Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Story Behind the Story - How I Came to Write 'Havana Harvest'

I would never have written HAVANA HARVEST, my latest novel, had I not met Dania. It was she who had introduced me to the higher ups of the Cuban revolutionary government and it was she who had told me the story about a General Ochoa whom the Cubans had executed in 1989.

Dania and her husband were tasked by Fidel in December 1958 to start a clandestine revolutionary movement in Havana, but Batista’ secret police captured them a few days before the dictator fled the country. She gave birth to her baby in prison. Her husband was badly tortured and later committed suicide.

Ochoa’s case is much discussed of late in Latin American circles, so I decided to call Dania whom I had met in Havana shortly after the so-called triumph of the Castroite Revolution. She had fought in the Sierra Maestra with Fidel and Raul and Che. In fact she had been Raul’s secretary while the rebel army was encamped in the mountains of south-eastern Cuba.

I asked Dania (who lives in the States now and with whom I had kept in touch) what she thought: was Ochoa really guilty of dealing in drugs on his own without Fidel having specifically ordered him to do so, or was he just the fall guy who took the rap for the Castroites once the world learned that the Cubans were helping the Medellin Cartel?

Her answer was laconic: Google Lieutenant Colonel Juan Reinaldo Sanchez, watch his YouTube videos and then make up your own mind about Ochoa.

I’ll let you know next week what I was able to find out.