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Beyond an Adventure: A Beautiful Love

Beyond an Adventure: A Beautiful Love

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Beyond an Adventure: A Beautiful Love

357 pages
5 heures
Sep 1, 2019


Once World War I was over, after devastating battles, including the Battle of Verdun, some French air fighters, almost all heroes of French Republic, were thought to be all dead in a plane crash while performing the first long distance fly of the giant Farman plane, "The Goliath", from Paris to Dakar. They were lost in the Sahara Desert without food and water. How they survived despite their ordeal!

While France was recovering from war, they went to Cuba where they remained almost two years, and the place the most important for them was the Columbia airfield in Havana, which became a real aeronautic fair because of the presence of French air fighters and the Farman war planes. For these French nationals, after the battles of the First World War and the testing fly of "The Goliath" to towards Dakar, all these events took place without a single break. Still, their stay in Cuba was like an adventure, which happened under a relaxing and warm atmosphere, plenty of affection and happiness.

A Cuban "mulatta", who was charged to prepare meals for the French pilots and mechanics, was the most notable woman in the Columbia airfield. Her name was Genevieve. One of French fellows, Leon, fell in love with her. It was a beautiful but sad love story.

Sep 1, 2019

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Beyond an Adventure - Angel R. Almagro

Angel R. Almagro

Beyond an Adventure: A Beautiful Love

First published by Editions Dedicaces 2019

Copyright © 2019 by Angel R. Almagro

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise without written permission from the publisher. It is illegal to copy this book, post it to a website, or distribute it by any other means without permission.

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I thank Mayra Colado, granddaughter of Genoveva (Geneviève) Penton and Léon Coupet, but without his knowledge by misfortune of fate, for putting in my hands so many photographic and biographical material so precious, which allowed me to write this novel.

I also thank the Air and Space Museum of the French Ministry of Defence for kindly sending me a copy of the book The Memories of Lucien Coupet, which brought me a remarkably important piece of information about the life of this Great Icon of World Aviation History and French Culture. In addition, however, I ask forgiveness if anyone, having some relationship with the facts and characters in this event, could feel spiritually offended by what I make known in this literary work.

The novel you are about to read is a testimony to a true story, with simple clouds of literary fiction, which began in France, with the First World War taking place, continued into Arab Africa and ended up in Cuba during the presidency of the General of the Cuban Liberation Army Mario García Menocal, the third president of the Republic of Cuba, although history is still held in the Second World War, because one of the characters of the novel died in a German concentration camp.

The French pilots who had fought during the First World War were in Cuba at the beginning of the 20th century. In the photo, we see Squadron 25 which carried out many actions during the war, especially in the Battle of Verdun and in the German city of Trêve. Standing, from left to right, the third, the seventh and the eighth are respectively, Léon Coupet, Guy de Roig and Camille Jousse. Sitting on the left is Lucien Coupet. This photo shows that these French World War I fighters spent a wonderful time in Cuba.

It’s Geneviève. Apparently she’s reading the Bible.

A promotional card from the Cuban Aviation Company.

fFrom right to left Lucien Coupet, Agustin Parla (Cuban) and Guy de Roig, the executives of the Cuban Aviation Company

Léon Coupet and Camille Jousse with black boys in front of a Farman F-40 aircraft.

Mrs Harveux, it is believed, in front of a Farman F-40 aircraft.

Geneviève’s mother Virginia, with family members, in front of a Farman F-40.

Geneviève and Gregorio (Gustave Montalvo) showing their motorbike.

Guy de Roig on a Farman F-40 plane. We also see two men, one of whom is Agustin Parla, we believe.

The Cuban Aviation Company Farman aircraft in 1920.

Léon Coupet in the airfield of Colombia. We see spectators who had come to see the show.

Léon Coupet and Camille Jousse in front of a Farman F-40 plane. Camille is sitting on the plane, and we see a boy between him and Léon.

Léon Coupet, Chauvin with his dog and Guerchais who shows an ad attached to the hangar door where it is said that the flights are suspended.

Léon Coupet and Camille Jousse smoking his cigarette in his own way are photographed in the airfield.

Léon Coupet and Guerchais are photographed looking at each other in front of a Farman F-40.

Guy de Roig with the children of Geneviève in the Colombia field where the aerodrome is located.

Geneviève with her children. We see Chauvin behind smiling.

Léon Coupet and Guerchais in front of a hangar.

A group of Cubans from the nascent bourgeoisie.

Léon Coupet and Lucien Coupet on a Goliath plane.

The French in charge of the establishment and maintenance of the Farman aircraft in front of the Goliath. From right to left Chauvin, Léon Coupet, Camille with his cigarette in his mouth, Lucien Coupet, Guy de Roig carrying a cat in his arms and Guerchais.

The Gregorio canteen where the French ate, and of which Geneviève was the cook. One sees Geneviève’s children very close to Lucien Coupet, the first on the right.

A group of Cubans of the population pose in front of a Farman F-40 plane.

A house in the district of Buenavista. One sees Léon Coupet with his bike. To his right, his brother Lucien Coupet.

Rosa Montavo, Leon’s daughter, after Geneviève, at the age of 18.

Behind the postcard of Léon Coupet had sent to Geneviève where we can distinguish what Léon had written to him.



In 1919, a year after the war had come to an end, in Europe, France was recovering from this pervasive war that had been disastrous to her by the great number of victims it had caused, a war that saw real French heroes.

One day, by this time, an American freighter, who had left the Port of Le Havre a fortnight before, and whose keel dug the blue emerald sea of Cuba, slightly undulating, entered the Port of Havana majestically. To his left, just at the narrow entrance to the bay, the majestic lighthouse of the Chateau du Morro, extinguished at this time, welcomed him to Havana, an already cosmopolitan and warm city.

It was already three o’clock in the afternoon, but it was not too hot, despite the fact that we were in July, one of the two warmest months of the Cuban summer, because the breeze coming from the South East brought a moisture so pleasant that it did not allow the heat to feel too strong.

The climate in the coastal zone of the western part of Cuba including the provinces of Pinar del Rio and Havana was fresh almost every day, even during those hours of day when the sun was in its zenith in this area of the Caribbean.

All along the sidewalk bordered by the coastal wall of Havana, immediately in the afternoon, especially after four o’clock, men and women walked peacefully enjoying a pleasant and frequent temperature near the Caribbean Sea. Many of these men wore drill-hundred pants and typical fine-fabric shirts. The cotton or linen pants and shirts they wore were white or beige. There were some who wore panama hats of fine fiber.The women were dressed in long white dresses in fresh and light fabric. Almost all of them had a fan whose colour matched the colour of their dress, and a few others were seen wearing white lace umbrellas, that is, by the heat and sun of the tropic, or by the snobbery of the distinguished ladies of the middle and upper Cuban bourgeoisie who already existed in Cuban society in the Havanese milieu. While walking, they watched the ship bearing the American flag heading towards the wharf. A large number of these men and women greeted the passengers of the freighter who were seen on board. They greeted them with their hands, their handkerchiefs, their hats or their fans.

In all likelihood, there were other people who also frequented the coast of this part of Havana built at the time of Spanish colonization. They were common people of the population whose presence in the Avenue du Port was not because of pleasure, but because of need, because the leisure hardly existed for them. Nor was it to wait for the early evening when the Caribbean sun softened its fire and the breeze increased its pleasant presence. They didn’t realize the weather, except when it was going to rain. The presence of these other visitors in the Avenue du Port was only for their own subsistence.

These frequent visitors were seen, for the most part, in this artery of colonial Havana at all hours of the day. Some went or came from the wharf where they worked or tried to work as dock workers. It was one of the best-paid jobs for the port working class due to the boom of the Cuban economy, especially that of the sugar industry, whose splendour had increased during and after the war. The others went or returned from the Muelle de Luz, the landing place where they took the Bark of Regla, a sort of Havanese Riverboat to cross the bay. On the other hand, there were other people who preferred to go to the Muelle de Luz on the trams.

The Port of Havana was one of the pillars of the growing Cuban economy, which allowed the Cuban capital to become a major metropolis and continental commercial and financial crossroads, not only by the beginning sugar of Cuba, but also by its historical and cultural traditions. It was one of the beautiful places that sometimes attracted Cuban visitors, sometimes foreign visitors. From there, the famous Cuban song: Know Cuba first, and the foreigner after. In fact, the location of the Port of Havana with its maritime structure was a natural privilege for the Cuban economy.

Although it was a cargo vessel, there were passengers on board, some of whom were accompanying a singular load. These were the first Farman Goliath and Chouettes aircraft, which would be used not only for recreational flights and for the service of the first Cuban air mail company, but especially for the first Cuban Aviation Company.


The Planes Farman

Towards the end of the 19th century, the development of the explosion engine triggered the revolution of transport, which paved the way for the great innovations of the automobile and the nascent aeronautics.

In 1890, thirteen years before the Wright brothers achieved their feat in an air flight in the United States, French Clément Ader had taken off a few centimetres and had flown nearly fifty meters aboard his «Eola», propelled by a steam engine. Clément Ader had the idea of naming his invention Avion, the French acronym for the phrase Appareil Volant imitant les Oiseaux Naturels. By taking the first letter of each word of the sentence and attaching them, he had obtained the word PLANE.

If Clement Ader was not considered the first person who flew in a propeller-powered aircraft, by the fact that his flight was too short to be considered a feat, an invention or an innovation, he was at least the pioneer who demonstrated that something heavier than air could fly on its own.

Undoubtedly, in this beginning of the emergence of the aircraft, France was the world leader in aircraft manufacturing. On the other hand, it is no less certain that Louis Blériot had crossed the Channel for the first time on 25 July 1909. The newspapers echoed the exploits of these new air knights.

From that year onwards, the rotary star engine would become lighter and offer improved water cooling and operation. It goes without saying that it undoubtedly helped that in 1910, the French engineer Louis Verdet, a graduate of Art and Office, succeeded in a rotary engine for aircraft. Two years later, he produced a prototype 7-cylinder star engine that developed 70 horsepower and weighed 90 kilograms. That same year, he created the «Société de Moteurs Rhône» from which emerged the famous 9-cylinder rotating star engine, which equipped many aircraft prototypes during the First World War. Indeed, it was the war that opened the doors to global aeronautical development.

Since 1871, Europe was already living under a regime of war. Until the beginning of the 20th century, the European continent, then the first cultural power through its economic, scientific and social development, was the industrial and financial center of the world. Within its borders, there were countries struggling individually for economic and military continental hegemony, led by England, France and Germany. The latter even created a military bloc including Germany, the hungaro-Austrian empire and Italy. This military bloc was known as the «Triple Alliance».

On September 23, 1913, Roland Garros crossed the Mediterranean Sea in 5 hours and 53 minutes aboard his Morane-Saulnier plane with a 50-horsepower Gnome rotary engine. Two years later, in 1915, the manufacturers of Gnome and Rhône engines decided to create a common engine industry Gnome and Rhône, something that gave more dynamism to the aviation industry, and provides excellent engines to aircraft manufacturers such as the Farman Brothers, who were among those builders whose planes were part of excellent air squadrons during the war.

Unfortunately, at the end of the war, the fighter aircraft, their engines, their pilots, and their mechanics were out of a job, and therefore the aircraft manufacturing companies were in serious trouble.

The last Farman prototype was the giant bomber Farman F-60, which flew for the first time in 1918, late then already for the belligerent conflict in which this aircraft could not demonstrate its potential and combat capability, and its power as a means of transporting infantry troops.

These aircraft companies were later dedicated to the manufacture of chassis for cars and bicycles. However, there were aircraft manufacturers who had to undertake the task of converting their war aircraft to commercial aviation.

By 1919, dozens of French airlines had already established their airlines in Europe. It was therefore necessary to think of a means of air transport with a potentiality of locomotion more efficient in relation to the transport time; that is, we needed an air mode that was better and that could fly faster and farther.

To achieve this goal, the F-50 ‘Limousine’ bomber, the first Farman twin-engine aircraft, was transformed into a five-passenger plane, but in poor transport conditions, because four people had to travel seated in the place that was intended for the bombs, and the fifth traveller had to go to the open air, very close to the pilot.

The area where the pre-aircraft machine gun was installed was used to carry the baggage, while the area where the rear machine gun was installed was used as a washroom. On the other hand, the Farman F-60 prototype proved more suitable for a passenger aircraft by its size, which made it called «Goliath».

The Goliath was a twenty-metre span, fifteen-metre-long, five-metre-high biplane aircraft. This winged giant had a closed cabin, illuminated by numerous windows, and relatively spacious, but very cold.

The «Goliath» type Farman could accommodate a dozen passengers in its wicker seats, which were separated by a slightly narrow corridor. The washrooms were located at the rear of the Goliath.

The Goliath was built of wood and canvas, the crew of which was formed by a pilot and a mechanic, but it did not feel perfect hermeticism, and passengers had to obtain an umbrella carefully.

This aircraft, the largest ever built, had two 200-horsepower Salmson engines, which were cooled by water. Its unladen weight was two tons and 4. 52 tons with fourteen people and four hours of fuel.

It was a robust and reliable aircraft, even when there was a slight instability. It climbed to 2,000 metres in 23 minutes, and flew at a speed of 115 kilometres per hour. At that time, the Goliath was the first commercial line aircraft in the history of aeronautics. This colossal aircraft, the Farman F-60, is still today a pride of the history of French aeronautics, the world’s first commercial twin-engine long-distance flight.

To attain this universal and therefore historical prestige, the «Goliath» had difficult moments during its beginnings, not in the war as it has already been said. It will be said, without the slightest doubt, that the Goliath would have been the casualty of the troops of the Triple Alliance because of its high altitude and its load capacity, despite the German planes Aviatik. equipped with a Parabellum machine gun on the rear turret and Fokker with a forward synchronized machine gun to the propeller rotation. Both the Aviatik and the Fokker had a great potential for attack and defence. So, thanks to the aeronautical development caused by the need not to be defeated by the «Triple Alliance» bloc during the First World War, and the «Goliath» Having demonstrated its potential as the first long-range twin-engine commercial aircraft, France began the era of commercial aviation.



It should be said that the First World War not only allowed the development of aviation in Europe and the United States, but it also contributed to the flowering of the Cuban sugar industry, because Cuban sugar then became a necessary product for the industrialized countries that were engaged in war. In addition, the Cuban industrial and livestock development, the financing power of the nascent Cuban bourgeoisie, as well as the investment of NorthAmerican in Cuba, made the Caribbean Island a really tasty place for foreigners to venture to know it and make a fortune.

At that time, during the second presidency of Major-General Mario Garcia Menocal, Cuba enjoyed a good economic climax. This was the time known as The Dance of the Millions of the twenties of the nineteenth century.

When the First World War was coming to an end, the beet sugar-producing industry was reduced almost to ruin, causing a great shortage of sugar, so that the price of this product rose to more than twenty cents a pound in 1920. As a consequence of the lack of sugar in the world market, the Cuban sugar industry experimented an immense boom. This breakdown of the Cuban economy in the first quarter of the twentieth century made Cuba a country with great economic and cultural flowering, however its devastating frontal war against Spain from 1868 until 1898. No doubt, in just twenty years, Cuba had transformed into one of the most developed countries in America. From there, between 1918 and 1920, 25 new banks were created. A large number of owners of agricultural plantations and livestock acquired high bankers’ loans while 50 new sugar factories were built, and new sugar cane plantations sprang up all over the Island.

The well-being of Cubans in all sectors of the country was so splendid that it took foreign agricultural workers to cut sugar cane. Apparently, the Cuban people, for the most part, did not need to work in cutting sugar cane for their livelihood given the economic boom that was enjoyed in Cuba at the time. Hence this song of the time that said: «I do not fall the cane/ let the fall the wind/ otherwise Lola/ with its movement».

Then President Menocal was forced to use repressive force for people to work, especially in the sugar harvest, which led to another popular song: «Fall the cane/ and move light/ that comes the Mayoral/ sounding the whip)».

This sugar splendour in particular, and the Cuban economy in general, made that sugar cane cutters came from Jamaica and Haiti. It is by this way that new rich people emerge in Cuba, and that great and fabulous mansions and villas were built in the districts Vedado and Miramar and Havana.

Thus, the period of the Million Dance took place, a period that was also known as the Big Cow Dance, which lasted until the administration of the fourth president of Cuba Alfredo Zayas who governed the Island since May 21, 1921.

We saw how Cuba had become a country of Latin American splendour, and how its geographical location had always been envied, especially for civil aviation, precisely by this geographical location between the countries of the North and the South within the American continent.

It was this continental crossroads that helped to some extent that Cuba was the first Latin American country to create a commercial airline. The first attempts to have a Cuban airline took place in 1919 when this company was created with the idea of opening national routes between Havana and the City of Cienfuegos, and between Havana and the Villa of Santiago de Cuba, as well as international itineraries between Havana and Miami, and between Havana and New York. Undoubtedly the vision towards a future of progress was already rooted in the mentality of enterprise and commerce in the young free and democratic Cuban society. Therefore, attracted by the growth of the Cuban economy, there were people of other nationalities, especially Europeans, who were forced by the shortage of a stagnant economy as a result of the war, did not hesitate to seek fortune in America, a continent which, intact from the ravaged scourge of war conflicts during the First World War, offered great opportunities for comfort and the future. And so Cuba, seen as an American strategic crossroads, gave a well-being not only economic, but also social.



The Cuban Air Company, created by millionaire Anibal J. Mesa with a capital of 1, 200,000 dollars, had managed to obtain from the government of Mario Garcia Menora that Columbia’s airfield, located near the city of Havana, be open to «public air traffic». In addition, a surface of 10,000 square meters had been obtained for the Company’s facilities.

The economic development in Cuba, due in particular to its sugar industry, admitted an unquestionable success for the company to create such a Cuban airline, in addition because American money was not difficult to obtain in Cuba. People from the American and European continents were meeting in Havana, where their money was invested with their eyes closed. After the First World War, and to a great extent because of it, Cuba became a rich country, so to speak. American capital in the Caribbean country was growing rapidly. From there, after the defeat of Spain in the war for Cuban Independence at the end of the 19th century, the United States of America became the new Metropolis of the Island.

And this North American presence was seen daily in Havana’s door business. There were almost always cargo ships with the American flag docked at the port, which dockers loaded and unloaded without delay. Sometimes we saw American warships in the middle of the harbour or docked at the quays of the Casablanca district, which was on the other side of the harbour, next to the neighborhood of set. To get to Casablanca from Havana, we took a steamboat, the Cuban «Bateau Mouche».

The panorama seen from this «Cuban Bateau Mouche» crossing the bay was beautiful, especially when returning to Havana. Opposite and to the right were the Spanish colonial fortresses The Castle of the Force, The Fortress of San Salvador de la Punta, The Castle of the Three Kings of Moro and The Fortress of San Carlos de la Cabana. From the middle of the harbour, aboard this wooden boat, the view that one could see surrounded by these fortresses and castles was not less majestic. To the left, in the distance, we sometimes saw another Bateau Mouche going to another neighborhood, that of Régla.

The activity of Port of Havana was not only so important from the economic point of view for the country by the quantity of people whose income depended precisely on the portier trade, but also political, because the seat of the Cuban government was in its vicinity. This is why the Cuban trade unionism that had begun in the tobacco sector, including cigar and cigarette factories, and in the sugar sector, including rum factories, had strong roots in the portier sector, because the products of these factories had to pass through the port to go abroad.And it was the tobacco, sugar and port sectors that gave a great boost to the Cuban economy, which allowed a Cuban commercial aviation company to be created in Cuba. The Cuban Agustín parla was appointed General Manager of the Cuban Aviation Company, while the French Lucien Coupet was its Technical Director.



Thus, the economic boom in the Cuban capital, Havana stood so splendid and the possibilities of work were so high that quite a few people from other provinces of the country went to this city where they knew it was the only and best place to carry out their future and to achieve prosperity. Most of them stayed there. Even women like Geneviève had come looking for work at La Métropole Cubaine.

Geneviève Penon was born in 1895, in the municipality of Saga la Grande, territory of the province of Santa Clara, the only Cuban province that had a woman’s name and had endowed Geneviève with such beautiful and subjugating enchantments, and with such a beautiful appearance that since she had become a young woman, men admired her enough and women, even though they admired her, it is no less true that they envied her, but without malice, for some of them-They wanted to be their friends.

The province of Santa Clara had brought great men for the Army «Mambisa», army of white, black and mulatto men; which made this an army sui generis institution in all the wars of independence known until then. It should be added that the Cuban Liberation Army of the 19th century had been the army with the most Black and mulatto Generals. This indicates that the discrimination that could take place in Cuba at that time was not entirely racial, but rather ethnocentric or cultural, given that social stratification in the largest island of the Caribbean was then non-existent or rather insipid; this is what the so-called Cuban War of Independence had helped to do by the fact that, on the one hand, the racial and ethnic composition of the Cuban liberating army, of which the principal commander was a Dominican, «Le Généralissime» Maximo Gomez, and the second commander was a Cuban mulatto whose father was born in Venezuela, Major General Antonio Maceo. But also because there were white generals of Spanish origin who commanded the troops with other black generals of African origin, and because the Cubans followed the Apostle’s ideas of their independence,General José Marti, poet who writes the poem «La Rose Blanche», and his proverb regarding Cuban nationality: «Man more than white, more than black, more than mulatto». However, it should not be forgotten that the Yoruba religion introduced to Cuba by African slaves was already strongly rooted in the Cuban multiracial population, including the Spanish who remained in Cuba after the war.

Virginia, Genevieve’s mother, was born a free black woman

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