There is still no news. Mongo was teaching us more mathematics today and also some political awareness. He says that cadres (that’s us) need to have a broad knowledge and interest and to really know why we are fighting.
Of course we are not fighting yet – though it is a kind of fighting even to be here. But not with guns. I am a good shot so I have no fear of how I will behave when the shooting starts but Pombo says I should not anticipate or look forward to that day. Pombo said I was doing very well and that Mongo was happy with us as a group and especially with my attitude. It was good news to hear. To tell the truth, I am still a little bit in awe of Mongo, though he does not act the big leader, but he has an authority and so much more knowledge that I am sometimes afraid I will seem too much like a boy to him. I told Pombo that I felt small in comparison to the Barbudos [the guerrillas in the Cuban Revolution were known as ‘the bearded ones.’] among us – I had grown up knowing of these men and now I share a camp with them. Pombo told me I did not need to be in awe of anyone. And he must have told Mongo because later Mongo came up to me and said ‘even you will grow a beard one day Jejenito. But I’m guessing that my hair will grow back first.’ He laughed and it made me feel that I am a compañero even if not a barbudos. I know that respect has to be earned and part of it will be in combat. But for now, I think I am doing well enough.
Pacho and Rolando came back late last night. Pacho was tired and I said I would take his guard duty but he said it was okay, everyone must take their turn. Everyone stayed close to home today because we are still waiting for others to arrive. Jorge went off to find a horse and has not come home yet.
A jeep arrived from La Paz with four men and then another four. Most were Cubans but one of the Bolivians is called Inti. He immediately became my friend. He told me he was amazed to see Mongo there. He told me how proud he had felt to shake him by the hand. We sat together on a tree trunk and Pombo gave him an M2 carbine (the same weapon I have) and his uniform. He told me that in that moment he felt he truly became a revolutionary. I knew how he felt and was proud that he shared his feelings with me. I showed him how to set up his hammock and it was right next to mine. But there was no time to sleep.
The men brought some grape liqueur with them and everyone toasted the success of the armed struggle. Everyone except for me and Mongo. We do not like to drink alcohol.
Early in the morning we started ‘the gondola’ which was the system of going from the camp to the zinc house carrying food, weapons and munitions. It is a hard job, especially in the dark which is when it is safest to do it. Inti was impressed to see that Mongo gave himself the heaviest sack. While we were making the trip Mongo stumbled but he picked himself straight up and continued.
‘That is a leader,’ Inti whispered to me. I whispered to myself ‘I will be like Che’ and continued carrying the sacks. Inti is the best of the Bolivians.
There was some trouble yesterday. Mongo called a meeting in the afternoon and told us that some Peruvians were offering to send twenty men to join us. The Bolivians were not keen. They said that Peruvians should not join until action had begun. One man, Chino is going to come and talk to us but he is not to bring the other men at this time. Coco and Ricardo left to deliver this message. Jorge still has not returned.
Mongo took me, Tumaini, Urbano and Inti out to examine the river. I felt proud to be chosen to go with them. Tumaini fell down and injured his ankle – it might be broken – and it meant that we did not get back to the camp until night. We took it in turns to carry his pack for him and to help him along. Mongo used it as an opportunity to remind us firstly of the difficulties we face and secondly that we will not desert an injured comrade.
Marcos, Pacho, Miguel and Pombo went out on a scouting trip, leaving the new men to get accustomed to our way of doing things. Mongo gave us a round up for the end of the month. He told us we are to wait here until the rest of the men arrive – we are currently at about half strength to begin. He said we want another 20 Bolivians if possible. And he wants to know what Monje will do. There was hope that the Communist Parties of Bolivia and other Latin American countries would join in the struggle, but reports told him that Monje was not keen on ‘internationalising’ the struggle. And yet Monje does not seem keen to join in himself either. Mongo told us he had faith in the Bolivian Communist Party but that we would have to wait and see what its leaders decided. Inti told Mongo that he did not think they would take up arms. He told us that he thought Monje was a coward. ‘Time will tell,’ Mongo replied. ‘We must give every man his chance.’
Mongo and Inti had a bit of an argument. It seemed that Inti was suggesting he would do a better job of recruiting guerrillas than Monje. Mongo said that we had to work through mutual loyalty.
I was sorry to see Inti quarrel with Mongo. I hope he stays with us. He is the best of the Bolivians at the moment as I can see.
Today was like a day of calm after a storm. Nothing happened. The new men are getting used to the duties.
Late in the night Marcos, Pacho, Miguel and Pombo returned from their trip and early in the morning Chino the Peruvian arrived. He says he will go to Cuba and rally some more Peruvians who will join us when the action has begun. Though no one knows when that will be. He told us they have a plan to free their leader Hector Béjar and I did not understand what this had to do with us. I think they need to decide who and what they are fighting for. But perhaps I did not understand. Chino took our photographs and left. I wonder if my mother will ever see that photograph of me, standing beside Mongo. Though the way we both look at the moment I doubt even my mother would recognise either me or Che Guevara.