Building a raft. We must be getting better at it because while it took a long time, we all got across safely with no loss or incident. There’s more fighting between men though. Antonio and Chapaco are arguing again and then Nato and Eustaquio argued over food. I am keeping away from them, sticking close to Inti and Pombo. I don’t want to get caught up in petty arguing. Pombo told me that when men are hungry morale is quickly lost.
I think it’s because of the lack of food but some people’s teeth are starting to go rotten. Che had to be Fernando the tooth-puller again and take teeth from Capaco and Arturo. It was Pablito’s birthday today. We needed something to celebrate. He is twenty two. I wonder if I will live to be twenty two. Che talked to me again about his little brother Juan Martin who is in Argentina. He is just older than Pablito but Che hasn’t seen him since he was about my age. He said that I remind him of his brother in some ways. Same stubbornness, he said, but I think it was a compliment.
We began to march but pretty soon got wind of some peasants and so went into hiding because now there is a price on Che’s head we don’t want to make ourselves known. It’s too big a temptation for them. There’s some quarrelling over bullets now between Arturo. He’s accusing the Cubans among us of hoarding the bullets. It’s nonsense.
Later we found more peasants who we couldn’t avoid so we had to take them prisoner and bring them along with us. Due to some confusion Benigno later let them go. Che was really angry. We recaptured them and Che told them they had to travel with us. They refused to sell us any food. They are not reliable and doubtless will betray us at the very first chance they get. Yet Che will not kill them.
The radio is reporting tales of suicide attempts by Loyola who was captured but I don’t believe it. Two planes flew overhead later in the day. The noise always scares me because I know they are looking for us.
We were held up leaving because the peasants couldn’t find their animals which had wandered off. We are moving slowly because Moro is still unwell and the peasants just straggle along. We picked up three more prisoners on the way. ‘If only we could find animals instead of people we could feast’ Inti said.
It took all day to march to a plantation where we could rest. Che spoke to Inti about food. Inti denied he’d been ill disciplined. When even Inti and Che are falling out I know things are getting bad. At the end of the day we all had pork to eat and chankaka (sugar).
The radio told us of a hunger strike among students of a secondary school. We laughed at that. ‘We don’t need to strike to be hungry,’ Pombo said. It’s not the kind of solidarity I would wish. Not eating simply makes you weak in your body and your mind. It is a kind of torture, especially when you have to keep moving and need to keep your wits about you at all times.
We didn’t leave the plantation till nearly dark and had to travel through the hills. Eventually we had to light a lamp. We got to a house late at night but there was nothing much to buy apart from cigarettes. There was no clothing and no boots. Mine are getting pretty ragged now, but I offered them again to Che since he is still in sandals and his feet are pretty wrecked. We rested for a while but set off again before it was light. We cannot really rest anywhere because everywhere feels dangerous.
We walked for hours but didn’t cover much ground. At least we didn’t come across any people for a long time. When we arrived at a house we bought some food. We went to the mayor’s house to cook our meal. People run away from us when they see us. It’s disconcerting, and I am always afraid they are running to inform on us.
Turns out the mayor had gone to inform on us. We seized all the goods in his grocery to pay him back. We got to Alto Secco which was a small settlement and people came out to greet us though they seemed frightened.
We made camp at an abandoned house near the village and on counting it, found we have got quite a lot of food which was distributed amongst us. Some wanted to eat it all, but we need to keep supplies with us as we never know when we find more. Che keeps telling us that things will get more difficult but some of them don’t want to hear that. They think it can’t be worse than this. Others say that if it gets worse they are leaving. It is shameful. And it’s hard not to trust people after all we’ve gone through. Pombo tells me to keep my head down, my mouth shut and just keep doing what I know is right. It is good advice.
Inti gave a talk to the villagers about the aims of the revolution. I am sure it was as much to remind us as to inform them. It is good to see that he is still committed. I wish everyone felt the same. The teacher asked us questions and one of the students offered to be our guide. He told me that we shouldn’t trust the teacher. He came with us when we left late at night headed for Santa Elena.