Hollywood actor Adam Driver was not born when William Morgan made his way through Cuba with a band of guerrillas, helping Fidel Castro take control of the country during a critical period of the revolution.
But when Morgan's widow heard last week that Driver, 36, was starring in a movie to be made about her late husband, the memories came from a conflict that forever changed their lives.
"This is history," said Olga Morgan Goodwin, a Cuban who met her husband during the fighting in 1958. "He wanted freedom for my country. He gave his life for my country."
Although film production was interrupted because of the coronavirus, filming for the Yankee Commander is scheduled for 2021, with director Jeff Nichols attached to the feature film that resurrects the life of an American who helped lead a revolution that changed the course of the Cold War.
In an exclusive interview with BuzzFeed News, Goodwin, 84, said she was excited about last week's news, but admitted that she had never heard of Driver, who starred in the film. Star Wars sequel trilogy, and was nominated twice for an Oscar. "I don't watch a lot of TV," said Goodwin, who now lives in Ohio. "I just don't have the time."
Although two books and one PBS Documentary created over Morgan, a former arms dealer for the mafia whose life changed dramatically when he arrived in Cuba, Goodwin said he hoped the film would reveal to a larger audience a convincing figure who once disappeared from the archives of history.
O rights to the film by Imperative Entertainment come eight years later Focus features he chose history with George Clooney as director, but he never went ahead with filming. The film is based on a article at the New Yorker by David Grann.
In the late 1950s, Morgan cut a figure that attracted international media attention – as well as the FBI, CIA and Kennedy White House – after leading his rebel unit to a remarkable series of victories over the Cuban army in the country. . time of the revolution. At the time, the guerrillas led by Fidel Castro promised reforms and elections as they overthrew Fulgencio Batista's corrupt regime, which took power years ago in a coup.
A figure with blond hair and blue eyes, Morgan, the so-called Yanqui Commander, appeared in the mountains in search of adventure, but quickly became serious in witnessing atrocities practiced by government soldiers against farmers.
Born in Ohio, Morgan was featured in the New York Times, which published a statement he wrote on behalf of his guerrilla unit that adopted the principles of democracy but criticized the United States for supporting the Batista regime.
In late 1958, he and his men cleared the central mountains of soldiers so that Castro and Che Guevara, the legendary Argentine revolutionary, could achieve victory at a time when Cuba – just 130 kilometers from Florida – was instrumental in balancing power between the United States and the Soviet Union.
Although Castro promised to step down as a temporary leader, he later canceled the elections and established ties with the Soviets – prompting Morgan to turn against the Cuban dictator and create a small army to take control.
Goodwin said her husband was irritated by the executions ordered by Guevara, one of Castro's main supporters, even after the enemy soldiers surrendered. "Immediately, they started attacking people. No court. Nothing," she said.
After shooting in the mountains for a counterrevolution, Morgan, 32, was arrested by Castro's agents, was tried and ordered to be shot during a dramatic execution witnessed by an American priest.
Taken to the execution wall, Morgan refused to be blindfolded and embraced the firing squad chief before he was lined up and killed. "He died for my people," said Goodwin.
While Morgan is the focus of the film, Goodwin's distressing ordeals after his death became part of his story.
Just days after his execution, Goodwin was captured and sent to prison, where he led inmates in protests for better conditions. After going on hunger strikes, she was beaten and often thrown into solitary confinement, where she would be fed pieces of bread and rice and awakened by mice crawling over her body, she said.
In 1971, she was released after a decade, but was unable to return to her family home in central Cuba because the secret police would appear. So she ended up living in a convent in Havana, while her parents have taken care of their two daughters since their marriage to Morgan.
"Olga paid the price," said Adriana Bosch, an award-winning filmmaker who produced the first documentary about Morgan, American commander, for PBS in 2015. "They both had this strong romantic tendency. That same trend would be responsible for their love and it is the same trend that would be responsible for their tragedy".
Goodwin managed to escape from Cuba in a scene that rivaled some of the battles in the mountains years before. She jumped on one of the last boats that left the island during the famous Mariel cable car in 1980, barely reaching the U.S. coast after the Cuban navy fired shots at the hull.
Instead of settling in Miami, she moved to Toledo to be close to Morgan's mother, Loretta, and later met her current husband. During those years, she approached her mother-in-law and eventually made two promises to her that Goodwin would spend the rest of her life.
First, Goodwin promised to restore Morgan's American citizenship, which was withdrawn in 1959 after he helped Castro take power. The other promise was to bring his remains back to the USA for a burial in Ohio.
Although Morgan was criticized by a senior member of Congress for helping Castro and was targeted by the FBI and CIA investigationsGoodwin argued that her husband struggled to help free Cuba from oppression and ended up dying fighting the same enemy that threatened his home country: communism. "He loved this country," she said.
With the help of a local lawyer, Gerardo Rollison, the State Department granted his request in 2007, but when it came to returning his body, it was a much more daunting task. Goodwin and his lawyer wrote letters to Presidents Bush and Obama, Pope Francis and the Castro government, asking for his remains.
Representative Marcy Kaptur of Ohio met with then President Castro in 2002 to ask for the remains. Nine members of Congress wrote a letter to then President Raul Castro in 2009. But so far, Cuban leaders have not moved. To this day, Morgan remains buried in a remote corner of the Colon Cemetery in Havana.
Enrique Encinosa, a Cuban historian and host of a Miami radio show, said that Morgan is revered among thousands of Cubans in the Miami exile community because he gave his life for them. But for the Cuban government, he is still considered an enemy. "[They] I don't want to leave a place where people can put flowers for a martyr, "said Encinosa.
Goodwin said he will continue to fight. The Cuban government is "waiting for me to get older and older and older," she said.
She said that her late husband remained loyal to the cause of freedom in Cuba and did not hold a grudge against the people who killed him. In a letter he wrote to her that was smuggled out of La Cabana prison just before she was executed, he said Cuba would solve its own problems.
"I don't want blood spilled on my cause," he wrote. "Those who are judging and condemning us have their job to do, and they act in accordance with the conditions set out in today's policy. So if you are guilty of so many injustices, leave it to history to correct such failings. Revenge does not is the answer. I better die because I defended lives ".
Encinosa, who wrote extensively about the Cuban revolution, said that Morgan remains a figure admired by Cuban Americans, not only for being a formidable leader, but because of his own personal transformation.
He said that Morgan arrived in Cuba with a checkered past. He had been expelled from the American army and worked for the Ohio mafia. But when he died, he "saw himself as a human being," said Encinosa.
In taking the lead, he witnessed farmers being beaten by government soldiers and found out for the first time that he could help the Cuban people. "A guy who was a loose cannon with a criminal record," he said. "He became a hero."