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companero che .com - the truth about Ernesto Che Guevara
  Che describes his departure to Cuba from Mexico


On December 2nd, 1956, Fidel Castro and 81 other combatants, including Ernesto Che Guevara, landed in Cuba to begin revolutionary war against the US-backed regime of Fulgencio Batista. Over the next two years, the Rebel Army conducted an every widening guerilla struggle that won increasing popular support in the countryside and the cities, culminating in revolution's victory on January 1st, 1959. Between 1959 and 1964 Guevara wrote a number of articles describing some of his experiences as a guerilla fighter and commander. These were later published in Cuba as a book entitled "Pasajes de la guerra revolucionaria (Episodes of the revolutionary war)". This parts relates to his departure to Cuba from Mexico and first encounter with the Batista regime's forces.


With our light out we left the port of Tuxpan in the midst of an infernal heap of men and equipment of every type. We had very bad weather, and although navigation was forbidden, the river?s estuary remained calm. We crossed the entrance into the Gulf of Mexico and shortly thereafter turned on the lights. We began a frantic search for the antihistamines for seasickness and could not find them. We sang the Cuban national anthem and the July 26 Hymn for perhaps five minutes total, and then the whole boat took on a ridiculously tragic appearance: men with anguished faces holding their stomachs, some with their heads in buckets, and others lying immobile on the deck, in the strangest positions, with their clothing soiled by vomit. With the exception of two or three sailors, and four or five other, the rest of 82 crew members were seasick. But after the fourth or fifth day the general panorama improved a bit. We discovered that what we thought was a leak in the boat was actually an open plumbing faucet. We had already thrown overboard everything unnecessary in order to lighten the ballast.


The route we had chosen involved making a wide turn south of Cuba, bordering Jamaica and the Grand Cayman Islands, with the landing to be someplace close to the village of Niquero in Oriente Province. The plan was being carried out quite slowly. On November 30 we heard over the radio the news of the uprising in Santiago de Cuba that our great Frank Pais had started, aiming to coincide with the expedition?s arrival. The following day, December 1st, at night, we set the bow on a straight line toward Cuba, desperately seeking the Cape Cruz lighthouse, as we ran out of water, food and fuel.


At two o?clock in the morning, on a dark and stormy night, the situation was disturbing. The lookouts walked back and forth, searching for the ray of light that would not appear on the horizon. Roque, an ex-lieutenant in the nave, once again got up on the small upper bridge, to look for the light from the cape. Losing his footing, he fell into the water. Shortly after continuing on our way, we saw the light. But the laboured advance of our boat made the final hours of the trip interminable. It was already daylight when we reached Cuba at a place known as Belic on the beach at Las Coloradas.


A coast guard boat spotted us and telegraphed the discovery to Batista?s army. No sooner had we disembarked and entered the swamp, in great haste and carrying only what was absolutely necessary, than we were attacked by enemy planes. Naturally, walking through the mangrove-covered swamps, we were not seen or harassed by the planes, but the dictatorship?s army was already on our trail. It took us several hours to get out of the swamp, where we had ended up due to the inexperience and irresponsibility of a companero who said he knew the way. We wound up on solid ground, lost, walking in circles.


We were an army of shadows, of ghosts, who walked as if following the impulse of some dark psychic mechanism. It had been seven days of continuous hunger and seasickness during the crossing, followed by three more days, terrible ones, on land. Exactly 10 days after the departure from Mexico, in the early morning hours of December 5th, after a night march interrupted by fainting, exhaustion and rest for the troops, we reached a point known ? paradoxically ? by the name of Alegria (Joy) de Pio. It was a small grove of trees, bordering a sugarcane field on one side and open to some valleys on the other, with the dense forest starting further back. The place was ill-suited for an encampment, but we stopped there to rest for a day and resume our march the following night.


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