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Carlos Alberto Montaner: Today as Yesterday
Latin American genius and Cuban exile Carlos Alberto Montaner on the wonderful new memoirs by Dr. Antonio Guedes, about the beautiful Cuba that was -- before Communism destroyed it all.

By Carlos Alberto Montaner

I suspect that Lourdes gave the title to her husband’s, Dr. Antonio Guedes', memoirs.

They are titled Today as Yesterday -- it was the last song by Moisés Simons, the author of El Manisero.

Lourdes is the musical part of the couple and the woman who took “Tony” away from celibacy. As Felícito Rodríguez, who, at that time, was also trying to be a priest told me, “Communism is very cruel, but if it is combined with chastity, it becomes terrible.” Both left religious life aboard two charming girls, although they remained very Catholic.

The story begins in Unión de Reyes, a town in Cuba’s Matanzas province where Tony was born into a middle-class family. His grandfather was the magician of locomotives. He kept them going against all odds ... until socialism came along. He was a magician and performed great tricks, but he could not perform miracles. There’s nothing to be done against the destructive capacity of communism.

His mother was a teacher and his father a grocer. He had one of thirty grocery stores that supplied the town. If one replaces the wonderful lady who inspired Moisés Simons with the idealized “Cuba”, there is no doubt that Guedes hit the mark. In those memories one can see the Cuba “that will never return” because some barbarians have destroyed it uselessly. Of the thirty grocery stores that existed in the town, there remain just a couple in which rationed products are sold, when they exist, and little else. No movie theaters, no clinics, no paint. Nothing. A town that, like all of Cuba, is falling apart after 62 years of carelessness and stupidity.

These memoirs, surprising for their detail and living memory, were written impeccably, but without literary pretensions, for family and friends, for daughters, for grandchildren and other descendants, but they are a formal accusation against the regime and a clear explanation of why young people are leaving that island that all Cubans must read.

Tony studied medicine in Cuba until he was caught by the State Security radar. Interestingly, he was allowed to study at the School of Medicine, without renouncing his religious beliefs, until the political police detected him and abruptly removed him from the university. It is the only case that I know of in which the reasons why he was expelled from the school are specified without any pretext: because of his religious convictions.

In general, State Security resorts to vague subterfuges such as being “immoral” or “inveterate counterrevolutionaries,” but it almost never makes the mistake of saying clearly why it is truncating the destiny of a young and promising person. It just fulfills the slogan “the University is for revolutionaries,” and that’s why they are like that. The country is in the hands of an inept bureaucracy forged by incapable people who use arguments drawn from the Marxist vulgate.

It was then when I met him. Provided with that document, and with a few years of medicine studied in Cuba, with excellent grades, he arrived in Madrid in the winter of 1981, loquacious and passionate, with Lourdes, his wife, a daughter, Beatriz, and another, Cecilia, huddled in her mother’s womb and who would be born in Spain in May 1982. They would have to get used to a new country, a new study system, and new friends. Fortunately, we Cubans have the defects and virtues of the Spanish, so adapting was not very hard.

The partial validation of the studies did not take long. H e enrolled in a Madrid university and a few years later he finished his studies. Like 90% of doctors, he began to work in the public system, until the Ministry of Health offered him the direction of a “polyclinic” dedicated to primary care, something that Dr. Guedes accepted, more out of a sense of responsibility than for the material reward, which was practically nonexistent. B y the beginning of the 21st century he had seen, auscultated, and redirected – when necessary – more than 100,000 patients.

He did all this without forgetting his commitment to Cuba. He had been present in the creation of the Cuban Democratic Platform, an effort of the Cuban Christian Democrats, liberals and social democrats, with the help of the respective “Internationals” to bring freedom to Cuba in an agreed and reasonable way, as had happened in Spain after Franco’s death -- but crashed against Fidel Castro’s orthodox communist fundamentalism.

So the Cuban Liberal Union, created in Madrid with the backing of Adolfo Suárez, at the time president of the Liberal International, made him president of the institution for five years, until he was replaced by writer Miguel Sales Figueroa, who in turn was substituted by Cuban-Valencian economist Elías Amor in 2020. In any case, Dr. Antonio Guedes has to be proud of his life, of his work and of “Today as Yesterday,” his splendid memoirs. ©Firmas Press

Carlos Alberto Montaner is a journalist and writer. Born in 1943 in Cuba and exiled, Montaner is known for his more than 25 books and thousands of articles. PODER magazine estimates that more than six million readers have access to his weekly columns throughout Latin America. He is also a political analyst for CNN en Espanol. In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine named Montaner as one of the fifty most influential intellectuals in the Ibero-American world. His latest novel is A Time for Scoundrels. His latest essay is "The President: A Handbook for Voters and the Elected." His latest book is Sin ir más lejos (Memories), published by Debate, a label of Penguin-Random House.


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