When We Left Cuba is a historical fiction by Chanel Cleeton. It tells the story of Beatriz Perez, the aunt of Marisol, who we met in Next Year in Havana. Chanel Cleeton weaves a story of high society and espionage in light of American and Cuban allegiance, set in the 60s.
Beatriz Perez’s family fled Cuba to Miami when Fidel Castro came into power after the revolution. Beatriz’s twin, Alejandro, was left behind. He had been active in the revolution, but not in Fidel’s party. When he was killed after the revolution, Beatriz blamed Fidel for this.
Beatriz considers herself an exile in America and sees her life there as temporary, She wants to help improve things in Cuba, to get rid of Fidel so that she can return home. She gets involved with the CIA as a spy and enters a dangerous world of espionage and politics.
When We Left Cuba is thrilling to read with themes of love, politics, and sacrifice. It paints a vivid portrait of Cuban history during the Cold War and the struggles of those who fought against the regime.
A Socialite in Palm Beach
We meet Beatriz as a young lady in her early twenties, living with her parents and siblings in Palm Beach. While her family had to leave much of their wealth in Cuba, her father had enough savings outside the country to start a sugar company in the new year. However, since the family’s status is not what it was in Cuba, Beatriz’s mother expects her daughters to make good matches that will elevate their social standing. She will not allow her daughters to go to university.
Beatriz is beautiful and engaging. She receives and rejected several wedding proposals (four or five), the last being at a wedding where she meets Nick Preston. They can’t keep their eyes off each other, even though Nick’s engagement is announced at the party where they meet. Nick is a senator who has ambitions to be president, so getting involved with him would be scandalous.
Beatriz’s friend, Eduardo, introduces her to the world of espionage through Mr. Dwyer, an agent in the CIA responsible for Cuba. With the promise of payment and as a way of working towards removing Fidel from office, Beatriz starts working for Dwyer, spying on pro-Castro meetings in Hialeah.
The New York Trip
The goal of the CIA is to get rid of Fidel, so when he comes to New York, Beatriz is to get close to him, to attract his attention so that she can later get a chance to kill him. She convinces her parents that she is going to visit a prestigious family in the Hamptons using an invitation devised by Dwyer.
When she shows up at Fidel’s hotel, bypassing the demonstrating crowds, she’s successful at catching Fidel’s attention but leaves the gathering once his interest is peaked. Back at the hotel, she heads to the bar to get a drink.
Sitting at the bar, Nick shows up. After spending the night together, Nick and Beatriz enjoy spending time together during the rest of her visit.
Back in Palm Beach
Back in Palm Beach, Beatriz moves on with her life, spending time with her sisters. Walking on the beach one day, Nick finds her and takes her to his beachfront home. This becomes their meeting place. They spend time together there when he’s in town, and Beatriz goes there to receive calls from him when he’s away. For Christmas, he gave her a diamond tennis bracelet.
Eduardo is always in the background of Beatriz’s life. They spend time together and Eduardo takes her on one of his nighttime escapades. This is how she leans that he’s involved in acquiring and using explosives as part of the struggle for Cuba’s liberation.
At a party in March, where Beatriz doesn’t expect Nick and his fiancé to be because he said he would be in Washington, she runs into the couple. She’s wearing Nick’s bracelet and regrets the choice to wear it that night.
Eduardo steps in to dance with her and talk with her. She realizes for the first time that his interest in her may not be purely platonic, and they share a kiss. She also learns that they will be going to Cuba as part of the CIA’s plans. Eduardo is to be a pilot in an invasion that is planned. Stunned by it all, Beatriz escapes to the bathroom.
When Beatriz leaves the bathroom stall, Nick’s fiancé is waiting to confront her. She tells Beatriz that she accepts Beatriz as the mistress, but she and Nick need to be more discrete and confine their relationship to sex.
Keep your relationship confined to the bedroom, and we won’t have a problem. Flaunt it in society again, and you will learn what a formidable enemy my family can be.Nick’s fiancee to Beatriz.
Two weeks after the party, on the day that Beatriz returns Nick’s diamond bracelet to him because of his betrayal, she returns home to learn of the invasion of Cuba. The invasion at Playa Girón, the Bay of Pigs, was a terrible failure. Eduardo was one of the over a thousand men that were captured.
Between her secret meetings with Nick and her meetings at pro-Fidel gatherings, Beatriz’s mother was suspicious. She wants to set up Beatriz with Isabel’s fiancé’s cousin, but Beatriz manages to ward off the matchmaking. When the fiancé threatens to call off the wedding because of the rumors, her parents decide to send her off to live with her aunt in Madrid. Beatriz doesn’t want to get married, but her mother doesn’t accept that. If she refuses to go to Madrid, she will be thrown out of the house. Beatriz objects, saying that she doesn’t want to be like her mother, and her mother slaps her.
We aren’t all you. We don’t aspire to marry a wealthy man because we’re incapable of making our own way in the world.Beatriz to her mother
Escape to London
At the airport, while Beatriz is waiting for her flight to Madrid, Dwyer shows up with a ticket and an alternate solution. He wants her to spy for him in London; his offer is attractive, particularly because Beatriz will be able to go to school and study politics. She accepts his offer.
Beatriz enjoys her life in London, both spying and attending school. As she starts getting close to a fellow student that the CIA thinks is a double agent, Ramon, she runs into him at a party. Nick is also at that party. Beatriz is successful in her mission to get a microfilm from a Soviet colonel at the party, but she has to create a distraction to do so because of Ramon’s presence. As she is leaving the party, Nick invites her back to his hotel.
After the night at his hotel, Beatriz heads to the park to drop off the microfilm to her contact. When they don’t show up, she heads home, where she finds Ramon waiting for her with a gun. In the altercation that follows, she k Raillsmon. She calls the CIA to clean up and heads back to Nick’s hotel. Her final action before leaving London is to drop the microfilm following the CIA’s protocol.
Beatriz returns to Washington with Nick. After months there, they go to Palm Beach to the house on the beach. Beatriz meets with her sisters, particularly Elisa, who she’s kept in contact with but manages to avoid her parents.
Finally, Eduardo and the rest of the prisoners are released from Cuba. When Eduardo visits Beatriz at Elisa’s, home, he is changed, thinner but tougher, with a limp. He shares his regrets with Beatriz for getting involved in the invasion. The Soviets and Americans knew that the Cubans were aware of the attack, but let them go anyway. He thinks that America may have been happy to get rid of the anti-Fidel exiles in South Florida.
Eduardo reveals his feelings to Elisa, that he’s always loved her, and he thought that they would end up together. He asks her if she would be with him and realizes that her response was no.
Beatriz enrolls at the University of Miami, transferring her credits from London. Her father shows up at the beach house one day to talk to her. He admits that he knows of her clandestine activities, and he shares the family secret with her.
She focuses on school for months before Eduardo shows up again with a letter from Dwyer. On the same day, Kennedy is shot by someone with ties to the pro-Castro movement.
Four days later, Beatriz is to go to meet Fidel in Cuba for a chance to kill him. Nick, meanwhile, is busy grieving for the president and has to go to Washington to help with all the tasks necessary for a new president. During their goodbye, Nick gave her a diamond ring. Again, they realize that they cannot be together, although they love each other. Their dreams are incompatible. Nick tells her that the beach house is hers, and heads to the airport.
Eduardo is the one who goes to Cuba with Beatriz by boat. When they get to Cuba, it’s all been arranged that Beatriz will meet with Fidel privately.
When Beatriz meets Fidel, he already knows everything. He has allowed her to come to bring a message back to the Americans: that he had nothing to do with Kennedy’s shooting. He also tells her that he did not kill Alejandro. The meeting is a short one, and once Beatriz leaves the hotel, her ride is nowhere to be found. Remembering her father’s advice, she heads to their old house, 2 miles away.
Arriving at the house, Beatriz digs out the family valuables in the backyard. As she does this, Javier, one of the pro-Castro exiles from her activities in Palm Beach, shows up to kill her for killing his cousin, Ramon. Eduardo makes it in time to kill Javier, so they could escape.
Beatriz has to use the family’s valuables to pay a man to take them back to South Florida. When they get there, she learns that Eduardo has lost faith; he’s now aligned with Fidel and is returning to Cuba.
Back in Palm Beach, Beatriz takes up residence in the beach house, which is now hers. Before she left, she and Nick said goodbye, accepting that they had different priorities and were on different paths.
The Ending of When We Left Cuba
With her cover blown, Beatriz can no longer work in Cuba with the CIA. However, she accepts Dwyer’s offer to work for American interests, and he sends her to Europe.
Years later, in 2016, Fidel dies and the exiles in Miami rejoice. When Beatriz returns home, Nick is waiting for her. He’s retired; his wife died six months before, and his children are grown.
For the first time, Beatriz and Nick attend a Perez family event as a couple. They are celebrating her great-niece’s birthday. When We Left Cuba ends similarly to Next Year in Havana. Marisol has just returned from Cuba and met with her aunt one week ago. As a gift, Beatriz gives Lucia a painting of their ancestor, Isabella Perez. It is finally their time, Nick and Beatriz’s.
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