The Retreat

Elio Delgado Legon

Farm house. Photo: Elio Delgado Valdés

HAVANA TIMES — After the ambush by the Ciego river, still under a heavy fire that ripped the bark off trees, we split up into three groups to break through the enemy fence.

This was late 1958 and the two groups that went down the road met with some resistance and caused the army some casualties, achieving their aim without enduring any losses themselves. I was in the group that retreated up the hill, led by the captain. We didn’t run into anyone in our way and advanced, without any setbacks, until nearing the central highway, late at night. We began looking for the best place to cross the road.

We again neared the place where, the 2nd of the month, we had attacked the military train and lost comrade Sabino. This time around, we crossed the highway closer to the Hatuey beer factory. Less than 300 meters from there, we crossed the central railroad and then had to walk a very long distance, across an open field covered entirely with marabou brush (whose thorns would tear and rip our clothes).

I don’t know how long it took us to cross that marabou field, but, when we put it behind us, we felt very relieved, as we were able to continue on our way without running into any obstacles in the dark of night, obstacles that could have caused the column to split up at any crossroads.

We headed south and walked all night, with only one 15-minute break to recover our strength. We arrived at the El Platano ranch well into the morning and made contact with an elderly man who lived alone in a hovel that looked fragile enough to be blown over by the breeze. As we were far from any means of transportation, we set up camp and relaxed around the hovel and waited for the rest of our comrades to arrive.

Shortly after noon, one of the two detachments that had broken through the enemy fence down the road arrived and began sharing their stories. They had arrived later than planned because they had gone in the wrong direction at night and had to wait till morning to get their bearings and find the meet-up place. The third group hadn’t arrived, however, and we didn’t know anything about it. The captain’s father was in that group, and he was very worried throughout the day.

From the information given us by the group that arrived after us we knew we had been attacked by some 400 soldiers under the command of Colonel Jose Eleuterio Pedraza a personal friend and trusted subordinate of dictator Fulgencio Batista.

The third group arrived the following day in the morning, after walking all night, as it was very dangerous to advance during the day down the path they’d chosen. They had decided to set up camp and wait for night, an ally of our under-armed guerrilla lacking in munitions (things that would have allowed us to engage in longer combat).

The following day, when we’d all recovered from the long night walks, we headed towards the south, again at night, and arrived at La Margarita ranch, where the captain informed the troops he had orders from the 26th of July Movement cell in the province to head towards the Escambray mountain range, to join the Ciro Redondo column commanded by Che Guevara. The column had arrived from the Sierra Maestra and was already operating in the province of Las Villas.

The journey would be long and risky, as there were no heavily-wooded mountains or hills where we could hide. It was all open fields and we ran the risk of being attacked by the army again. Some comrades said they weren’t willing to make the trip and said they would remain in the area where we’d been fighting till then.

In upcoming posts that follow, I will tell of the events that took place during our journey towards the Escambray mountains.

7 thoughts on “The Retreat

  • You’re talking about food? This from a man who supports the revolution that brought communism to Cuba? ….what is it that we Cubans say? The revolutions three greatest failures are Breakfast, lunch and dinner!

  • Elio is a far better writer when he waxes nostalgic in recounting personal experiences during Castros revolution. The truth is that his oral history is difficult to refute and as more revolutionary fighters pass, fewer eye witnesses remain alive to counter his stories. It is when he ventures into present-day issues that the science fiction begins.

  • You’re certainly educating me Kennedy! Keep ’em coming! Actually, I like Elio and would love some day to have a tall Mojito with him but let’s try to get the machine rolling with some new ideas! ps, I don’t celebrate X-Mas!

  • Bjmack, Christ was cucified over two thousand yearsn ago, yet,we celebrate the event every year. Columbus arrived in this part of the world in 1492 and we have him in our history books. Why do you believe that the Cubans who are the most educated people in the wolrd would suddenly forget the benefits reaped under the Revolution, just because they now have access to cell-phones and the Americans are coming? What is so Special about the Americans whose country has a host of unemployed, homeless and hungry people searching the garbage bins for food. I saw on the internet yesterday where a worker in a school cafeteria was sacked because the food which was left over was giveen to some hungry students. The food should have been dumped rather than be fed to the students who were hungry. What a system, Is this what you want the Cubans to revert to? Come on Bjmack?

  • Cubans are not alone in remembering past battles. In Canada we often talk of past battles. In fact the Canadian government spent $28 million to commemorate the War of 1812.
    I, for one, am very interested in hearing about the experience of war and revolution, even while I have been spared having to go through it myself.

  • Elio, usually you get a whole lot of comments but this seems to be the least of your posts. Personally, the revolution that you are so fond of perpetuating is kinda of over and Cuba is having a bit of a problem so the question is what solutions do you have presently? Can you post something that will
    benefit your fellow Cuban’s rather than post what happened over fifty years ago?

  • I think a book of your adventures would be very interesting . cheers Bob

Comments are closed.