Elio Delgado Legon
HAVANA TIMES — One day after captain Chaviano returned from Che Guevara’s campsite, that is to say, on Friday, December 13, 1958, we all went down the hill known as El Piquito, towards the town of San Blas, to depart for El Pedrero. There, we would place ourselves under the command of Che Guevara who, on orders from Fidel Castro, had taken command of all rebel troops at the center of the country.
In order to gain time, the captain had arranged for a four-wheel drive truck and a van to take us as far down the road as possible, as Che Guevara needed to gather all of the troops as soon as possible.
Getting out of San Blas was going to be the most difficult part of the trip, for we had to head up La Ventana, a hill with a 4-kilometer-long, steep incline. Some of the members of the guerrilla climbed onto the truck and van. The others (myself included) decided to head up the hill on foot, for we didn’t think the vehicles would be able to negotiate the steep slope without any troubles and there was a chance an accident could happen.
We started up La Ventana at noon. Those of us on foot went ahead, to gain time. A short time later, the pickup truck headed out with a small group of people on board, followed by the truck. As we’d anticipated, the pickup didn’t make it to the top of the hill: the engine broke down a few meters from the highest point and was stuck in the middle of the road, blocking the truck’s way.
When the driver of the truck came upon the pickup in the middle of the road, he tried to squeeze between it and the precipice to the right, but the edge of the path gave way and the truck almost fell off the road. The few people who were still inside the truck jumped out as soon as they sensed the danger, for locals had told us that all vehicles that had fallen off the road had been completely destroyed.
The driver tied the truck to a tree at the side of the road using a thick rope he had and went in search of help. It was already past four in the afternoon and we were at the peak of the first hill, that is to say, about four kilometers from San Blas.
Captain Chaviano, who had foreseen these difficulties, had been securing a four-wheel jeep owned by a local farmer named Lino. Lino lent him the jeep, as Chaviano urgently needed to get to El Pedrero with some of his officials to start organizing the troop’s actions.
Chaviano chose the officials who were to accompany him and included me, his assistant, in the group. We left from the top of La Ventana and started down a road full of ditches. Chaviano was an experienced driver, but he had never driven up these kinds of hills and, when he went down the hill next to La Ventana and tried to skirt a rather deep ditch, the jeep tipped over to the right and fell over, leaving its tires facing up.
Nearly everyone jumped off the jeep in time, but I, who was sitting in the middle, next to the driver, was trapped under the car, and one of the tubes in the car’s body crushed my left arm and fractured my radius a little above the wrist, which was completely dislocated.
When my comrades lifted the jeep and I saw the condition my left arm was in, I was assailed by a feeling of despair and impotence, for I knew the war was coming to an end and I would not be able to take part in the final battles. I took out the pistol I was carrying and fired two rounds into the air to vent my anger. This cost me a reprimand from Captain Chaviano, who took away my gun (though he later returned it to me). I had to return to San Blas to be seen by a doctor. The captain gave me 20 pesos, in case I needed to buy anything, and a peasant lent me a horse and went with me into two, to head back on horseback.
Thus began my second stay in San Blas, while my comrades continued on their way towards El Pedrero.