Equal Opportunity Dissident

Julian Jorge Reyes, a child of Castro's revolution, turned against his leader. Now he's taking on el exilio.

On April 25, when exile leaders called a work stoppage to protest Elian's removal from the home of his Miami relatives, Reyes walked through Little Havana wearing a sign that said, "Today I want to work like a horse."

When he propped up the sign in front of Radio Mambí (WAQI-AM 710), the Spanish-language station on Coral Way, where announcers had called the strike, Reyes says a police officer approached him. "He told me, as a Cuban, that he thought I should take down the sign.

"What?" Reyes recalls asking. "What did you say? 'As a Cuban?' If you're telling me as a police officer I have to put down the sign, it's already gone. But if you're talking to me as a Cuban, then let me tell you, I'm going to make ten more signs."

A Cuban Quixote on a crusade for democracy
Celeste Fraser Delgado
A Cuban Quixote on a crusade for democracy

During the month that followed, Reyes took up his customary spot in front of Domino Park, going without sleep for days at a time to display his signs. On June 4 and 5 he launched what he calls his "final transmission." Taped to the back of his Cutlass, one sign declared: "If it's true that in Cuba I came to realize that there is dictatorship, it is also true that I have learned, much to my chagrin, that there is another dictatorship here. The two share more similarities than differences."

A second sign read: "Vengeance and hatred are two elements typical of both these dictatorships, as is the nearly maniacal desire to drag everyone else (the great majority) into sharing the dictator's beliefs."

A third sign carried a quotation from Martí: "Respect for the liberty and beliefs of others, even of the most lowly, is in me fanaticism. If I die, or am killed, it will be because I have defended this principle." Beneath the citation, Reyes added his own observation: "This maxim of the Cuban apostle has been and continues to be trampled upon by both Cuban dictatorships."

Crouched at a construction site the afternoon after this final display, Reyes announces that he will return to Cuba. "I have done everything I can do here," he explains. "The next stage is back there."

Having lived more than five years in the United States, he can apply for a visa to visit family members on the island. Once there he plans to resume his resistance from within.

"The only problem would be if [Castro] reads this and doesn't let me in," he tells New Times, smiling. "But it's always more interesting if your enemy knows what you're going to do. Don't you think?"

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