29 TODAY I TALKED TO MY COUSIN MICHAEL HATSWELL
29 Today I talked to my cousin Michael Hatswell
Today, in 1997, I talked to my cousin Michael Hatswell; we had not talked for years. Michael Hatswell remembers the “little dead,” those of who were killed, and who outside of their family were attributed “little importance or power”.
Michael is a son of Aunt Bitina (
Michael talked of Campeón the little black man who the Rural Guard shot in the time of the Batista's last dictatorship, when resistance had begun but had not yet gathered force, perhaps 1955 or 1956. Campeón died, shot tied to a fence post on the ridge line of rocky ancient lava flows of the Barrenos road between the ford at El Corojo and Guamá.
Michael talked how of Campeón's mother had cried, and for long nights had lit candles that flickered in the wind. How the flickering candles brought thoughts of ghosts to that place where violent death visited too often.
We talked of how Uncle Levarbo, had been drunk there too for he too, in years before, in 1934, had faced death from Batista troops on that ridge line of the gigantic upturned tilted slab of igneous rock. Others had died there then, but Levarbo lived.
In his re-lived fear and drunken rage, Levarbo threatened
Uncle Calixto Leonel kept his focus constant on his task kept driving, for this was not a safe road. As the four wheel army surplus truck, our “Sapa” jumped over the uneven ancient lava flows. We traveled between the great cliff that fell vertically into the
There in 1933 trying to reach for the cover of this ceja de monte, two of Gamboa’s rebels had lagged behind the main group, because each been riding double behind a fellow rebel. Their horses’ withers had been straining, bunching to desperately leap up hill. The Batista troops had fired their
Cousins and uncles restraining an older Levarbo; Lionel my brother and Michael sat quietly, moving their heads and backs to smooth the jolts of the truck, on the hard wooden benches of the truck. We kids did not understand that Levarbo suffered the warrior's disease; he suffered from delayed stress syndrome. Now we children are just puzzled then, Michaela and I would learn too much about DSS in later years.
Down below the great cliff the last caiman the last little Cuban crocodile of the area hid. Its presence was only made known by its tracks on the river's sands. Michael and I had made a great iron hook to catch it, and showed it proudly to Uncle Joe. We were lectured for our stupidity and watched our plans of great hunting evaporate as Uncle Joe forbade us carry out our dangerous task.
On the west side of ridge the slopes ended in the naked rocks of the pools of Lajas on the Bayamo river. There as two skinny little children Michael, dark haired like his mother and his little brother Garry who had gotten his tow-flax gold, hair from his father, had collected caguayo lizards from the trees and thrown them into the water. The lizards had swum rapidly, but not fast enough for the great bass that rose and took almost all the little reptiles before they reached the safety of the variegated, multicolored, speckled drum sized boulders of the flood plane on the other side.
Michael tells me of the two bloody beaten bandits lead bleeding to their deaths by Rural Guards. He saw this as a child in Cacaíto at his father's shop among the dark green shade of the coffee groves. We wonder now if the bandits were captured men of Edesio Hernandez, men who said were caught, after the encounter at the place of the great pines trees. Among the tree lived the ivory billed woodpeckers nesting in holes in the ancient tree trunks. All this was on the higher parts of the ridge that leads from the Barrenos, through Cacaíto to the west limb of the Los Números Ridge. All this was on family land.
The Guards ride driving the doomed men ahead of them slashing their backs with the flat of their paraguayo sabers. Each prisoner with noose around his neck walks ahead of horse of one the pair of mounted police. The little procession winds out of the coffee trees down towards the Bayamo valley. The victims and their executioners pass into a dip in the road where they cannot be seem by Michael, only the Guards emerge, the men, these presumed bandits have joined the ranks of the unknown little dead.
The Batista dictatorship will end,
In colonial times el Señor de Horca y Cuchillo de Guisa, Lord of the Gallows and the Knife of Guisa, Grandmother's father Don Benjamin Ramírez ruled a house that was a traditional sanctuary to those who could reach his door. Now Uncle Joe, as the family tradition of protecting the endangered demands, invites the few, he knows to the safety of his house. They are safe for now.
Michael a mere lad gets a 7-26 armband, a symbol of allegiance to Castro, and rides his bicycle to see the sights of change. He rides to the thick walled Bayamo cuartel fort; it is by the river across the street from Grandmother’s town house. Their, Batista army members are being executed.
Years before in this very place an ill conceived Castro rebel assault led by Ñico Lopez had failed because the rebels had stumbled across some discarded metal cans. The attackers been rewarded for failure by being hunted down and a number were killed. Here, and in
Now in January 1959 early Michael, my cousin, rides his bike; he takes to central highway east towards
I once, when quite young perhaps twelve I saw the prize animals there. Mr. Hines had given Uncle Marcos his great stud boar with his well grown pink corkscrew penis. We kids had watched in fascination as this organ skillfully fertilized many grateful sows. The boar was named for after its donor. Uncle Marcus charged the pick of the litter for “Mr. Hines” much valued services.
Under the shade of mango trees and in much ill smelling mud Mr. Hines was making much grunting noises. Looking sideways and under his huge back as he hunched over the much smaller females he was riding, we could see his odd tool unsheathed. We watched staring mute in wonder as glistening in its pinkness Mr. Hines yuan penetrated in and out of the equally moist dark tubular orifice-tunnel of the xoxa of his receptive mate.
We children were developing at a most odd vision of coitus from this sight. We were fascinated; yet we watched with caution, from behind a board reinforced fence because, Mr. Hines was a killer pig and we kids feared he would eat us. Mr. Hines died as he lived full of gluttony, when he ate too much of a carcass of a Brown Swiss stud bull that had died falling off a great cliff. Uncle Marcus had cried when this happened.
The torturers are being shot. Michael describes the scene in such surrealistic terms as if not real, the torturers put up no resistance, they taken out one a time to their death. The torturers seem to scorn death, they point out where the bullets should hit, where the execution squad should aim.
The process is messy; the novice execution squad does not want to kill. The condemned are missed or hit on the arm or leg. They have to be set up again and given the coup de grace.
That is over, a few days pass, Michael and his blond beautiful young sister Madeline, wander further a-field. They go further east along the highway on their bicycles; they take the road south to Guisa along that dry ugly valley. They stop and look at ambushed vehicles, the look at the still green bones of many dead Batista soldiers. Braulio Coroneaux and his woman machine gunners had done this. Coroneaux died there but he took many with him.
Michael and Madeline are still children; in their innocence they collect a few bones. Madeline picks up part of a skull and carries it home on her bike handlebars. In the citizens of battle hardened warrior town of
Uncle Joe will die in the
Larry S. Daley Copyright 1998, 2004, 2006