Книги: Episodes of the Revolutionary War, Ernesto Che Guevara
Episodes of the Revolutionary War,
Ernesto Che Guevara
Nursing the Wounded
THE DAY FOLLOWING The Uvero battle we could see enemy planes circling by. They had been at it since dawn. Once we said good-bye to the comrades we began to erase every sign of our entrance into the woods. We were only 100 yards away from a road and were waiting for Enrique Lopez to begin the transfer of our wounded men.
Almeida, Pena, Escalona and Manais were unable to walk. Manuel Acuna, Hermes Leyva and Maceo could move about with difficulty. Vilo Acuna, Sinecio Torres, the guide, Joel Iglesias, Alejandro Onate and I were to protect them, transport them and nurse them. Hours later, a man came to tell us that Enrique Lopez could not help us; his daughter was ill and he had to leave for Santiago. He was to send us some volunteers but they never showed up.
It was a serious situation; Escalona's wound was infected and we could not tell how badly Manals was hurt. We scouted the nearby roads and found no soldiers, so we decided to take them to an abandoned hut located three or four kilometers away where there were plenty of chickens.
Two of the sawmill's workers helped us to carry the wounded, who had been placed on hammocks. The following day, after a good chicken dinner, we left the spot. We had remained practically in the same place, too near to the roads that could be used by enemy soldiers. We started our journey - a short one, but a very difficult one - to- ward a ravine called Del Indio; we crossed it and then climbed to a hut owned by a peasant named Israel, who lived with his wife and a brother in law. It was a rough trip but we finally made it. Those wonderful people even offered us the couple's bed so that our wounded men could get some sleep.
We had left some weapons at our former camp, most of them in bad condition. There were other implements, too: things that we had to abandon as the weight of the wounded men made our traveling increasingly difficult. It seemed that we always left something behind us in some hut or camp, and we wanted to get back this time and erase all signs that might lead to us. Our lives depended on it. At the same time, Sinecio, the guide, went to get some friends of his who lived in the zone of Peladero.
Acuna and Joel said that they had heard strange voices on the other side of the mountain. We thought the time had come to put up a fight, since our duty was to defend our precious load of wounded comrades: we kept going ahead wanting the encounter to take place as far as possible from the hut. We found prints of bare feet on the same trail we had used before. Then we heard the voices of men apparently engaged in careless conversation. I had my machinegun ready, and flanked by Vilo and Joel, I came upon the group of men. They were the prisoners that Fidel had set free at El Uvero and they were looking for a way out of the woods. Most of them were barefoot, and an old corporal, practically exhausted, expressed his admiration for us and for our experience in moving about the woods. They had no guide; all they had was a pass, signed by Fidel. Taking advantage of the great impression we had made upon them, we warned them not to enter the woods again.
We spent the night in the hut. At dawn we returned to the woods and sent the peasant to go catch some chickens for the wounded men. We spent the entire day waiting for him and his wife but they never returned. Some time later, we heard that they had been arrested and the soldiers had forced them to guide them to our former camp. Fortunately, we had moved out one day before.
We kept a strict vigilance and would never have been taken by surprise but we could not predict the outcome of a battle under such unfavorable conditions. Sinecio returned that night with three volunteers: an old man named Feliciano and two others who later became members of the Rebel Army. They were Banderas, who was killed in the battle of Jigue, bearing the rank of lieutenant, and Israel Pardo, the oldest member of a large family of fighters; he is now a captain. These men helped us transfer the wounded to another hut while Sinecio awaited the peasants who were to bring our food. Of course, we did not know that they had been arrested. We suspected a trap, and made up our minds to leave our new hideout. We ate a frugal meal consisting of some vegetables dug from around the hut. The following day, six months after the Granma landing, we were on our way. Each stage of our march was short, and incredibly tiring for anyone accustomed to mountain traveling. We could only carry one hammock which had to be tied to a strong branch that could be carried on the shoulders of two or four men. The branch would literally tear the bearer's shoulders to pieces, so every ten minutes or so we had to change bearers. Six or eight men are needed to carry a wounded person in this manner, Almeida half-walked, half-dragged himself along from tree to tree until Israel made a short cut through the woods and we met the bearers.
We arrived at the Pardo's at dusk, following a tremendous rainstorm. It had taken us twelve hours to cover a distance of four kilometers.
Sinecio was our salvation. He knew every road and every person in the zone. It was he who managed to get Manals out and send him to Santiago, and we were getting ready to send Escalona too, as his wounds were still badly infected. We heard all sorts of contradictory news: Celia Sanchez had been arrested; Celia Sanchez had been killed, etc. It was said that an army patrol had captured Hermes Caldero. We did not know what to believe, and some of the reports were really frightening, since Celia, for example, was our only safe, confidential contact. Her arrest would mean isolation for all of us. Fortunately, the news about Celia turned out to be false. Hermes, however, was arrested and managed to survive a long jail sentence. A man named David, a foreman for one of the land- owners, was very helpful. He had slaughtered a cow for us, near the coast and we had to go and bring in the pieces. This had to be done at night and I sent a group of men led by Israel Pardo, and a second group led by Banderas. Banderas was quite undisciplined and he made the men carry the entire load. It took them all night to bring the meat. A small troop was being organized, which I was to lead since Almeida was hurt. Aware of my responsibility, I told Banderas he was no longer a combatant; that unless he improved his behaviour, he was to remain as a sympathizer. He did improve, although he was no model of discipline, but he was an alert man, of great ingenuity, and he had come face to face with reality through the medium of the Revolution. He had been working a small parcel of land wrested from the woods, and lived in a small hut with two small pigs and a dog. One day he showed me his sons' photograph; they lived with his ex-wife in Santiago. Banderas said he hoped that once the Revolution had succeeded, he could go somewhere to work a piece of good land, not this inhospitable scrap of land practically hanging from the Sierra. The man had a passion for agriculture.
I told him about the cooperative, but he was unable to understand. He wanted to work the land by himself and for himself. Gradually, he began to understand the ad- vantage of collective work, the use of farm machinery, etc. Banderas would have been a vanguard fighter in agricultural production. At the Sierra, he improved his reading and writing and he was really preparing for the future. He was a wide-awake peasant who knew the value of self- sacrifice when it comes to writing a new page in history.
I held a long interview with David, the foreman. Re was on his way to Santiago and he wanted a list of the things we were in need of, so that he could get them for us. He was the typical foreman, faithful to his boss, with a great scorn for peasants, and a racist to boot. However, when the army arrested him and tortured him, his main concern when he saw us again, was to explain that he had refused to talk. I do not know if David is still in Cuba; perhaps he followed his bosses, whose possessions have already been confiscated by the Revolution. I must say he was a man who, at that moment, felt the need of a change; he felt that a change was forthcoming, although he never imagined the change might reach him and his world. The structure of the Revolution is based upon many sincere efforts made by humble men; our mission is to bring out the best in everyone and turn everyone into a revolutionary. The Revolution is made up of Davids who did not understand too well, of Banderas who did not live to see the dawn, of blind sacrifices, of unrewarded sacrifices.
We who are able to witness the Revolution's accomplishments must remember those who fell by the roadside, and do our utmost to decrease the number of laggards.