The Victor Gerena who appeared at Annhurst College was nothing like the young man who had shown such promise only months before, at Bulkeley High School in the gritty South End of Hartford.
Annhurst was in Woodstock, Conn., a town of dairy cows and cornfields in the state's picturesque northeast corner. Gerena had been persuaded to enroll by a friend, an older, strong-willed woman who supervised his work as an intern at the state Capitol and had talked him out of larger, ethnically diverse schools like the University of Connecticut. Annhurst had changed considerably since Marion Delaney graduated in 1951. It was smaller and poorer.
The school was in such financial difficulty that, for the first time in its history, Sister Muriel Lusignan, the dean of students, had been forced to admit men in an effort to achieve a sustainable student body. Gerena was one of two dozen male students and 200 female students.
"Sister Muriel was known as the Iron Maiden of the school,'' said Donald Caron, who was the men's dormitory counselor. "And to be perfectly honest with you, she and a couple of the other nuns were not happy about their being men on campus. No, not at all. To them, I believe it was a desecration.''
Gerena's grades fell. He didn't commit himself to his studies. He did not avail himself of tutoring or other offers of academic help. He had no interest in political discussions. Fellow students remember him as glum. They say he had a chip on his shoulder, that life had treated him unfairly because he was Puerto Rican.
His interest in the girls, however, was unflagging. One student remembers Gerena sneaking a woman into his dorm room. That was an egregious offense at Annhurst, which so rigidly enforced the separation of the sexes that fathers were prohibited from even looking over the dorm rooms where their daughters would spend four years of their lives.
The few chums Gerena had were among the male students, a quirky lot, by and large. In another desperate attempt to boost enrollment and increase revenue, the nuns had decided to admit foreign students who wanted to learn English. Typically, these students came from fabulously wealthy families, took a light course load and, as a result, had a lot of spare time in a place where there was nothing to do.
Victor palled around with some boys from Venezuela. Sister Muriel didn't think highly of them.
"They had money to burn,'' she said. "That didn't do much good for some of the others who didn't have that kind of money. They would try to buy you.''
Students and faculty recalled South American girls who had never washed clothes and boys who got anything with a telephone call home.
"One kid wanted an automobile,'' Caron said. "So his father booked him a flight from Connecticut to Detroit, literally, so he could pick out the car he wanted. That's what they thought. To get the best car, you go to Detroit and you pick it out. He came back with this black TransAm. It was just incredible.''
Although Sister Muriel claims not to remember, Caron and three of Gerena's fellow students at Annhurst said he eventually got in trouble.
The school discovered someone was sneaking into the administrative offices and making long distance calls on school telephones. Caron and the students said that after examining the bills, the school confronted Gerena. He denied it.
Gerena left Annhurst in the winter of 1977 before completing his first year.
In the Caribbean that same year, Filiberto Ojeda Rios was making an explosive mark from within the violent wing of the independence movement.
With other members of the movement, he helped open a mainland front in the war against U.S. imperialism. They created the FALN, the Spanish acronym for the Armed Forces of National Liberation. Perhaps the FALN's most memorable moment was the bloody bombing of Fraunces Tavern in New York.
In 1976, according to a Cuban source, he reconfigured a group called the Armed Commandos of Liberation and gave it a new name, Los Macheteros -- Spanish for "The Machete Wielders.''