Elio Delgado Legón
HAVANA TIMES — I had received confirmation that I could join the guerrilla camp some days before. It was my window of opportunity, as it was relatively close by and the farmer who carried supplies to the campsite could lead me there.
The news reached me through Albor, the liaison between the guerrilla and the 26th of July Movement leadership in the area. We were to set out for the camp on October 1 at noon. We would catch a bus to the junction next to the Washington sugar refinery, where the farmer would be waiting for me on the railroad car that would take us to the town surrounding the Espinal refinery. From there, we would reach the campsite (some 3 kilometers from the town) on foot or horseback.
The preparations prior to the date of departure were intense. I bought a pair of boots, and a piece of olive-green canvas and fabric to make a hammock and uniform. Both were sown by Odile, a woman who was collaborating with the movement and was privy to my revolutionary activities.
The leadership of the 26th of July Movement gave me a number of bullets of different calibers and a package with medicine, to have me deliver these to the guerrilla.
I had to do this with the utmost discretion, as I had been in jail several times and, if I was detained carrying these things, I was a dead man.
As planned, I placed all of my belongings in a sack and headed towards the bus stop, just as the bus was nearing the stop, to avoid drawing people’s attention.
I got on the bus and sat down. All of my muscles were tense. If a police officer decided to stop me, all was lost. Discreetly, I cast a glance towards the back of the bus. There were many empty seats. Luckily, there were no police officers on the bus. It was a 10-minute ride to the refinery junction. The ten, extremely tense minutes passed. If I didn’t run into any henchman along the way, I’d be sleeping at the campsite by nightfall. That is what I was thinking when I made out the junction and the railway car waiting there.
As the bus began to slow down and the stop came into view, I saw something I had not expected: the junction was practically being monitored by a rural police patrol car. There was a military jeep parked in front of the road and four officers at either side of the railroad, holding machine guns and on the alert.
The bus was about to come to a stop and I had to make a decision. I had two alternatives: one was staying on the bus and getting off somewhere where I could catch a bus back to the place, but I ran the risk of being detained somewhere else and losing my chance of joining the guerrilla camp, something I had been planning for a long time. The second alternative was getting off in front of the officers, knowing full well what was in store for me if they detained me.
The bus stopped and some passengers began to get off. I hadn’t yet made my decision. When the last passenger got off, I quickly stood up and walked to the door. My temples were throbbing with nervousness.
Luckily, the heart of a 21-year-old was beating in my chest. I got off holding the sack in one hand and didn’t look at anyone. I fixed my gaze on the car that was waiting for me. I felt the stares of the four officers on my back. I crossed the road and headed directly for the railroad car. I got on and sat down. Only then did I cast a sideways glance at the patrol car and saw that that the officers were still standing there, on guard, apparently waiting for something suspicious to come their way.
The railroad car started and departed slowly. It crossed the road and sped up, leaving the police behind. I turned to look at the passengers. All of the seats were taken by men with sunburnt skins and calloused hands that gripped a machete or sickles. Some wore weathered guano hats, others grease-stained caps. In short, nothing to worry out. Only then was I able to take a deep breath and relax my muscles, which I had unwittingly contracted. The noise of the car rolling down the tracks was music to my ears. That night, I would reach the campsite at last.