“Bonebreaker” and Cuba’s Revolutionary Underground

Elio Delgado Legon

Santo Domingo.

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.

Elio Delgado Legon

Elio Delgado-Legon: I am a Cuban who has lived for 80 years, therefore I know full well how life was before the revolution, having experienced it directly and indirectly. As a result, it hurts me to read so many aspersions cast upon a government that fights tooth and nail to provide us a better life. If it hasn’t fully been able to do so, this is because of the many obstacles that have been put in its way.

3 thoughts on ““Bonebreaker” and Cuba’s Revolutionary Underground

  • I am pleased to see that while you disagree with me, you do not criticize the author of this article. Compared to him, my knowledge is indeed limited and I think yours is as well.
    The Stasi operated in secret. They did not have public offices throughout the country. No one could say for sure who was a Stasi informant.
    As for pointing out that many Cubans are poor, who could disagree with you? Isn’t it true that a contributing factor is the US economic embargo?

  • It is obvious that your knowledge of Cuba is limited. The infamous Committee for the Defence of the Revolution (CDR) requires no assistance from your “we want to mobilize the people in support of the revolution”
    .You will be happy to know that they have a cell with ‘President’ on every block of every city, town, village and hamlet in Cuba. Their defined purpose is to be the eyes and ears of the Castro regime through the Communist Party of Cuba. Socialism had a similar system within Eastern Germany – the Stasi!
    Is it “unfair and narrow minded” to criticize such an imposition upon the people of Cuba by a regime which through its ownership of all economic means reaps not just power and control, but personal wealth?
    Do please improve your knowledge of the reality of Cuba by going to live there for a period. Try living on an average of $20 per month (Yes, there are exceptions like Doctors and High School teachers receiving $30 per month) The old age pension is $8 per month (200 Cuban pesos). Those visiting have sufficient resources to buy imported food from Gaviota stores using Cuban Convertible currency (25 pesos = 1CUC). Gaviota is owned by the military and is just one section of the economic empire under the control of Raul Castro Ruz’s son-in-law. Other possessions include some 25% of hotels and Aerogaviota the airline – the pilots are military.
    The Castro regime is well able to defend the revolution against those of us whom you regard from afar as “unfair and narrow minded” without your volunteering to assist.

  • I am happy to see your column on this site. You bring an important experience which many others do not have.
    You are not alone in feeling defensive about the government. I am writing from a distance, with very little experience of Cuba. But it seems to me that part of the process of mobilizing the population in support of the revolution will involve far-reaching criticism, some of it unfair and narrow minded.
    The new generation must find its own way. Some younger people become impatient when they hear of the heroic struggles of the past. I saw this in regards to those who fought in WWII. No doubt they were heroic, but to some young people they appeared boring and out of it, for example in John Lennon’s movie How I Won the War.
    Yes, we want to mobilize the people in support of the revolution, but it will take more than stories of past struggles, as heroic as they were.

Comments are closed.