Tuesday, 18 December 2018

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US reporter Edmund Albert Chester, his wife and kid. Photo: archive from Radio Banes

A Banes Born Sergeant Called Fulgencio Batista

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In Banes — my hometown — the railway sharply split affluent lifestyle from poverty. In the pleasant side lived the called "the company neighborhood" - the executives and technicians of the United Fruit Sugar Company, the "Mamita Yunai" group, capable of ousting a Central American government with a click of the fingers in a single weekend.

In the misfortune side La Guira, the neighborhood of the bohios with earth floors that accommodated as many persons as possible, who lit up their nights with a homemade ailing gas lamp, whenever they could pay for the kerosene. And Defecate? Where else than in the nearest banana field? It was the place populated for the most part by Haitians, the true pariahs.

And out there, in La Guira, grew up Beno. Yes, Ruben Zaldivar SOA (in Spanish an acronym for NO Other Surname). He was marked by a merciless society: not a white offspring, an illegitimate son and a starving to death being, whose origin he would betray years later).

One day he had to leave Banes for a given event that rushed him out of town. We are talking of a "missing" watch, owned by a man that I had met by the surname of Galicia.

Beno would wander around cutting cane, working as a switchman, as an errand boy in a garrison where he was nicknamed El Mulato Lindo de Banes (The good-looking mulatto from Banes).

In 1921 he entered the army, until ranking shorthand clerk (o typist etc), stenographer sergeant.

The story that happened later is common knowledge, like his participation in the attempted coup of September fourth, 1933. Then, the acrobatic nonstop jump from a sergeant to colonel, becoming the "strong man" in the country; and his vile and unconditional services to the US embassy.

In 1939 he geared up as a candidate for the coming presidential elections. Therefore, he made a supreme decision: wiping out his past.

A volume from Banes registry office "traveled" to Europe to be made up by expert forgers. Once back a new birth registration shine in the official document.

Fulgencio Ruben Batista y Zaldivar was born, the offspring of a white man, whose father by the name of Belisario, fought for the country's independence in the 19th century. (The "lawyer" that knew the tricks of the trade was rewarded with fifteen thousand pesos and a place in a court of Havana).

The needy Beno with an unknown father lagged behind; the petty thief, the Mulato Lindo from Banes and the errand boy was history.

Any way he was not fully pleased, he needed someone to chant a canticle on him; he needed some praise, not a common one, but an excessive praise, a dithyramb.

This will come true because there are always people to do the work.

The Man for the Position

The career of Edmund Albert Chester Sr. (1897 – 1973) started when he was very young. He was discharged from the army and began working in media in his hometown, Louisville, Kentucky. By that time he began studying Spanish on his own account.

In 1929 he was hired by the AssociatedPress, and was sent to Havana. He lived in Cuba the political turmoil of 1930's. Those days he began a close relationship with stenographer sergeant, yet unknown.

Chester made a successful career. At the CBS he was the chief of broadcasts for Latin America, the director of news and special events and its deputy director. At AssociatedPress, he was the chief of the bureau for Latin America.

In 1952 he came back to Cuba. What a coincidence!, that same year his dear friend Batista had seized power through a coup.

In Havana he would go fishing with Batista and would write his speeches.

Chester opened in Havana a public relations agency and bought shares worth 250 thousand dollars in the telephone company.

In 1956 he bought a country house in a estate of 32 thousand hectares, in the former Isla de Pinos.

What was the biggest reward? Batista's request of writing his official biography. That was how appeared A SergeantNamed Batista, which would please a conceited man wanting to canonize himself. In the cover of the first release one can see a picture of the author and the subject of a biography smiling together.

Chester decided to spend Christmas of 1958-1959 in the US, distressed for the unquestionable advance of the rebel forces.

The dawn of the New Year brought to Chester the sad news that the rats has escaped to the Dominican Republic – then tyrannized by Chapitas (Rafael Leonidas Trujillo).

US daily Daytona Beach Morning Journal, on January 3rd, 1959 writes about the anguish felt by Chester, "a faithful goer of Batista," always "waiting for the chief's orders."

An Unhappy End for a Biographer

Chester's last days were marked by delirium and hallucinations.

He was seen with a 38 gun in his hand, scared of Castro's agents whose mission was killing him. He woke up in the middle of the night screaming. He even taught his children to use firearms.

Today the Chester's have a file in the Federal Courthouse. They are among the about six thousand US citizens claiming compensation for the nationalization of their property; his family demands 489 thousand dollars.

In 1973 a brain hemorrhage claimed the life of the biographer that was a very close friend of the man that militarized Cuba. / Argelio Santiesteban – Uneac web site / Translated by Radio Angulo.
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