Elio Delgado Legon
HAVANA TIMES — Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorship lasted from March 10, 1952 until December 31, 1958, a time period during which over 20,000 people were killed. The majority were murdered by the police or the Cuban rural guard, normally after having been tortured in the most horrible way a human being could imagine.
On many occasions, these murders fell under the category of “massacres” because it wasn’t only one person to be killed but several at a time, after having been caught in night raids.
The first event of this kind that I can remember took place during the Christmas celebrations in the old Oriente province, when 23 young revolutionaries were killed in a blood orgy between the 23rd and 26th December 1956. They were taken from their homes, tortured and then killed after which they were dumped on highways, in fields, under a bridge, left hanging from a tree… which the dictatorship cynically baptized “Operation Christmas Present” and which the Cuban people named “Bloody Christmas”.
On November 23, 1957, Colonel Fermin Cowley Gallegos, the man behind the Bloody Christmas and the mass killing of expeditionaries on board the Corinthia yacht, paid for his crimes when he was executed in Holguin city by members of the July 26th Revolutionary Movement.
This hitman’s death touched the regime, and a few hours later, dozens of soldiers in tanks and trucks stopped hundreds of citizens to “interrogate them” using the cruelest of tortures. The criminals took their revenge and in a new blood orgy they killed six young revolutionary members of the 26th July Movement on December 9th.
Another massacre, which just remembering it almost 60 years later still makes me sick in the stomach and angry, is the one known as the “Cabañas Massacre”, which took place in the town of the same name in Pinar del Rio.
It all began as an act of revenge for a guerrilla attack that took place around November 16, 1958. An article published recently by the Cuban News Agency describes the events as the following:
“The first ones killed were young farmers Bernardino and Jose Isabel Miranda, two brothers who lived near San Claudio, who were suspicious to Batista’s hitmen for the simple fact that they were walking at the place where the attack took place, heading towards the fields to work, very early in the morning.
“That same day, at night, they were taken from their home, brutally beaten and then hanged along the highway, where they were left hanging as a lesson and warning about what would happen over the following days.
“In the afternoon of the 18th, another young man, Gonzalo Rivero, who suffered from a mental illness, paid dearly for his curiosity: a large group of “helmets” who were getting off a truck, started beating and kicking him, they took him towards the mountains where he was killed, alongside Octavio Campos, Regino Ramos and Jose Benito Diaz, who came out to defend the mentally disabled man.
“In the late morning of November 19th, a jeep loaded with soldiers, went from door to door and to workplaces, looking for alleged guerrilla collaborators and enemies of the regime. They took them to the Cuban Rural Guard’s barracks, they stripped them of their belongings and gave them a beating that lasted almost 12 hours, to then go on and kill them and bury them in the Guasimal farm.
“In the early hours of November 20, 1958, Batista’s henchmen mercilessly killed Domingo Alvarez, Modesto Trujillo, Francisco Rodriguez, Isidoro Roque, Roberto Nodarse and Marcos Antonio Lafa; as well as two other detainees who weren’t from Cabanas but were being held prisoner in the barracks and ended up with the same fate.
“The tragic story goes that Marcos Antonio Lafa had his shoes taken away from him and was made to walk barefoot on rocks and thorns, and that when his feet were destroyed, and aware of the fact that death would be his fate, he refused to carry on walking and asked them to kill him there and then.
“Francisco Rodriguez was a courageous member of the July 26th Movement. The soldiers knew about his proven manhood and so when when they realized that he wouldn’t inform on his colleagues, in spite of the terrible torture they submitted him to, they castrated him and then – for the executioners who were there’s “fun” – they tied his genitals to his neck, just before they hung him like they did to the rest.
“The nightmare that began in Cabanas on November 17, 1958 which lasted until December 31 of the same year, would only come to an end when the Revolution triumphed on January 1,1959.”
This is the story which we should never forget.