Elio Delgado Legon
HAVANA TIMES — Painfully, we moved away from Crespi Hill and headed towards the Escambray mountain range. We walked all afternoon, without taking a break, and, as night fell, completely exhausted, we stopped for a while to regain our strength, confident the army had not followed us, for some strange reason.
Later, we were informed that the detachment that had been trailing us was commanded by lieutenant Regueira, an official we knew, as he had been chief of the rural police in Santo Domingo. As a trained military man, he must have figured out we were heading for the Escambray but, instead of cutting us off, what he did was push us along on our way. This demonstrates that not all military officers were willing to get blood on their hands to defend a tyrannical regime.
After a short rest, we continued on our way, now walking more slowly, as we were entering an unknown area. The guide went ahead of us on horseback to see where he could find something to eat. At around two in the morning, we arrived at the house of a peasant who’d cooked some sweet potatoes for us (the only thing he had). We all had a bit of boiled sweet potato and a sip of coffee and continued on our way. As dawn broke, we crossed the road, from Sancti Spiritus to Trinidad and, before heading up the first hills, arrived at a dairy farm, where we were offered a bit of freshly-squeezed milk.
While resting at the dairy, the captain asked me to write a letter addressed to Commander Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo, head of the Second Escambray Front (the area we were heading to was in the hands of this guerrilla front). While the two officers headed off to deliver the letter and bring back the answer, we stayed behind to rest. Before noon, the two arrived with the answer: we could set up camp at a place called Mina Carlota, but we had to hand in all of our weapons. Even the two emissaries had had to hand in their weapons.
We headed up the hill slowly, as none of us was used to climbing hills. We slipped and fell here and there as we marched nearly all afternoon, until arriving at a two-story wooden house where Anastasio Cardenas had set up his headquarters. He let us stay in the house and its surroundings, and welcomed us with a meal the likes of which we had not seen in a long time.
The captain argued the issue of having our guns taken from us and we were finally allowed to keep ours and those taken from the officers were returned, but they told us we had to stay with them.
The first night at Mina Carlota was hectic. Not because we were attacked by the army, but because nearly all of the members of the guerrilla, who weren’t used to having proper meals and hadn’t eaten in several days, got diarrhea and spent the entire night running off to the bathroom or anywhere else.
At Mina Carlota, the captain left us under the command of lieutenant Esmildo Chaviano and other officials and headed off for El Pedrero, on the other side of the hills, to meet with Che Guevara and coordinate our incorporation into the troops of the Ciro Redondo Column that he had brought from the Sierra Maestra. We spent 10 days at Mina Carlota waiting for the captain. Our stay there, and how we managed to leave the place, will be the subject of my next story.