Postcard of Renato, Cuban jefe of work brigade, seated on bench (postcard from Sandra Rice inviting Lillydahl to festival on Cambridge Common, July 12, 1970
"The card mentions a July 26 celebration on Cambridge Common in honor of the Cuban Revolution. Barbara and I participated with other returned Brigadistas in a guerilla theater skit on Cuban revolutionary history. The photo is Renato, the Cuban jefe (chief or leader) of our work brigade. Renato was from Oriente province and introduced us to the Oriente accent and Cuban leadership style. He was friendly, wryly humored, modest, and conscientious, and he would carefully watch and listen to understand what was going on before offering us advice or assistance. When I was having trouble getting into the swing of cane cutting, he came and cut beside me for a while until I picked up his rhythm and technique. When I improved, he walked away to help someone else -- all without saying a word. Cubans believed in the power of exemplary action, in which a leader demonstrates something worth emulating and others are inspired to pick it up. Renato was my first example. After our first week of cane cutting, Renato called a meeting for us to set our production quota for the next week. Someone proposed a cautious 10 percent increase over last week's output. A more eagerly revolutionary companero said we should double it. Uncertainty reigned as we thrashed out how much we should challenge ourselves, getting increasingly nervous both about our ability and the prospect that we would look slack compared to other brigades who might set more optimistic quotas. When we came to a grandiose conclusion, Renato said quietly that the reason for the quota setting was to let the cane processing mill, the centrale, know how much cane to expect next week. After a brief silence while we took in the difference between posturing and reality, we decided to go for the 10% increase since we thought we were still getting up to speed. We had these production meetings every weekend, but the latter ones were always more realistic and we became fairly accurate in our estimates. There was no reward or punishment in setting or failing to meet quotas -- they were merely a planning device."
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