Memories of My Duty / Victor Ariel Gonzalez Celaya

Part I: The Zambrana Mustache

The most notable feature of Colonel Zambrana was a mustache, thick and very black, under his nose. I, who had thought there could not be a mustache more … mustachioed, than that of a regular presenter on the television news, I found that the Zambrana far surpassed this record: it seemed a caricature, as if the colonel had not been able to finish aspirating a brush. If we add the belly this fifty-something man had grown, plus he was bald, wearing the olive green uniform, with the ends of his pants tucked into boots, then we have the most colorful character with whom I would I spent my five weeks “duty” or basic military training.

The first time I saw that mustache haranguing us, I had to make such a big effort not to laugh it gave me a headache. The second time I was not so eager to laugh because the colonel was carrying a pistol in his belt. So they were very tense days: Fidel Castro had been given the TKO that prevented him from continuing to exercise a power of nearly fifty years, and everything was upside down. What kind of fate is mine, gentlemen! Daddy-bearded-one gets fucked just when I’m starting military service!

Military unit 3635 was stationed in 3635 Santiago de Las Vegas. It is an anti-aircraft detachment from which you can see very nearby José Martí airport. Its troops are on “the front line” against the “imperialist enemy invader.” And to fulfill this important mission, have a few rockets from the Soviet era with which we can bring down—why not?!—those very same American B-2 Spirit bombers the day they dare to come flapping around the area

Because it was there that I began my year as a soldier. A lapse that many would like to forget, yet marks us as if we were cattle with consciousness. This stratum of common memory occasionally emerges, more so because my military service was truly unforgettable.

Víctor Ariel González Celaya

20 August 2014