Book profiles Toledoan who served Castro in revolutionWritten by Scott McKimmy | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The 320-page account published by Algonquin Books details Morgan’s role in the revolution against the regime of dictator Fulgencio Batista. Morgan served as a comandante of the Second Front of the Escambray (SFNE) — one of two foreigners to hold the rank — but later opposed Castro by participating in a counterrevolution after it became apparent the new Cuban leader leaned toward Communism.
Morgan was the son of a Toledo Edison executive who moved his family from Cleveland, living on Collingwood Boulevard in the Old West End. Shetterly learned about Morgan while viewing Cuban art. Shetterly said he became so intrigued, he left his job at an Internet software company to “chase down Morgan’s story.”
“What I was fascinated by was this seemingly unexceptional person who did something that turned out to be exceptional and not even in his own country,” Shetterly said.
Castro ultimately ordered Morgan’s arrest and execution by firing squad. Morgan, age 32 at the time of his death, since has been remembered as a hero or a traitor, depending on one’s point of view.
The historical events have received little attention, according to Shetterly, because the Cuban government erased SFNE’s contributions to the revolution. Research for the book entailed poring through FBI and CIA files, many of which are redacted — or censored — and interviewing former rebels as well as Morgan’s childhood friends in Toledo.
Shetterly said he spent six months researching in Cuba, eight months in Miami, two weeks in Toledo and “a lot of time at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C.” However, at times he met resistance from those who strongly favored either Castro or Batista, including exiled Cubans who had fled to the United States during the revolution.
“In Cuba, it was interesting; it was a real mix. I had some people who helped a lot and some people who stonewalled a bit,” Shetterly said.
“In one case at the University of Miami, a librarian actually walked away from me and said, ‘You talk to Morgan’s commander. He’s a Communist; I don’t like him.’ ”
Shetterly and his wife founded Inside Mexico, an English-language newspaper. He attended Harvard College and University of Southern Maine and holds a master’s degree in American Studies. He sits on the boards of Americans Who Tell the Truth and Union of Maine Visual Artists, where he created an exchange program between artists in Maine and Cuba.