Friday, June 16, 2006

Hugo Aguilera, Do You Still Like Castro?

I was sixteen years old and working as a bagboy in Hugo's Piggly Wiggly in Grand Forks, North Dakota, my home town. There were several of us, who became friends and did stuff together after work and sometimes double dated on weekends.

One day, a new guy joined our group. Well, he was hired as a bagboy, but he was an Engineering student at University of North Dakota, across town. We were pals at work, but he didn't hang out with us after.

His name was Hugo Aguilera and he was Cuban, here to learn, and take his knowledge back to Cuba. He used to joke, "This is Hugo's Piggly Wiggly, and I'm Hugo." The actual owner was Hugo Magnusson, father of three boys who went to Central High with us, and soon to become Mayor of Grand Forks.

This all was around the time that Fidel Castro had just taken control of Cuba and everyone was wondering what would happen next. All of my friends and I had generally been for Castro and the revolution, naively comparing it to America's Revolution. Little did we know.

At the time, we were busy speculating how Cuba would be changing as Castro took over. Hugo was an absolute Castro supporter, insisting that Cuba was about to become a much better country. He wasn't very specific about his personal philosophy, so to this day I don't know whether he was communist, or merely anti-Batista.

A little over a year later, Hugo went back to Cuba, and we all graduated high school. One of us became a conscientious objector and moved to Winnipeg, where he still lives. Four of us joined the Navy. Two went to work and soon were married, and the other two went to University.

Strangely, two years later I was an Engineman aboard USS Saratoga, an aircraft carrier, when we sailed into Caribbean waters to take part in the Cuban Blockade, in which President Kennedy tested Kruschev's resolve to place nukes 'pon Cuban soil. Kruschev ultimately backed down, but it was a tense couple of weeks.

I occasionally wonder what happened to Hugo and whether he's still alive and still as gung-ho for Castro as he was back in 1960.

They've killed Freedom! Those bastards!

Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California

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