Книги: Episodes of the Revolutionary War, Ernesto Che Guevara
Episodes of the Revolutionary War,
Ernesto Che Guevara
Forging the Temper
THE MONTHS of March and April 1957 were devoted to the reorganization and training of the rebel troops. Our army was made up of 80 men, distributed in the following manner:
The four-man vanguard, 1ed by Camilo; Raul Castro led one platoon of three lieutenants who in turn led one squad, respectively. These were Julio Diaz, Ramiro Valdes, and Nano Diaz. The two comrades named Diaz were not related. They were both killed in the battle of El Uvero. Nano was from Santiago, and today the Diaz brothers' refinery in Santiago bears his name and the name of his brother who was murdered in Santiago de Cuba. Julito was from Artemisa, a veteran of the Granma and the Moncada. Jorge Sotus lieutenants were: Ciro Frias, killed at the Frank Pais Front; Guillermo Garcia, now Chief of the Army of the Western Sector,. and Rene Ramos Latour, killed while bearing the rank of Major. Then came the Staff, or General Command, led by Fidel, Commander-in-Chief,. Ciro Redondo; Manuel . Fajardo, now a Major; Crespo, Major; Universo Sanchez, now a Commander; and myself as physician.
The platoon that usually followed the column was led by Almeida, captain, and lieutenants Hermo, Guillermo Dominguez, killed at Pino del Agua, and Pena. The rear guard was led by Efigenio Ameijeiras, lieutenant, and three other men.
We learned to cook by squads. Our group was so large that the squad system allowed for a better distribution of food, medicine and ammunition. There was a veteran in most squads, teaching the new men the art of cooking and how to get the best nourishment out of our foodstuffs. They also trained the men in packing their knapsacks and the correct way of walking through the Sierras.
It would take an automobile only a few hours to cover the distance between the right hill of El Lomon and Uvero. To us, it meant weeks of slow walking, taking every precaution, carrying out our program of training the men for the coming battles as well as for a new life. We came to Altos de Espinosa and we, the veterans, kept a guard of honor by the grave of Julio Zenon. I found a piece of the blanket I had left behind during my "strategic retreat" and shoved it into my pack, swearing that I would never again lose any equipment that way.
Paulino was my new assistant. He helped me in the transportation of medicines and this way I could devote a few minutes every day to the attention of the men. We passed by Caracas hill, recalling our encounter with the enemy air force, thanks to Eutimio's treachery, and found a rifle which one of our men must have left there the day of the attack. We no longer had a surplus of rifles; on the contrary, we needed more. We had entered a new stage. A qualitative change had taken place: Throughout a wide zone, the enemy was careful not to come: face to face with us; of course, we were not too crazy about meeting them, either. The political situation showed evident signs of opportunism. Pardo Llada, Conte Aguero and other characters of similar type, made long-winded speeches, reeking with demagoguery, calling for harmony and peace and timidly criticizing the government. The peace government had spoken; the new Prime Minister, Rivero Aguero, had made a pledge to go to the Sierra if necessary, in order to bring peace to the country. However, a few days later, Batista declared that there was no need to speak with Fidel or 'the rebels; that Fidel was not in the Sierra, and therefore there was no point in talking with "a bunch of bandits."
Thus, Batista showed his determination to carry on the fight - the only point on which we wholeheartedly agreed - at any cost. Colonel Barreras was then named Chief of Operations. Barreras was famous for embezzling the funds for the soldiers' rations. Later on, he was appointed military attaché to Venezuela, and when the Batista regime came to an end, he was still sitting comfortably in his office in Caracas.
Among us, there were at the time three pleasant characters who served to furnish our movement with a little advertising service, specially in the U.S. Two of them gave us a little trouble, too. They were three Yankee boys who lived in the Guantanamo Naval Base and had left their homes to join our struggle. Two of them never heard a shot at the Sierra; worn out by the climate and the privations, they asked newspaperman Bob Taber to take them back. The other one fought in the battle of El Uvero and later retired, quite ill, but at least he did participate in a battle. The boys were not ideologically prepared for a revolution; all they did was to give vent to their spirit of adventure while in our company. We felt a sort of affection for them, but we were glad to see them go. I was specially glad, because as physician, I was constantly busy with their various maladies. They simply could not stand the rigours of our campaign.
It was during those days that the government took a group of newspapermen for an airplane ride over the Sierra Maestra, to prove that there was nobody down there. It was a bizarre operation and it convinced no ore. This was another demonstration of the methods used by Batista's government to deceive public opinion, together with the aid of all the Conte Agueros disguised as revolutionaries, who made daily speeches in a vain effort to fool the people. I must mention here that, at last, I was going to get a canvas hammock. This was a royal gift, which I had not yet been awarded, in keeping with the guerrilla law: a canvas hammock went to those who had already made their own out of burlap sacks. Anyone could make himself a burlap hammock; this made him a candidate for the next canvas hammock; but the lint made my asthma worse, and I was forced to sleep on the ground. Not having a burlap hammock I was not entitled to a canvas hammock. A real vicious circle: one of the daily events that are part of each man's individual tragedy.
Fidel realized my plight and broke all the rules, awarding me the precious hammock. I will always remember this happened by the banks of the La Plata river, the day we ate horse meat for the first time.
The horse meat was not only a luxurious piece de resistance; it was the acid test of the capacity of adaptation. Peasant members of our guerrilla force became quite indignant and refused to eat their portion of horse meat. Some of them looked upon Manuel Fajardo as a murderer. He had worked in a slaughterhouse, and a great event such as the slaughtering of a horse called for the hand of a professional. The horse belonged to a peasant named Popa, who lived across the river. I feel confident that following the anti-illiteracy campaign, Popa must be able to read and write by now. If he ever lays his hands on the magazine Verde Olivo - where these notes were originally published - he will undoubtedly recall the night when three murderous-looking guerrilla fighters knocked at his door, mistook him for an informer, and added insult to injury by taking his old, moth-eaten horse, which a few hours later was to become a meal of exquisite taste for some of us and a test for the prejudiced bellies of the peasants, who felt that they were committing an act of cannibalism by chewing on their old friend.