The Americano: Fighting with Castro for Cuba’s Freedom (Algonquin, 2007), recovers the lost story of William Morgan, a young man from Toledo, Ohio, who fought in the Cuban Revolution.

 The Americano: Fighting with Castro for Cuba’s Freedom (Algonquin, 2007), recovers the lost story of William Morgan, a young man from Toledo, Ohio, who fought in the Cuban Revolution.

Some reviews of THE AMERICANO

National Book Award winner, Carlos Eire (Waiting for Snow in Havana) wrote: 

The Americano is history at its best: a brilliant, fast-paced account based on solid research that reads like a great epic novel. . . . As engaging as it is revealing, this narrative opens up the history of the Cuban Revolution from within as no other English-language book has ever done.

The starred, Publishers Weekly review described The Americano as “entertaining” with the “suspense of a blockbuster movie”:

From Morgan's Ohio beginnings, Shetterly quickly moves to his life in rebel camps in Cuba's mountains, which Shetterly describes exquisitely, and quite viscerally. Deftly weaving together a considerable amount of research to set the scene, he uses his findings to paint an intriguing and nuanced portrait of Morgan as well as the political tensions of the time. In fact, in addition to Morgan's story, there's a fascinating subplot about how Castro and the revolutionaries did not enter the revolution with a clear Communist platform, but slowly evolved that way from internal and external forces. Issues of nationalism and the role of journalism play a large role in the book, turning the intriguing story of one man into a thoughtful examination of 20th-century Cuban history.

In the Evergreen Review, author Richard Cummings wrote:

It is to Aran Shetterly's great credit that he has told the story of William Morgan with such brilliance as to bring those compelling days back to life with an intensity that makes it virtually impossible to put this book down. It is positively riveting. One can well imagine oneself in the mountains, experiencing the hardships of fighting, the characters coming alive. Fidel, Che, "the Americano," are all her in the flesh in a cinematic work of great poetry and passion... Reading it, you feel you are reading a great novel, except it is all true, right up to the tragic end. 

ARTICLES

Black Mexican Identity

In 2006 and 2007, I had the chance to visit the small towns along the coast of Oaxaca. Many of the fishermen and farmers who live in Ciruelo, Chacahua, Pinotepa Nacional and other villages west of Puerto Escondido are of African descent. This article, published in Inside Mexico in 2007, explores the origins of the black Mexicans, the complexity of African Mexican identity, and the story of a deeply committed Catholic priest from Trinidad, Glyn Jemmott, who spent nearly forty years working the people of the Costa Chica. Click the image (I took the cover photograph) below to read the whole article. 

Inside Mexico, April 2007. Photo by A. Shetterly.

Inside Mexico, April 2007. Photo by A. Shetterly.

Where are you from?” I asked.
“Cuba.”
“Cuba? How did you end up here?”
The man laughed. “A slave ship was wrecked off the coast. Some of the slaves made it ashore. We’ve been here ever since.”
He pulled the cord, the motor roared, and I held onto my hat as the boat picked up speed and headed into the lagoon’s labyrinthine channels, leaving me to wonder how a Cuban slave ship had arrived along Mexico’s west coast.

A Profile of Elizabeth Catlett

It was a privilege to interview the brilliant, African American sculptor Elizabeth Catlett who died in 2012. A charming person in either English and Spanish, she infused her work with deep humanity. Click the image to read the article. 

                Inside Mexico, December 2006.

                Inside Mexico, December 2006.

There’s her simple, beautiful sculpture called Female Torso, fashioned from ebony stone polished to a high gloss. The figure has no arms, no head, no legs below the knee. It’s all thighs, breasts, wide hips, stomach and shoulders. A less talented artist might have carved woman as exotic object. Catlett’s long fingers shaped a substantial body that has borne children and inspired an artist. With a slight twist of the trunk, it’s as much verb as noun. The sculpture is comforting, womanly, and creative in every sense of the word. Real life stories are in that piece.