Fergus Hodgson explores the story of two Cuban brothers, one who fought the dictatorship from exile and the other a communist party loyalist, as told in the book, Brothers from Time to Time, by David Landau.
Firsthand Account Lays Bare the Cuban Revolution
‘Brothers from Time to Time’ dispels the myths of Fidel Castro’s dictatorship
A longtime editor found a historic treasure in the 1980s: two brothers who had lived through the Cuban Revolution but on opposite sides. One had joined the U.S. effort, resisted Fidel Castro’s dictatorship, and become a political prisoner. The other had been a devoted Communist Party insider and ideologue.
The two Rivero brothers—Emi and Adolfo—both eventually escaped Cuba, reunited after decades apart, and settled in the United States. Although they passed away in the 2010s, in earlier years they grew close to and bequeathed their story to David Landau, who has preserved the primary history in “Brothers from Time to Time.”
Landau’s work, some of it written in the first person like a diary, is the most illuminating, up-close-and-personal account of the Cuban Revolution you will find. The elder brother Emi boarded in Landau’s Washington, DC, home, where they collected family letters and put the memories on paper. By conveying both sides of the story with editorial eloquence, “Brothers” is an even-handed examination of what happened and the zeitgeist in Cuba of the 1960s and 1970s.
Not only is “Brothers” a page-turning historical primer, it also pulls back the curtain on and confronts the Robin Hood image of Castro as a patron of the poor. It tells the unvarnished, tragic truth about the revolution through the eyes of earnest men who were there: “Almost everything in the book comes directly from the people who lived the [events] or were eyewitnesses,” Landau shared in a podcast interview.
A Revolution for Fidel Castro’s Ego
Perhaps the most striking insights from “Brothers” stem from its close encounters with Castro, since Adolfo interacted with him personally. The reader sees how the revolution served Castro’s ego and lust for power more than Marxist ideology—although that was the bait and switch he used to hoodwink his victims and allies. As opposed to an ideologically driven communist, “[Castro was] nothing but an opportunist,” Landau explained. “Castro would have used anything to come to power.”
Castro’s motives became clear when true believers were purged from the Communist Party, which might as well have been the Fidelista Party. That’s where members’ loyalty had to be, at least publicly. A hint of skepticism towards Castro’s tactics was enough for a man to find himself a political prisoner as a so-called counterrevolutionary.
Such was the fate of Adolfo, who had been a faithful student of and advocate for socialism from the pre-Castro days under the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship in the 1950s. However, the revolution had a penchant for eating its own, and apparently he was a conspirator in a traitorous “microfaction.”
Adolfo can count himself lucky, since his brother served almost 20 years as a political prisoner. Emi snuck back by parachuting into Cuba to work as a CIA agent on the ground, and he was close to being executed by the regime, as so many of his peers were.
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