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Now that it’s fashionable to recall what happened half a century ago, I want to dust off my oldest sin, which goes by the name of Horacio.

Horacio Otaola was the most brilliant student of the Enrique José Varona school in the city of Camagüey. We studied together in primary school until 1959. I still remember his impeccable Palmer penmanship, his always sharp Number 2 pencil, his notebooks always neatly lined, the speed with which he always answered in Math and History.

Horacio’s father was the owner of some sawmills and realized very early the direction that the newly triumphant revolutionary process would take. For something he did, or something they said he did, I’m not precisely sure, he went to jail for political reasons. Their properties were confiscated and the family lost the its means of support. Then Horacio was put to work, at only 13, as a messenger in a market.

The market was private, and if I remember right was a “Grocery” on the corner of San Esteban and San Fernando streets, very close to my house. Every day, early in the morning, I was forced to pass through the place on my way to school and that was the time when Horacio was there running errands for the customers.

Horacio Otaola was my friend and the first person I envied. Seeing him in his new situation, stripped of the possibility of having a future in line with his talent, made me feel bad. It’s very difficult to change the envy for pity, but that was not the worst. Without, then, being able to explain it, I refused to greet the boy who had been my classmate for six years.

I have never been able to find, in my always open arsenal of arguments, a single reason that justifies my behavior. Until today I have carried this sin.

Forgive me, Horacio.