Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa man's book chronicles his boyhood in Castro's Cuba

The grandmother stood holding a broom in the back yard of her Cuban home while chickens scurried about.

In the eyes of 10-year-old Eduardo "Eddy" Calcines, she looked like Goliath with a sword.

Then she asked him to do what he deemed unthinkable: kill one of the chickens with his bare hands. He pleaded with her that he wasn't ready for this ritual, a baptism into manhood in 1960s Cuba.

"Pleading did me no good," said Calcines, now a 53-year-old hair stylist and aspiring author. "After chasing the chicken for a while, I said, 'Grandma, maybe if I chase it a little longer, it'll die of a heart attack.' "

Finally, he caught the chicken, his pet. He twisted the neck as hard as he could while turning his head away.

"I threw the chicken on the ground and it tumbled 10 times, as chickens tend to do when you kill them," Calcines said wryly.

"Then it got up and ran away.''

Calcines laughs at the thought but humor is only part of the story.

Ask about his childhood struggles in the early years of the Castro regime, and he will tell you how the government shut down the family business, how his father and uncles were carted away to work camps.

He will describe how his mother baked cakes so he could help sell them on the black market, putting his own life in peril.

But he also will tell you about funny moments like "the chicken story." And how he escaped his fears by turning the roof of his grandparents' home into his private fantasy land.

"When people go through great struggles in life, like some of us there did early on, I think you develop an escape," Calcines said. "I detached myself from the horror."

Calcines is as engaging as his stories.

He has cut hair in Tampa for 30 years. In 2001, he moved his business from a Waters Avenue location into his home so he could begin concentrating on a book about his family's escape from the Castro regime.

The idea centered on chronicling the stories for his family's future generations. The inspiration came in part from a dream that made him snap out of bed at 4 a.m.

"I had been dreaming of my childhood friend Rolando, who had been the one who wanted to leave Cuba the most," Calcines said. "His brother Raul would always try to calm him down because all you needed was an accusation against you and you could be harshly treated by the Communist regime. He had to stay in Cuba and he eventually died from a lightning strike.

"I woke up with tears in my eyes."

The moment helped Calcines realize he had a responsibility to humanize the Cuban struggle and de-politicize the 50-year debate.

I find his passion captivating, and I'm not alone.

Next spring, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, a major New York house, will publish Leaving Glorytown: One Boy's Struggle Under Castro.

That's all I'm saying.

Tampa man's book chronicles his boyhood in Castro's Cuba 08/01/08 [Last modified: Thursday, August 7, 2008 4:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Helicopter, small aircraft collide at Clearwater Air Park


    CLEARWATER — Two people suffered minor injuries after a helicopter and a small aircraft collided late Saturday afternoon at Clearwater Air Park, 1000 N Hercules Ave.

    Clearwater Fire Department emergency personal douse a plane with fire retardant after the plane crashed into a helicopter at Clearwater Air Park 1000 N Hercules Ave. Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017. According to Clearwater Fire two people sustained minor injuries. [Photo by Clearwater Fire Department]
  2. 4-year-old girl, man injured in Clearwater Beach boating crash


    A 4-year-old girl was airlifted with serious injuries after a personal watercraft she was riding on collided with a boat in the Intracoastal Waterway near Clearwater Beach just before 5 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

  3. Hernando Sheriff's Office identifies bank robber killed after chase, places 7 deputies on administrative leave


    Authorities have identified a bank robbery suspect fatally shot by Hernando County sheriff's deputies after a wild chase Friday in which the fleeing suspect rammed several patrol cars in Brooksville.

    Scott Michael Chamberlain, 44, died after a deputy-involved shooting Friday. The Hernando County Sheriff's Office said that Chamberlaine attempted to rob a bank before taking deputies on a pursuit. (Florida Department of Corrections)
  4. No. 12 FSU, defense struggle in 27-21 loss to N.C. State


    TALLAHASSEE — It's easy to blame No. 12 Florida State's 27-21 loss to North Carolina State on the injury to starting quarterback Deondre Francois or the three-week layoff because of Hurricane Irma.

    It would also be wrong.

    Florida State Seminoles wide receiver Nyqwan Murray (8) carries during the first quarter of the Florida State Seminoles game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack on September 23, 2017, at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla.  At the half, North Carolina State Wolfpack 17, Florida State Seminoles 10.
  5. Trump tells Warriors star Stephen Curry that White House visit is off


    SOMERSET, N.J. — Stephen Curry and President Donald Trump agree on one thing: The Golden State star is not going to the White House anytime soon.

    Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry poses for photos during NBA basketball team media day Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. [Associated Press]