Elio Delgado Legon
HAVANA TIMES — After parting with the members of the guerrilla who chose to stay behind, unwilling to make the trip towards the Escambray mountain range, and sending two men who had wounded themselves accidentally while handling their weapons to see different doctors, we left the La Margarita ranch at night and headed towards an area that lay further south, named El Salado. I am talking about the year 1958.
We stayed at El Salado two days, until coming into contact with a guide they had recommended us, who had agreed to lead us in our journey. The guide, Joseito, joined the column and we left at night fall, as we had to pass near two towns: Santa Isabel de las Lajas y Cruces. We also had to cross farm areas that were quite populated.
We walked all night. It was so dark you couldn’t see two meters ahead of you and the guide lost his bearings. We almost walked into the barracks of the rural police at Santa Isabel de las Lajas. Later, we passed very near the town next to the Caracas sugar refinery and arrived at the road leading from La Esperanza to Cienfuegos, as dawn was breaking, very near the town of Cruces.
Risking being spotted (which we were), we decided to cross the road, as there was nowhere to hide at that spot. We crossed the road and made our way into a nearby sugarcane field, where we all gathered up. We were around 90 men in total.
On orders from the captain, the guide headed to Cruces and contacted the leadership of the 26th of July Movement in the municipality so they would bring us something to eat. In the mid-afternoon, they brought us some crackers and guava jelly and informed us that, at nightfall, a tractor hauling a cart would take us as far as it could go during the night. We also learned that the rural police lieutenant had been informed of our presence near the town and had become very nervous, but had not tried to attack us.
The roads were truly disastrous those days, and the tractor with the cart had to make a huge effort to carry us to a place that was fairly distant from populated areas, so that we could continue on foot towards the Escambray. We advanced a few kilometers and came across a small hill, called Crespi, which had some vegetation we could hide behind in the event planes flew over us. Several farmers lived near the hill and one of them prepared some rice and pork for us at around two in the afternoon. They also brought us some cheese.
As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end, and that’s what happened to us. First of all, the food they brought us was so salty it was hard to eat. Secondly, as we were half way through our lunch (the only proper meal we’d had in two days), the comrade who was keeping watch at the top of the hill came running and told us the army was nearing us from the other end of the hill. We quickly got ready to continue on our way towards the Escambray Mountains, which were already visible in the distance. This time, we marched quickly, as, while leaving, we saw that the army had already closed in on the stop we had set up camp at, where we had left almost all of the food.
To be continued…