Elio Delgado Legón

HAVANA TIMES — Shortly after Fidel Castro began the war against Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorship at the Sierra Maestra mountain range, I asked the leadership of the 26th of July Movement in the province of Las Villas to send me to a guerrilla front, as carrying on with my clandestine urban activities was becoming very difficult (I already had a police record and they were keeping an eye on my every move).

The leadership of the movement told me it wasn’t possible, because there weren’t enough weapons for all combatants and many guerrilla fighters were unarmed at the Sierra. At the end of 1957, I again approached them saying I needed to join the rebels at the Sierra Maestra, but my request was denied again. They told me they would let me know when it was possible, so that I could join the front created in the province by Victor Bordon Machado.

In the first days of April, 1958, the 26th of July coordinator in my town told me three of us had to leave with him for the camp headed by Bordon, which was located behind some hills one could reach on foot. He had gone before and knew how to get there.

In the afternoon, just before nightfall so as not to be seen, the four of us met in the outskirts of the town and headed for the hills, to try and reach the campsite before dawn. We walked the entire night and the only one of us who knew the way seemed to be lost. The next day, he tried to get his bearings. That night, we reached the home of a coal worker who told us Bordon and his troops had left, headed for Quemado de Guines. Our coorindator, who was our superior, decided that we should return to the town before the police became aware that we were missing.

My shirt was tattered from walking among marabou brushes and I couldn’t let anyone see me. We walked all night and reached the town just before dawn. Each of us headed in a different direction to get home. I had walk through the town and needed a shirt.

I decided to knock at the door of a revolutionary who belonged to a different organization. He lived in the outskirts of the town. The man, whose name was Ernesto Leon, got up and offered me one of his shirts. He was much more corpulent than I was (I was quite skinny), but I took the shirt anyways, tucking it under my pants so that it didn’t look so baggy.

As dawn broke, I went into town and headed for the home of the owner of the hardware store where I had been working for a little over year. His daughters were revolutionaries and he lived somewhere I could reach without exposing myself too much. From there, I sent for some clothes from home. When I had changed, I headed to the hardware store to work.

We later found out Bordon had left some men waiting for us at the campsite and that the orders to mobilize were related to a general strike scheduled for the 9th of the month. The column was to participate in actions in support of the strike.

After this failed attempt at joining the guerrilla, I had to wait until October to join another guerrilla campsite operating in the area under the command of Captain Julio Chaviano – but I will save that story for another post.


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.

7 thoughts on “My First Failed Attempt at Joining Cuba’s Rebels

  • Thanks Elio, I enjoyed your essay, it is good to read some balanced accounts instead of the bitter recalcitrant “I am against anything” type that abound here. You were part of an heroic generation.

  • Yeah, my Latin teacher in California in high school, was the son of the dean of Havana University – Castro’s men carried him out of his office in his chair, because he refused to leave the university – I guess they put his whole family on the boat and shipped them off to Florida – I heard about Cuba –

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