Equal-Opportunity Dissident

Julian Jorge Reyes was a child of Castro's revolution who turned against his leader. Now he's taking on el exilio.

On April 25, when exile leaders called a work stoppage to protest Elián's removal from the home of his Miami relatives, Reyes walked through Little Havana wearing a sign that said, "Today I want to work like a horse."

When he propped up the sign in front of Radio Mambí (WAQI-AM 710), the Spanish-language station in downtown Miami where announcers had called the strike, Reyes says a police officer approached him. "He told me, as a Cuban, that he thought I should take down the sign."

"What?" Reyes recalls asking. "What did you say? 'As a Cuban?' If you're telling me as a police officer I have to put down the sign, it's already gone. But if you're talking to me as a Cuban, then let me tell you, I'm going to make ten more signs."

During the month that followed, Reyes took up his customary spot in front of Domino Park, going without sleep for days at a time to display his signs. On June 4 and 5, he launched what he calls his "final transmission." Taped to the back of his Cutlass, one sign declared: "If it's true that in Cuba I came to realize that there is dictatorship, it is also true that I have learned, much to my chagrin, that there is another dictatorship here. The two share more similarities than differences."

A second sign read: "Vengeance and hatred are two elements typical of both these dictatorships, as is the nearly maniacal desire to drag everyone else (the great majority) into sharing the dictator's beliefs."

A third sign carried a quotation from Martí: "Respect for the liberty and beliefs of others, even of the most lowly, is in me fanaticism. If I die, or am killed, it will be because I have defended this principle." Beneath the citation, Reyes added his own observation: "This maxim of the Cuban apostle has been and continues to be trampled upon by both Cuban dictatorships."

Crouched at a construction site the afternoon after this final display, Reyes announces that he will return to Cuba. "I have done everything I can do here," he explains. "The next stage is back there." Having lived more than five years in the United States, he can apply for a visa to visit family members remaining on the island. Once there he plans to resume his resistance from within.

"The only problem would be if [Castro] reads this and doesn't let me in," he tells New Times, smiling. "But it's always more interesting if your enemy knows what you're going to do. Don't you think?"

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