16A truck load of Thompsons
16A truck load of Thompsons
The New York Times
Death of 7 Rebels Reported In
Special to The New York Times
(This was probably written by Ruby Phillips of the
HAVANA, April 25--Seven rebels were killed in an encounter with army troops on the Corral Nuevo Plantation near Holguin, Oriente Province, according to a communiqué issued today by Camp Columbia army headquarters. Seven shotguns, five rifles, and nine vehicles were captured, it said.
Headquarters also reported that rebels had assaulted the
The British Embassy in Havana has arranged a safe-conduct for two Britons, Lionel Dal(e)y, 21 (19) years old, and his brother Law(u not w)rence, 19 (21) out of the combat zone in the Sierra Maestra, where Government troops and insurgents of Fidel Castro, rebel leader, are fighting almost daily.
The young men's mother, Mrs. Leonard Dal(e)y, is now on her way to the area, where the family coffee plantation is situated.
The British Embassy also is intervening in the case of (cousin) M. J. Norman, another Briton arrested last week (about April 15th) on a charge that he is a member of the Castro 26th of July movement.
Cuban history is linked by strands of blood that thread the years to weave a tapestry of flawed heroes and of death. This episode of my memories is a complex story in which I narrate why I never encouraged the donation of Thompson submachine guns to Castro.
Such a thing seem odd, given our desperate need of weapons, until one understands the circumstances of betrayal, mistrust and fear of the time, of the past and what would happen in the future. Please let me explain at length.
Intended to close down all work places, commerce and the economy, the April 1958 the “general strike” against Batista had failed. It was now late in April.
We, Mojena's escopeteros, were again at the mountain saddle of the Cacaíto. This is on the northwestern slope of the walls of the extinct ruptured volcano that is our family’s land. This land was then never quite ruled by the Cuban government, nor the Spanish colonial government before that. Here rebellions were held in their season; and bandits commonly wandered through without harming anybody here because this was their refuge and the local people their friends.
On this same slope of the crater wall, but quite a distance higher and to the south is Pinalito. Pinalito means the small pine tree; it was the place of red earth and tall pine trees. Uncle Rafael used to send that strong, brown, merry, and very polygamous Taíno Guillermo Ramos to cut a Christmas tree there each Yule season.
Before this present season of rebellion lead by Castro, this was wild country and often ruled by Edesio Hernandez, who was know as the “King of the Sierra Maestra,” or in Time magazine as “The Tennis Shoe Bandit.” The
This town of Maffo was one of the places where in the 1930‘s the Guiteristas including Francisco Gamboa Tornés had resisted the then Dictator Machado. Guiteras and his men, at times nominal allies, would be in a death duel with Batista until 1935, when Batista killed Guiteras. We, the rebels of 1958, in our life’s season of revolt, would be there in Maffo too, as this year closed with violence and victory.
Edesio died in 1956. Unable to be defeated by direction action, Edesio was betrayed by an infiltrator whose name is not commonly known and who had joined his band of outlaws. This traitor, abided his time, and then shot Edesio in a moment of helplessness, as the “Bandit King” going cross country bent down to climb between the strands of a barbed wire fence.
The fatal fence was at a place called La Toronja (the grapefruit). La Toronja is very near where the guerrilla group that I belonged to “La Gente de Mojena” would operate in the spring and early summer of 1958 south of the town of
Of course, this betrayal was covered up in official reports which attributed Edesio’s death to military action. The day Edesio died,
Pinalito is on the western ridge of family land. Here near the house of "Chito" Chacon in November 1949 the bandit Edesio Hernandez lost one of his band, Luis Hernandez, while fighting the Guardia Rural. Luis, a nephew of Edesio, was surprised and killed by the then Chief of the Guardia Rural Station at Guisa, Lieutenant Miguel Yanes, Acting Corporal Carlos Figueredo Cabrera and soldiers Tomas Cejas and Francisco Bejerano.
Those who live by the sword also quite often die by the sword. Franciso Bejerano (also spelt Vejerano) who had retired after his little battle with Edesio’s men had re-enlisted. Vejerano was riding a mule loaned by Aunt Manuela Jiménez in 1957 when he was captured by Rene Cuervo, at the Banqueo del Oro on the upper gorge of the Bayamo river.
It is my understanding that Vejerano was executed by the Ernesto “Che” Guevara; and Aunt Manuela Jiménez’s mule was eaten by this group much to the horror of local people who like most of us did not like to eat what they ride. However, the Che was not known to follow custom or refrain from killing anything.
Tomas Cejas would be wounded, in 1958, during an ambush by Lorente's men. He would be leading a column of Batista's troops he had betrayed, on the northern face of east ridge of Los Números, at a place we kids called Banana Hill Two. This was still in the future.
At Banana Hill Two action Batista troops march on offensive, Tomas Cejas, wore the Guardia hat he left word that he was going to wear on his head leading the way up that steep slippery hill.
The rebel ambush is poorly executed, mainly because Lorente, in his greed for fame, has assigned only one of the far too widely spaced and far to inexperienced rebels to fire at one chosen soldier. Only Cejas is hit, a glancing, slashing, shot to the left shoulder. A rebel too brave for his own good, stays for a second shot and is hit by Batista soldiers fire and dies there.
Lorente then had his much desired dead hero warrior, which to him was almost as good as killing a Batista soldier. Still Lorente’s war record was scanty. After the Revolution was over he tried to make the best of it by rather stupidly accusing Corporal Cejas of the foul deed of cutting off the hands of the dead rebel for fingerprinting identification. In that way his record, and his allegiance to Castro, would be “improved” by one execution.
However, Cejas would survive a trial in Manzanillo, in 1959, at least partially because I testified truthfully he had told us that the column was coming; he grateful for my support showed me the pellet wounds in his shoulder. To the judge and to most it would be obvious if Cejas had been wounded at the start of the action, the corporal could not have done it. I think I made those particular pellets, using hollow petioles of yagruma (shake wood, Cecropia peltata) tree leaves as molds.
We, the escopetero Castro rebel group “La Gente of Mojena” have returned from our new lair in El Sordo and going west have stopped at the Cacaíto. It is the very end of April, 1958, two weeks after the general strike against Batista had failed. I had offered to stand guard all morning on a northern vantage point, at the edge of the woods high up over the Ros batey. I went along the ridge northward and lay down under the cover of trees at the edge of some woods. These were the same woods where twenty five years ago, November 13, 1933 Gamboa’s men had escaped Batista forces.
I was in the lands of my grandaunt Aurora Ramírez de Ros, one of the daughters of Don Benjamín. Less than a century before, in the 1870’s, a Spanish General, the evil Count of Valmaseda had passed through here slaughtering all civilians he could catch. Then the screams of the dying had filled the now gone forests of this valley.
From this point in 1958 I could see, far into the now almost deforested plains to the north, only small copses still exist in the pastures and on the heights of hills. At that time, abundant trees still dotted the pastures. The view was magnificent. In a wide stretching panorama full of beauty and detail, I could see the opening gap between Loma la Viuda and Las Bocas, as the River Bayamo flowed into the plains. This river, I knew, is going on to flow past Bayamo and on to meet the
I heard a noise, and looked towards the Camino Real just north of the Corojo hamlet. And saw a truck, on the west side of the
Worried that Batista’s army was coming I ran back to the other rebels. They lounging in the safety of a tree shaded shallow hollow on the ridge, just laughed and told me that trucks can now move along the road because the April strike was over.
Then much to my surprise, I find that Mother and my stepfather Enrique Sanz Sariol (of the anti-Batista Organización Auténtica) are waiting for me. They had dared visited me traveling from
My parents have come from Guisa, riding in a four-wheel drive bus, a rebuilt WWII surplus
Mayoral Blanco was waiting for them at the La Casa de los Generales with horses. Then my parents had ridden along the less traveled, tree shaded paths of the east side, our side, of the
Mother and Enrique ride a little up the western ridge going towards the mountains along the road to Guamá above “Las Lajas” pools on the river, and below the pass of the Barrenos. Then passing through a gate they go from there into the Ros’s land. They travel on the uplifted massive lava flow.
Suddenly, where the cliffs have broken in some forgotten mighty cataclysm, they leave the road. And crossing the pastures they descend riding on a rough path through a hidden wooded cleft made by an intermittent stream.
Staying close to the cover of the cliffs they go along the old, now dry bed, of the
My mother and Enrique pass the lumber mill of Antonio Geronimo. As close to the hills and away far as possible from the dangerous river edge is a two story house, made of raw but precious wooden and raised on stilts in the Louisiana Florida swampland style with wide roofed verandas. This is the where the post office is located.
Here live three merry sisters, middle aged in 1958. They are the daughters of Adelaida (tía Adela) Enamorado y Cabrera, and Jesús De La Guardia, a commander in the armies of the wars of Cuban liberation from the Spanish. Their women’s names are Iluminada (Lala), who was never quite with it, Maria (Marita) and Antonia (Ñiquin).
These women are slim and bird like seemingly always happy, and often given to lecherous gossip. When we were younger, my brother, male cousins and I would visit there, to pick up mail and do errands, or to wait before our Spanish tutor Húmberto Naranjo arrived. After serving lemonade in tall brightly colored glasses and homemade cookies they would talk to us. They enjoyed embarrassing us English raised boys with lewd, but gentle, jests.
Ñiquin means little Antonia. Antonia is wife to Antonio Geronimo we always called him that because there were other Antonios in the family. His given name was Antonio Jerónimo Jiménez y Ramírez.
Antonio Geronimo travels in his large flat bed truck seeking logs of precious woods for his sawmill. Tropical woods for technical reasons of plant pathology and dispersion mechanisms, as well as their relative scarcity are scattered far and wide, thus gathering them is quite a task. However, fine tropical woods are very valuable and this makes it all worthwhile. He makes a good living.
Antonio Geronimo as befitting his condition as a man of his stature has at least one other woman a common law wife to comfort him when he is traveling. His second family includes a beautiful daughter; however that is another story.
Antonio Geronimo was happy man. Mother still recalls how Antonio sang long, long ago:
“Quien no se acuerda ya,
cuando en el batey,
si no andamos listos,
se nos confunde un buey.
Quien no se acuerda ya……”
Which translates roughly to:
“Who does not recall now of the days gone bye,
when in our own compound batey,
if we were not smart and swift to dodge an ox
would have hooked and gored.
Who does not remember of those days gone bye!
The singing has turned to silence, all family are gone now to the safety of Bayamo or
Going on, it is hot in the pastures; they hear only the cries of birds, the scurry of lizards and the beat of their mounts’ hooves. They pass the Ros’s tidy batey with its all elegant wood frame house.
At the Ros’s batey the great white guard dogs Gestapo and OGPU are also gone. These dogs despite their huge size and ferocious appearance had tolerated us kids and sometimes walked for many miles with us. One time I had to pull a live kitten out of Gestapo’s mouth; I still hope it had lived on unharmed.
Mother recalls the heavy uncomfortable furnishings inside the Ros’s house. She and Enrique ride passed English lawns now turning wild, tidy fences, and coffee drying aprons. These buildings, unwisely set on part of the flood plain, the place of the little black man, the mythical water sprite called the Jigüe, seducer of women, will be gone soon in the Bayamo River’s coming rage.
Mother and Enrique go by the now also abandoned store of Uncle Norman’s and the concrete slab on which he had cattle butchered in open air; and crowds of country people had gathered to buy the still warm meat.
Enrique is thinking, I am sure, of his own dangers. He, when studying engineering in the
Enrique now secretly belongs to the “action group” of José Lauro Blanco Muñiz they are negotiating an alliance with Castro. That will not last long, Lauro Blanco two years later will be jailed by the Cuban dictator for thirty years.
At the University, such students as Fidel Castro, Rolando Masferrer and others like them had been gunmen belonged to more violent organizations. Thus, potentially Castro’s officials, could be as dangerous to Enrique, as Masferrer the Batista ally whose stealthy forces, the “Tigers of Masferrer,” occasionally also frequented the area. Enrique, a brave man but wise in the ways of armed resistance, certainly would push these ideas from his thoughts, for they interfere with what he is about to try to do.
Nearby, and slightly further on and raised slightly above the Bayamo River flood plain was the house that Uncle Calixto Mario had built with beams of precious ripple grained yellow wood. My memory recalls it as having a wide peaked roof. The beams which Uncle Calixto Mario was so proud of were probably made of Ayúa, which is the Taíno name for the great tree tropical called in English, West Indian satinwood.
Uncle Calixto Mario is safe in
My parents, their horses leaning forward, hoofs digging in, take the steep road up the hills towards the coffee plantations at el Cacaíto. They somehow know that we escopeteros are hiding here.
Mother rides her chestnut gelding, “Rusty.” She, as an Independence War General’s daughter should, rides well. Rusty is a beautiful horse, long mane, tail, and handsome small Arabian head.
A hank of hair from Rusty’s mane hangs over his forehead; he looks from his huge eyes as if he has almost human intelligence. Both horses Rusty and the white mare, as most horses in
Both riders use long comfortable stirrups. Here in the hills only some of the Ros, such as elegant frail Cousin-Aunt Aurorita rode using short jumping stirrups attached to the flat tortillas of uncomfortable English saddles. Aurorita is Uncle Rafael’s wife and Grand Aunt Aurora and Antonio Ros’s daughter.
Uncle Marcos had loved Aurorita very much, and was quite upset when Aurorita chose his taller, more serious, more responsible brother Rafael. It is said that well cherished daughters often grow up to love and marry men like their fathers; this seemed to be true in this circumstance.
Antonio Ros had been
Uncle Rafael died before this war against Batista. He, overworked by his responsibilities, died very suddenly of a scratch that suddenly turned to septicemia. Aurorita was extremely distraught when her beloved passed away.
Mother is no way as serious as Aurorita; I am sure for this is her want, she jokes as she rides easily and well in a light US Calvary surplus McClelland saddle. She is surely smiling watching Enrique sit, uncertain, uncomfortable and wobbly city style.
Despite the smooth riding horse and the comfortable saddle, Enrique, a tall heavy and not too fit a man, was tired. He, fated to die early of heart attack, would refuse to eat the salad mother always served. Saying:
Enrique curses eloquently in florid, long and ancient Spanish phrases as he always does under stress. Enrique rides mumbling, insulting and blaspheming ancient, almost forgotten, Mediterranean gods, desecrating, defecating on the head of Zeus, defaming goddess Astarte the biblical sacred prostitute of
“!!!Yo me cago en la cabeza de Zeuta, y en la gran puta de Babilonia!!!”
The white horse flicks his ears to listens his curses, then realizing they are not orders, wisely ignores his talk and moves steadily, legs “kneeing” high, pacing up the mountainside. Enrique is quite sore after he gets to Cacaíto, but there after he dismounts he is as talkative as ever.
Enrique stands tall in the dark below the coffee shade trees and among the mature coffee bushes growing beneath them. His feet are on the ground at last, among the duff of fallen leaves. The ground is dry; the rainy season ruts and hoof holes are now diminished dents on the hard and bumpy path.
Enrique takes off his hat and holds it in his hand by his side; his straight dark hair is combed uncompromisingly back with Vaseline as was the custom of those times. I can see his hair is already receding severely at the sides, making him look vaguely demonic.
Enrique was not wearing his dark suit as was his custom in the city, nor the flimsy linen guayabera jacket as was custom of most in
Mother’s high cheekbones mark her partial Taína inheritance across herr strong maturely beautiful face. Her face is shaded below a wide brimmed floppy yarey palm frond hat. She wears her usual country outfit, a low cut blouse over her full breasts, and baggy, simple cotton riding pants and short boots.
Mother stands at his side to let Enrique talk. He talks, and I listen; yet I know that Mother had been as much an organizer and motivator of this trip as he.
I worry silently about Mother. She has been through so much already. She has sheltered the anti-Batista underground, providing meeting places. She had quietly counseling caution to the crazy ones, helping facilitate movement of weapons and supplies, mourned the dead in her apartment building, worrying about her doomed cousin Calixto Sanchez on who’s armed expedition against Batista rides the fate of the Authenticos and her jailed relatives.
Mother worries especially about her four children and her husband, all of whom were involved in the resistance to some degree. Having heard the sounds of death in
The document was obtained at the Guisa Cuartel through mediation of one of the few surviving Mambí Generals (Enrique Loynaz del Castillo). General del Castillo is the last of the great men of honor, that were the Cuban generals of the Wars of Independence.
General Loynaz del Castillo had served with grandfather the century before. They were in “La Invasion” together serving under the command of the great cavalry general, the Bronze Titan, Antonio Maceo. La Invasion was a massive campaign of the last Cuban War of Independence that took the war from one end to the other of the
Loynaz, was an educated man of action. Just before the last Cuban war of Independence of 1895-1898, he shot down, a would be assassin a crazed Spaniard, who was ready to finish with his second shot the already wounded Maceo in Costa Rica. In this last great war, Loynaz also wrote the music and text of the Invasion’s theme, “El Himno Invasor.” His unit had seen combat in innumerable actions.
Loynaz’s was fearless. His war record is a litany of exotic place names, recording battles fought along the length of that 760 mile long Island: Guaramanao, Lavado, la Reforma, Iguará, Casa de Tejas, Manacal, Boca de Toro, El Quirro, Mal Tiempo, La Colmena, Ingenio Antilla, Coliseo, Calimonte, Central Maria, Isabela, El Estante… and endless other places. At Iguará he and grandfather had been among the Cuban forces that unknowingly fought against young Winston Churchill.
At “Paso de Damas,” the “Ford of the Ladies,” Loynaz had two horses killed under him. Fighting in far western
General del Castillo has strong bonds to out family. In 1906 Loynaz del Castillo, then a member of the Cuban House of Representatives, had also won decisive victories in the Veteranos and Patriotas rising while “Tio” Grandfather’s half brother, Mambi General Carlos Garcia Velez, one of the principals in that revolt, caught in
General Enrique Loynaz del Castillo had decisively beaten Estrada
This defeat forced the retreat of Estrada Palmas forces and essentially made his point. Estrada Palma, old, grumpy, parsimonious, and stubborn, did not get his constitutionally prohibited second turn in office. Fred Funston, one of Great grandfather’s old officers, and now a senior General in the US Army negotiated a truce. For this
And the second
If Loynaz del Castillo, diplomat, musician and Independence War hero, was a man to be trusted, Batista certainly was not was not.
This was not 1898, nor 1906, or even the time of Menocal victories in the Chambelona War 1917. Then Grandfather had led a victorious column of cavalry to the old battle ground in and around the town of
During aftermath of the 1933 Revolt against Machado, the fading Mambi under former President Menocal lost the last of their military influence fighting the against Batista’s consolidation of power. The New Dealers in
By 1958, most of the old Mambí, the warriors of honor of the Wars of Independence had died, and they had gone to their reward. Those who had survived had their survivors political power was essentially broken two decades ago by Batista. Now, Mambí such as General Loynaz had only their prestige.
Batista, was once limited in his viciousness, he had killed only selected surrendered enemies, at the shoot-out of the Hotel Nacional and the Battle of Atarés in 1933. Tony Guiteras his ally and rival in these actions had wanted to kill all prisoners.
Just days later, at the end of that same year Batista’s minions had killed at Guamá on our own land, despite the desperate pleas for mercy of great grandmother Doña Lica (Manuelita) Enamorado. Batista was not looking to hurt the family but to kill Guiterras’ men, the family members were simply in the way.
Batista in his second dictatorship did not do better. Now, in the 1950s, the dictator had hardened even further and was now increasingly ruthless; essentially all his surrendered opponents were killed. He was trying to suppress revolt by littering the country with corpses.
Although the dictator had uniquely spared the Castro brothers after Moncada, one needed to know that may well have been because Raul Castro was Batista’s godchild. Most others who surrendered in these years, as they did at different times and many occasions, and next month they were killed, as would be Calixto Sanchez White and all the members of his “Corynthia” expedition. Such tactics favored Castro as well as Batista since they eliminated the rivals of the new dictator to be.
This was the coming of a greater ruthlessness to
Mother and Enrique knew the circumstances far better than I. Once I had said no to the Salvo Conducto, my parents spoke to me of their real purpose, in English, a language that only I of the rebels there understood.
They offered a me a "truckload" of Thompsons. These weapons seemed to have survived from the attack on the Palace and were not accessible to the doomed expedition of the Corinthia lead by ill fated cousin Calixto Sanchez White that would land May 24 of this year.
By then I knew that the people at headquarters deep in the Sierra demanded all real war weapons. We of Mojena's escopeteros were always stripped of our good weapons that came our way and then these guns were sent to others deemed by our superiors be more loyal to them. And having some nascent worries that these weapons might fall into the hands of those such as Lorente who I knew to be communists, I decided not to act on this.
Thus, although surprised at the visit and honored by the very valuable offer of weapons I told Mother and Enrique that I thought the circumstances too dangerous for a second try and counseled caution, and a safer destination for these Thompsons.
Larry Daley Copyright@2002, 2004, 2006