba. He continued to support (with propaganda, fundraising and acts of property s

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