The text below was taken from several sources on the Internet and is attributed to Mr. Quevedo by many websites. I have confirmed with many exiles of that generation that the text rings true.
When I first read it over a year ago I was deeply affected by letter. So, I present it here, as idiomatically translated as I could make it, so it would not lose its power in English. It is a message that still rings true today, thirty-six years later.
(Update: For those of you who want to read the letter and opening commentary in the original Spanish, click here or here.)
Bohemia Magazine was the most popular news-weekly in Cuba and Latin America. Millions of readers followed its political journalism and editorial writings week after week. Intellectuals and politicians from all over the Latin world would send their writings to Miguel Angel Quevedo, Bohemia‘s publisher and editor, in the hope of seeing their words published in this prestigious journal.
From Madrid, Spain to Santiago, Chile to Buenos Aires, Argentina, Bohemia became the principal voice of opposition to the administration of Carlos Prio Socarras and in support of the insurrection and revolution against the regime of Fulgencio Batista. For decades, Bohemia was enthusiastically scooped up every week from corner news-sellers and news boxes. On July 26, 1958 the magazine published the infamous Sierra Maestra Manifesto — a document that purported to “unify” the opposition groups fighting Batista’s regime. On January 11, 1959, one million copies of a special edition of the magazine were printed. That edition sold out in just a few hours.
After a few months, however, Quevedo, among others, saw that the fruit of their work — the big lies mixed with unquestionable truths — infected Cuban society and had destroyed it. Bohemia contributed to its own destruction and to the destruction of the free press and basic human rights that had existed until that time in Cuba.
Miguel Angel Quevedo was able to leave Cuba. But his exile and freedom only increased his feelings of guilt over the suffering of the Cuban people. His guilt overwhelmed him and in August of 1969 he committed suicide. Prior to killing himself he mailed a letter to one of his most distinguished collaborators, the journalist Ernesto Montaner that, in effect, became his political last will and testament.
Mr. Ernesto Montaner
August 12, 1969
By the time you read this letter you will have already heard the news of my death on the radio. I will have committed suicide — at last! — without intervention from you or Agustin Alles who prevented my previous attempt on January 21, 1965.
Do you remember? You entered my office that day to deliver one of your articles. We spoke for a while.
You noticed, though, that I was not in the dialog. You noticed that I was worried, sad — very sad — and profoundly exhausted. And you told me so. I thought of my sister, Rosita, whom I adore and my eyes filled with tears [. . .] I confessed to you that at the moment you arrived in my office I was thinking of blowing my brains out. And I even mentioned that my only worry was Rosita seeing me lying on the floor in a pool of blood.
I did not want to leave her that last image, having decided — and I even told you I had considered shooting myself lying down so that upon seeing me she would think I was sleeping.
I remember the look of shock and pity in your face. You stood up, went to my desk, and removed the bullets from my revolver. And there, sitting in my chair, you said, “you’re crazy, Miguel, crazy.” You spoke to me of God, of the eternal damnation of my soul, of the brevity of life, of how much Rosita needed me and how I would be leaving her alone in this world. You spoke to me of many things. And, seeing that I did not give a crap about any of them, you threatened to call Rosita and the Bohemia employees and tell them. I begged you not to do this. I comprehended the level of responsibility I had thrust upon you with my confession. I swore to you that, on Rosita’s life, I would not do it.
Convinced — for the moment, at least — that you had deterred my suicide, you left my office. You encountered Agustin Alles as you left and told him of our conversation. You and Agustin went to see Dr. Valdes Castillo. You both called me from Dr. Castillo?s house and had me speak with him. He is a doctor of exceptional talent. He wanted to see me urgently, but I never saw him. We did, however, speak often on the telephone. When he did not call me, I called him. We spoke every day. I never again spoke again to you, however. Forgive me, but I thought you had betrayed my trust divulging something I had told you as a friend in a moment of weakness. And you and I never had any communication, until today, where not you, Agustin Alles, Valdes Castillo, nor anybody could deter me from the road I was determined to travel. You are reading a letter from an old friend, a dead friend. Valdes Castillo was right when he affirmed that the idea of suicide passes through the mind of the patient in the form of smaller and smaller circles, each circle getting smaller until it becomes a point. I have reached that point.
I know that my grave will be littered with a mountain of reproach. They will want to characterize me as the ?sole guilty party? in the tragedy of Cuba. I do not deny my errors or my guilt in any way. What I do emphatically deny is that I am the ?sole guilty party.? We were all guilty to a lesser or greater degree of responsibility.
We were all guilty. The journalists who covered my desk with damning articles and expos?s about the politicians. These very journalists who were nothing more than seekers of fame and adulation and gladly satisfied the masses? insatiable and brutal desire for revenge. They wore that badge with honor. It didn?t matter who the president was; nor did it matter that these very leaders had implemented good laws and reforms in Cuba. They had to be attacked and, if necessary, destroyed. The same masses that elected them now asked for their heads in the public square.
The people were guilty. The people who wanted Guiteras, and Chibas, and who lauded Pardo Llada. The very people who bought Bohemia, ?the voice of the people.? The people who followed Fidel from Oriente province all the way to the Columbia Camp.
Fidel is nothing more than the result of the clash between demagoguery and stupidity. All of us contributed to his creation. And all of us, because we were resentful, demagogues, stupid, or evil, were guilty of helping place him in power. The journalists, who knew Fidel’s play book, who knew of his participation in the Communist-inspired Bogotazo, who knew of the assassination of Manolo Castro, who knew of his “gangster” activities at the University of Havana, demanded an amnesty for him and his accomplices for the assault on the Moncada Barracks when he was in prison.
The Congress was guilty in approving that very amnesty law. The radio and television commentators who regaled the congressmen with praise for passing the law and the trash applauding that same Congress from the bleachers were guilty.
Bohemia was the echo of the street — the street that applauded Bohemia when it invented the lie of “the twenty thousand dead.” A diabolical lie, invented by the alcoholic Enriquito de la Osa who knew that although Bohemia was the echo of the street, the street also echoed what was published in Bohemia.
Guilty were the millionaire businessmen who gave Fidel more and more money to topple the regime. The thousands of traitors who sold out to this bearded criminal and who cared more for profits from contraband and theft than about Fidel?s actions in the Sierra Maestra. Guilty were the priests in red robes who sent young people to serve Castro and his guerrillas in the Sierra, and the Church itself, officially backing the Communist revolution with fiery sermons, exhorting the Government to hand in the reins of power.
The United States of America, embargoing arms, destined for the Batista regime and intended for use in its war against the guerrillas, was guilty.
The U.S. State Department, supporting the international cabal, directed by Communists, which took possession of the island of Cuba, was guilty.
The Batista government, and its opposition, were guilty. Because of false pride and not wanting to give in, they failed to reach a proper, peaceful and patriotic agreement. Guilty, too, were those that Fidel secretly sent to sabotage the negotiations and ensure their failure.
The abstentionist politicians, who closed all doors to all electoral solutions, and the press, like Bohemia, who played their game and refused to publish anything related to those elections, were guilty.
All of us were guilty. All of us. By sins of omission and sins of commission. The old and young, the rich and poor, black and white, the honest and the dishonest, sinners and saints. Of course we had to learn the bitter lesson that the poor were the most ?honest? and most ?virtuous? of us all.
I die disgusted and alone. Condemned, without a country, and abandoned by friends to whom I generously gave financial and moral support during the most difficult days. Friends like Romulo Betancourt, Figueres, Mu?oz Marin. Those titans of the “democratic left” that we discovered had very little of the “democratic” and so much of the “left.”
All of them, cold and dehumanized, abandoned me in my fall. When they became convinced I was truly anti-Communist, they demonstrated they were truly anti-Quevedo. These men are the presumed founders of The Third World: the world of Mao Tse Tung. I hope my death has some meaning and that it inspires soul-searching for those who can learn the lessons. So that the press and journalists can never again be the tools of the uneducated and uncontrolled mob. So that the press ceases to be “the voice of the street” and becomes a guiding light along that street. So that the millionaires no longer give their money to those who will, in the end, take it all. So that advertisers refuse to place ads in publications that are tendentious, that plant the seeds of hate and infamy, that are capable of destroying the moral and physical integrity of a nation (or of an exile community). So that the people wake up and repudiate those sellers of hate, whose fruits, we have seen, could not have been more bitter.
We were a people blinded by hate. And we are all now victims of that blindness.
Our sins and vices were greater than our virtues. We forgot the words of Nuñez de Arce: “When a people forsake their virtues, tyranny will rise from their vices.”
Goodbye. This is my final goodbye. Tell all of my compatriots that, with arms crossed over my heart, I forgive them so that they can forgive all I have done.
Miguel Angel Quevedo
(English translation Copyright 2003 George L. Moneo | All Rights Reserved)