Книги: Episodes of the Revolutionary War, Ernesto Che Guevara
Episodes of the Revolutionary War,
Ernesto Che Guevara
A Famous Interview
BY THE MIDDLE of April 1957 we returned to the area of Palma Mocha, near Turquino Peak. Our most valuable men for that type of mountain warfare were those of peasant extraction.
Guillermo Garcia and Ciro Frias, leading groups of peasants, went back and forth, scouting, foraging for food, and catching up on the latest news; they were the real mobile vanguard. When we reached Arroyo del Infierno, all the peasants came out to welcome us and tell us about the attack: who had guided the soldiers to our hid-out, number of casualties, etc, They were experts at relaying information.
Fidel did not have a radio then and he asked a peasant to lend him his. This way we could hear the news direct from Havana. The so-called guarantees had been re-established and the newscasts were a little more informative.
Guillermo Garcia, wearing the uniform of a corporal of the Batista forces, and accompanied by two peasants, went out to look for the informer. They got their man and told him that "the Colonel wanted to see him." When he saw us, he realized that everything was lost. Cynically, he told us about his liaison with the army, and how he had told "that s.o.b. Casillas" that he would guide the soldiers, because he knew where we were hiding, but that no one had paid any attention to him.
A few days later, the informer was executed. We received a message from Celia telling us that two U.S. reporters were on their way to interview Fidel under the pretext of the young "gringos" who had been with us. She also sent some money given by sympathizers of the Movement.
We decided that Sardinas, who knew the Estrada Palma zone well, would be the guide of the newspapermen. We had been devoting all our time to making contacts with peasants, thus creating contact centers and permanent camps, and increasing our zone of operations. We already had several spots where we could store our provisions; they were also used as relay points for messenger work all over the Sierra.
People of the Sierra have an extraordinary capacity for covering long distances in the shortest possible time. We were always fooled by their version of "a half hour's walk," or "just over the hill." This type of information is always exact,- for a peasant - although their concept of time, and the meaning of an hour, are completely different from that of the city folk.
Three days later we received the news that six people were climbing toward the zone of Santo Domingo: two women, two "gringos", and two others. However, there were some contradictory stories; it was said that the guards had been informed and they were surrounding the house where the new arrivals were. News travels fast in the Sierras but it also becomes distorted. Camilo went out, leading a platoon, ready to liberate the two U.S. newspapermen as well as Celia, whom we knew to be part of the group. They brought them to us safely. The false information had been caused by the movement of soldiers following a tip given by some backward peasants.
On April 23, Bob Taber and a cameraman arrived. They were accompanied by Celia Sanchez and Haydee Santamaria. There were also representatives of the Movement in the plains: "Marcos" (or "Nicaragua"), Major Iglesias, now Governor of Las Villas, who was then in charge of activities in Santiago, and Marcelo Fernindez, coordinator of the Movement, later vice-president of the National Bank. The latter spoke English and was appointed interpreter.
We spent a few days engaged in diplomatic sparring, showing the U.S. men our strong force and evading any indiscreet questions. The interviews went on pleasantly. They, in turn, answered our questions with a full understanding of our primitive way of life, although they never became accustomed to it. Neither did they have anything in common with us.
Our group was increased by the arrival of "El Vaquerito" - the cowboy - one of the most beloved figures of our revolutionary war. He told us that he had been looking for us for over a month. He said he was a native of Camaguey, and we proceeded to interrogate him. A rudimentary course of political orientation came next; this was frequently my task. Vaquerito did not have any political ideas. He seemed to be a wholesome, happy boy, who looked upon the whole thing as a great adventure. He was barefoot, and Celia gave him a pair of Mexican style shoes, with lots of engravings. With the new shoes and a big straw hat he look d like a Mexican cowboy, so he was stuck with the nickname.
Vaquerito, never saw the end of the revolutionary struggle. He was killed the day before we took Santa Clara. He was the leader of the suicide platoon of Column 8. We all remember his extraordinary good humor, and his bizarre, devil-may-care attitude in the face of danger. He was an inveterate liar; his stories were always an intricate network of truth and fiction, and at the end the listener was completely unable to discern where truth ended and fiction began. But when it came to his activities in the war he was truly amazing: beginning as a messenger, he graduated first to soldier, then to leader of a suicide platoon. The same fantastic, incredible deeds he was so fond of talking about, he repeated in the battle field. By the time he met his death his bravery had become legendary.
Once I asked Vaquerito to tell us about his life. He began his story and, secretly, we kept track of the dates. When he finished his long, amusing story, we asked him how old he was. He must have been about 20, but once we tallied up on the various dates and countless adventures, it turned out that Vaquerito must have been hard at work five years before he was born."
Comrade "Nicaragua" brought then news that there were still several weapons in Santiago; these were leftovers from the frustrated attack on the Palace. They included 10 machineguns, 11 Johnson rifles and 6 "muskets," as he called them. There was more armament but the Movement was contemplating the establishment of another front in the zone of Miranda sugar mill. Fidel opposed the plan, giving them permission to take only a few of these weapons, ordering that as many as possible be sent to us in order to reinforce our equipment. We were ready to leave, to avoid coming face to face with some soldiers in the vicinity, when we decided to go climb Turquino Peak. This was a symbolic gesture; to climb our highest mountain. We were now on the crest of the Sierra, very close to Turquino.
Taber's interview ended at Turquino. Moving pictures were taken which were later' shown on T.V. in the U.S., at a time when no one took us too seriously, for example: A peasant joined us and told us that Casillas had offered him $300.00, a cow and a calf as reward for killing Fidel: the U.S, were not the only ones who made mistakes on the price of our maximum leader.
Our altimeter showed that Turquino was located 1,850 meters above sea level. We had never tested the device but it seemed to work well at sea level. Curiously, this height was quite different from the one appearing on official records.
An army company was following our steps and Guillermo and a group of men went out to harass them. I was still fighting my asthma and was bringing up the.
rear, as usual in that Case. As long as I could not go into battle, I had to surrender my Thompson sub-machinegun. It took me three days to get it back and it was very unpleasant for me to go about unarmed, expecting an attack at any time.
Bob Taber and two newspapermen left our column and arrived safely at Guantanamo. We went on along the Sierra and the foothills, exploring new areas, making contacts, fanning the flame of the Revolution, and increasing the legend of "the bearded ones." A new spirit permeated the Sierra. Peasants would come and greet us, no longer fearful. We, in turn, had more confidence in them. Our relative strength had increased and we felt safe against any surprise attack; we also felt that a closer bond existed between us and the peasants.