More than ever in these waning days of Fidel Castro, the air between Miami and Cuba is electric with intrigue, upheaval, and the schemes of all types of would-be revolutionaries. There are the militarists, who would wage war against Communism. There are the politicians, who would bring democracy to the island. There are the businessmen, who would re-create a capitalist paradise. And then there is 39-year-old Orlando Fernandez, busily fomenting the "Guarapo Revolution."
A Spanish-born Cuban exile who works as a freelance translator in Miami, Fernandez says he came up with his idea as he puzzled over the multitude of anti-Castro agendas competing for the hearts and minds of the Cuban people. La revoluci centsn guarapo, he explains, is another Cuban revolution, but sin armas, sin dogma, and, most importantly, sin Coca-Cola.
The concept is not particularly easy to grasp, at first, especially for anyone sin sangre cubana, but it all revolves around lo nuestro A that which is ours. Fernandez, a former high school math teacher who came to the U.S. in 1980, says it's time for Cubans to embrace their own brand of government, whatever that might be, and to reject pesky outside political and cultural doctrines -- things like Marxism from Europe or capitalism from Miami (that's why he insists sin Coca-Cola).
So Fernandez uses guarapo, a very Cuban juice from the sugar cane, to symbolize his philosophy. He isn't one to expound in detail, but he has put together a lively little flyer to promote his "freedom movement." The manifesto takes the form of a fictional interview with el comandante Liborio, the guerrilla leader of the Guarapo Revolution and Fernandez's alter ego. The "real" Liborio, a proud guajiro, or peasant, is the Cuban equivalent of Uncle Sam.
"What is this all about?" asks the interviewer in the flyer.
Liborio explains: "This means that the greatest mistake made by Communism in Cuba was not only to have eliminated the Coca-Cola, but to have taken away the guarapo as well. Many people all over the world, who don't know what's going on, forgive the system for having eradicated the American influence without knowing that it also took away what is ours."
"What do you mean by without Coca-Cola?"
"That the capital of Cuba will be in Havana," answers Liborio somewhat mysteriously.
Liborio calls for the Cuban people to show their support for his revolution by way of the "guarapo referendum." This, it turns out, is more figurative speech than literal balloting. The guarapo referendum, according to Liborio, consists of a vast, popular graffiti outpouring -- "guarapo or 'G' written on every wall." Anyone who can't get out in the streets to "vote," Liborio adds commandingly, can pepper his speech with Gs where they don't belong, as in "Guenos dias."
Fernandez is convinced la revoluci centsn guarapo will resuscitate Cuba, though Miami's leading Cuban exiles apparently disagree and have refused to discuss it with him. Undaunted, Fernandez decided to appeal to Fidel Castro directly; this past January he mailed a letter to the maximum leader. "Fidel," reads the letter (in Spanish), "why don't you abandon the doctrine of the 20th Century and adopt the ideology of the 21st Century?"
Fernandez, tall and slender and usually wearing a white canvas fishing hat, is not too specific about that 21st-century ideology except to stress its commitment to lo nuestro and to the environment. In his letter to Castro, Fernandez suggests small things the president could encourage his people to do to help make Cuba -- the last "red" country -- the first "green" country. For example, to diminish pollution, citizens could ride bicycles instead of driving cars, he recommends, or change to a vegetarian diet. (Obviously Fidel has faithfully followed these pointers.)
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
After he got off the letter to Castro, Fernandez hit on another idea to send his message to the island. He began frequenting Miami International Airport and pressing his revolutionary manifesto into the hands of travelers departing for Havana. In this way, he says, the Guarapo Revolution is taking on a life of its own.
Fernandez says he's talked to some balseros recently arrived in Miami who told him they've seen those Gs on walls in Cuba, especially in the central region. He wasn't able to produce the balseros for this article, but he does have a letter, handwritten on tattered brown paper from a group of university students in Cuba, that was supposedly smuggled to Miami by a returning visitor. "We enjoy enormously watching people parade by our walls reading G, when they know the things this letter means," the students wrote. (Fernandez has blacked out the signatures to protect his young adherents.)
"It's beautiful," he says, beaming like a proud father. "It's beautiful the way they decipher it all.