Книги: Episodes of the Revolutionary War, Ernesto Che Guevara
Episodes of the Revolutionary War,
Ernesto Che Guevara
THE DAYS FOLLOWING our departure from Epifanio's farm were, at least for me, the most painful of the war. These notes are an attempt to describe the effect upon our men of the initial stage of the revolutionary struggle. If this passage, more than the others, contains more references to myself, it is only because it is related to the other episodes and to leave them out would mean a loss of continuity.
Our revolutionary group was made up of 17 men of the original group and 3 new recruits: Gil, Sotolongo, and Raul Diaz. These men had arrived in the Granma, had hidden away somewhere near Manzanillo, and when they heard of our whereabouts they made up their minds to join
us, and share our fate. It was very difficult for us, at the time, to increase our army. Some men came, but others would leave. The struggle demanded a tough physical condition and a high standard of morale, and we lived under the threat of continuous attack.
We traveled, without any fixed distribution, hiding in small wooded areas in a zone where cattle had cleared most of the vegetation. One night we heard, on Fidel's little radio, that one of the men who had left with Crescencio had been captured. Eutimio had already told us that the man had been arrested but we had never found out officially. Now at least we knew he was alive. It was not always that a man survived one of the Batista army's "interrogations." Frequently we heard rifle and machinegun fire directed toward the wooded areas. The soldiers spent a lot of ammunition but never dared to enter the woods.
On February 22 I wrote in my diary that I was beginning to fee} the symptoms of an attack of asthma; I did not have any anti-asthmatic medicine left. The date for the new rendezvous was set for March S, so we still had to wait several days.
During that period we just moved about aimlessly, killing time and waiting for Frank Pais' men who were to bring additional weapons. It had been decided that our group was to be strengthened in firepower rather than in number, and that every available weapon in Santiago was to be brought to the Sierra Maestra,
Once we spent a very uneasy day by a stream near La Majagua where there was practically no vegetation. This was in a valley named Las Mercedes. It is very hard to remember exact names now. At dusk, we reached the house of a peasant called Emiliano. He was another one of those peasants who became frightened every time they met us and yet they risked their lives for us and contributed to the development of our Revolution. It was the rainy season in the Sierra and night after night we mould get soaked to the bone, so we now headed for the peasants' huts despite the danger of meeting the soldiers who were everywhere.
My asthma was so bad I could hardly walk, and we spent another night near a house, among a thicket of coffee trees. It was February 27 or 28. Censorship had been discontinued and the radio was pouring out news about everything that had occurred during the last few months.
There was talk about terrorist attacks and Matthews' interview with Fidel. That was the moment when the Minister of Defense made his famous statement that Matthews' interview was a lie,- and demanded that the photographs be published. Hermes was the son of old Emiliano and at the rime he was the one who would look for food and show us the way. On the morning of the 28th he did not make his usual rounds and Fidel issued immediate orders to move to another place overlooking the roads. About 4 p.m., Universo Sanchez and Luis Crespo were watching the road, and saw a large troop coming from the direction of Las Vegas. We had to move fast to reach the hillside and cross to the other side before the troops cut us off. It was not difficult because we had seen them in time. Mortar and machinegun fire broke out, headed in our direction, which proved that Batista's men knew that we were somewhere in the vicinity. Everybody made it to the top, but for me it was a terrible experience. I was practically choking by the time I reached the top of the hill. I remember Crespo's efforts to make me walk. Every time I said I could not go on and asked to be left behind, Crespo would revert to our jargon and snap at me: “You, son-of-a-bitch from Argentina, either you walk or I'll hit you with my rifle butt!” Then he would pick up his load, and practically carry me and my heavy knapsack to the top. All this under a heavy downpour.
We reached a small hut at a place called Purgatorio. Fidel put on a great performance, impersonating a "Major Gonzalez" of Batista's army, in search of rebels. The host was both courteous and cool, but another man, a neighbour, was a real toady. I was too ill to enjoy fully the dialogues ' between Fidel, in his role as Major Gonzalez, and the man, who insisted on giving advice to Fidel and kept saying that he could not understand why this boy Castro was out there in the woods, fighting.
Something had to be done about me; I simply could not go on any longer. When the chatty neighbour left, Fidel told the host who he really was and the man threw his arms around him, saying that he belonged to the Orthodox party, that he was a follower of Chibas, and that he was ready to help out in every way. It was necessary for the peasant to go to Manzanillo and establish some contact or, at least, buy some medicine. Even the man's wife was not supposed to know that I would be near the house. Our latest recruit, a man of doubtful reputation, was assigned as my guard. In a generous gesture, Fidel gave me a Johnson rifle, a real jewel. Then we all made a big show of leaving together and, a few yards away my companion – whom we called "the teacher" – and I went into the woods to hide and wait. The latest news was that Matthews had made a telephone call, saying that the photographs were to be published while Diaz Tamayo insisted that the whole thing was a lie; that nobody could get past the troops surrounding the rebels. Armando Hart was in prison, charged with being the second leader of the Movement. The date was February 28.
Our man had fulfilled his mission and I got my adrenaline. The next ten days were the most bitter days of the struggle in the Sierra: I was dragging myself from tree to tree, using my rifle as a crutch, accompanied by a thoroughly frightened man who went practically out of his mind every time I coughed – he was so afraid someone would hear me – but we finally made it back to Epifanio's house. It had taken us ten days to cover a distance easily covered in one day's march. We did not make it in time for the rendezvous scheduled for March S. Our slow movements and the circle of soldiers surrounding the zone kept us from reaching the house until March 11.
Several things had happened, already known to the members of the household: in a place called Altos de Merino, Fidel's group had become separated under the mistaken impression that they were soon to be attacked. Twelve men had followed Fidel and six had gone with Ciro Fracas. Ciro's group fell' into an ambush but, luckily, they all escaped. Now they were all back, and only one of them, Yayo, who came back minus his rifle, had stopped by Epifanio’s house on his way to Manzanillo, and to1d the whole story. Frank Pais' troop was ready, although Frank had been arrested. We spoke with the leader of the troop, a man called Jorge Sotus, bearing the rank of captain. He told us it was impossible to make the rendezvous by March 5 because the news about their coming had leaked out and the roads were infested with soldiers. We took every measure to insure the arrival of the troop, estimated to be close to fifty men.