Front Door to Cuba

from
Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolution
By Che Guevara

…we were eating our meager rations - half a sausage and two crackers - when we heard a shot. In a matter of seconds a hurricane of bullets - or at least this is what it seemed to my anxious mind during that trial by fire - rained on the troop of eighty-two men.

I felt a terrible blow on the chest and another in the neck, and was sure I was dead. Arbentosa, spewing blood from his nose, mouth and an enormous wound from a .45 bullet, shouted something like, "They've killed me," and began to fire wildly, although no one was visible at that moment. From the ground I said to Faustino, "They've got me" (but I used a stronger expression). Still firing, Faustino glanced at me and told me it was nothing, but in his eyes I read a sentence of death from my wound.

Castro and rebels in Sierra Maestra

I immediately began to wonder what would be the best way to die, now that all seemed lost. I remembered an old story of Jack London's in which the hero, knowing that he is condemned to freeze to death in the icy reaches of Alaska, leans against a tree and decides to end his life with dignity. This is the only image I remember. Someone, crawling near me, shouted that we'd better surrender, and behind me I heard a voice, which I later learned belonged to Camilo Cienfuegos, shouting back: "Here no one surrenders…"

I am not sure of this, for I was thinking more of the bitterness of our defeat and the imminence of my death than of the specific incidents of the battle. We walked until night prevented us from going any further, and we decided to sleep huddled together. We were attacked by mosquitoes, tortured by thirst and by hunger. Such was our baptism of fire on December 5, 1956, in the district of Niquero. Such was the beginning of what would become the Rebel Army.

The majority of the 82 revolutionaries that came to Cuba on the 60-foot yacht named "Granma" were killed or captured, but a few escaped to the Sierra Maestra, including the Castro brothers, Fidel and Raul, Che Guevara, Camilo Cienfuegos and a handful of others.
Photo shows Fidel Castro (2nd from left) and Cuban Rebels in the Sierra Maestra Mountains.


Related:
Che Guevara Timeline | The landing of the Granma | Frank País and the Underground Movement, and Battle of Jigüe, from Terrence Cannon's: Revolutionary Cuba | Contents: Before the Revolution | Cuba in the 1950s | Cuba in the 1960s

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