Julio Armando Estorino Villalobos

* 1943

  • "Shortly after arriving in Miami, I told my relatives not to look for a job for me. I informed them I wanted to join the army. When I was still in Cuba, we had learned that there was a plan in the United States to train Cubans for the upcoming fights against Fidel Castro's government. I arrived in the US with this plan on my mind and told everyone I was determined not to go anywhere else but the army. So that was exactly what I did. I reported for duty at a recruitment place. It was on Aurora Street. I appeared before the officer, but the required minimum weight to recruit was 47, and I weighed only 45. I didn't have the slightest chance to bulk up. The sergeant who weighed me said,' Go to get some banana, drink a bottle of Coca Cola and then come back for the checkweighing again.' But it was futile. I had to undergo it eight times in total. All this, just so that I could join the army. When I came for the eighth time, there was a sergeant from Puerto Rico. You could tell from the first glance that he didn't have a lucky day. Just as he saw me, he immediately grabbed my elbow and dragged me to the doctor. There he had stated, 'Listen, we're recruiting this, and I don't care how much it weighs. I don't want to see him here ever again. ' I believe I was the worst soldier in the history of the United States Army. "

  • "We've been through a lot at the Uruguayan embassy. Some moments were very unfortunate. There was an asylum seeker among us. We called him Pepe ... his name was José, I don't recall his surname. He left the embassy to return with his wife. And then one day… as far as I know, it seemed his wife had refused to go with him ... when a truck (which was providing food supplies) was driving through the embassy's backyard, Pepe tried to slip through right behind him on a motorcycle. That's where they shot him. He died in the garden of the embassy."

  • "Just to be safe, I prayed to God to be cleansed of my sins. Then I said to him the following words..., 'My Lord, I ask you only for one thing: let me either escape or let them kill me while running away, I just don't want to end up in jail. ' I jumped the wall and stormed out from there as if I were a professional athlete. I've never sprinted at such speed in my entire life. My faith was pretty firm then, much more than today. In those exact moments, I honestly felt, as they say, that God was running by my side. Though, If one of the hundred guards standing there would have turned in my direction, he would undoubtedly see me right away because not a single tree was growing there. It was a plain field."

  • "At the end of 1960, they sent a new chief police officer to our city, Unión de Reyes. He was a follower of Fidel Castro and arrived with the sole aim - his mission was to terrorize. And that's exactly what he did to anyone he knew was somehow opposing the government. Back then, they arrested me for every goddamn thing. Sometimes I was detained for a few hours, other times they held me there for two days. I was deeply worried, for sure, but mainly because of my parents. My father did not have the nerves for it. He and my mother suffered a lot and kept asking me what was going on. It was neverending bullying. I remember going in May to the capital of Matanzas province, to buy my mother a gift for Mother's Day. I was there with other friends with whom we took part in counter-revolutionary activities. We walked around the park a few times, but they promptly arrived to arrest me due to the package I carried in my hand. It was suspicious for them and was, therefore, necessary to find out what it was. Of course, it was the gift for my mother. But it was all the same, over and over again, they took me for questioning, they asked the same old questions, the same old threats…"

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    Miami, USA, 09.06.2021

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Since I was a Catholic, I wasn’t overly afraid of death. What scared me much more, was the threat of ending up behind bars.

Julio Armando Estorino Villalobos, 2021
Julio Armando Estorino Villalobos, 2021
photo: Post Bellum

Julio Armando Estorino Villalobos was born on April 12, 1943 in small town Unión de Reyes in the province of Matanzas. His father worked as seasonal labour in sugar cane plantations. His mother was a housewife. Most of the time was the family short of funds, yet Julio remembers his childhood as a happy era of his life. He has spent this time playing in the backyard, which separated two houses. One of which was inhabited by his family and the other one by his relatives. From an early age, he participated in anti-government activities, initially against the government of General Batista, later against the regime of Fidel Castro. His zeal for the action stemmed mainly from his close affiliation with the Catholic Church, thanks to which he has developed a social conscience. At the beginning of Fidel Castro’s regime, Estornio was concerned mainly about the incitement of hatred in society and violent dealing with political opponents and members of the Catholic Church. He had participated in the distribution of numerous anti-regime magazines and leaflets which is also why he was eventually arrested by State Security agents. However, after the interrogation, he managed to escape and subsequently had to hide for several months in various places all over the capital Havana and its vicinity. His next move led him to the Uruguayan embassy, where he obtained asylum. That’s where his devotion towards poetry has begun. Moreover, it has become his lifelong passion. A year later, he travelled to the United States, where he earnestly participated with the exile organizations in its actions. He was engaged in founding the Cuban Patriotic Junta. He is a true connoisseur of the history of the Cuban Catholic Church and the life of Monsignor Agustín Roman. Estornio received the award for mystical poetry, and among many other things, worked for Radio Martí.