Elio Delgado Legon
HAVANA TIMES — The underground struggle against Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista became more and more difficult in my town. You had to do things without blowing your cover while leading a normal life of study and work, pretending you had no involvement in revolutionary activities.
In a large city, one stood a chance of remaining underground, but I lived in Santo Domingo, a small town in the province of Las Villas, where you had eyes on you practically all the time.
Precisely because it was a small town, where police officers and the rural patrol were the neighbors, relatives or friends of the townspeople, one didn’t see murders, torture or disappearances.
When the authorities wanted to teach someone a lesson, they would bring officers from somewhere else to have these give that person a beating. That is how a police corporal they would bring from the town of Sagua la Grande became notorious in my town. He had earned for himself the nickname of “Bonebreaker.”
When Bonebreaker was in town, everyone knew someone was about to be beaten and have a bone broken, that you had to be especially careful.
There were two occasions in which Bonebreaker came to town and everything indicated I was the one who had it coming. Exactly the same thing happened on both occasions, so I will only write about the first.
I worked at the 20 de Mayo gas station, where there was also a restaurant and cafeteria and two or three rooms (in a deplorable state) which were rented out to very low income people who needed lodging.
At night, I would travel to Santa Clara, where I studied at the Business School there. I would get back at around midnight and had to walk two kilometers down a railway, in complete darkness, to get home. It was dangerous, but I had no other choice.
On the two occasions I mentioned above, when I arrived from Santa Clara and passed by the cafeteria of my place of work (as I always did), my workmates told me that, a short while before, the police lieutenant and Bonebreaker had been there and asked where I was. When they replied I was at school in Santa Clara, they walked to the path I had to cross every night.
They suggested I didn’t go back home, so I stayed in one of the rooms in the dive-hotel until morning. Then, I headed home to tell my family I was okay. When I passed by the railway station, a guard who was a friend of mine told me he had been waiting for me the whole night to let me know the two officers had asked him whether he’d seen me go by. When he told them he hadn’t, they headed down the railway to my house (and didn’t get there, incidentally).
They had clearly set up an ambush at the dark railway line I was supposed to cross. Not one month had gone by when the same story repeated itself.
The rural patrol officer and several soldiers also went to my house in the early morning two or three times and searched the entire place, looking for something that would incriminate me – but they didn’t find anything.
I didn’t understand why they had their eyes on me. I gave the impression of leading a quiet life and of not being involved in anything political.
It was only a few years ago that I found the answer, in a book lent to me by a friend. Page 353 of the book, titled Fidel Castro: vida y obra (“Fidel Castro: Life and Works”) by Luis Conte Aguero reads:
“On January 3, 1956, Cuban public opinion was shaken by a piece of news that made the front page of all newspapers. Below is a transcription of the text that appeared in El Pais: ‘Despite the reservations of the Emergency Court in connection with the report presented by the chief of the Military Intelligence Service (MIS), Colonel Antonio Blanco Rico, related to a subversive plan hatched abroad by Fidel Castro Ruz, it has come to our knowledge that the said plan encompasses the entire nation, as was informed yesterday.’”
“Colonel Blanco Rico has specified the conspiratorial cells and the names of the people involved in the plot.”
“According to the report of the MIS chief presented to the court, the followers of Fidel Castro planning subversive operations in Las Villas are: Elio Delgado Leon, Celestino Rodriguez, Guillermo Herrera Alvarez, Julio Pineda Delgado, Angel Luis Moreira Hunts and others who are being sought by the Emergency Court in that province.”
The other names on that list are my former comrades, with whom I took part in revolutionary activities, went to jail and stood trial. We never knew, however, that the MIS had set its sights on us.