A very quiet day. We don’t have scouting parties on a Saturday so everyone stayed home. The three workers at the farm went to run errands but the rest of us did very little. Tuma’s leg still hurts so he can do very little. I am trying to help him where I can. We practised some shooting and the Bolivians were much more accurate than the Cubans. That made some bad feeling among the men. I was the best of the Cubans at shooting. At least I salvaged some pride for us.
Yesterday was the calm before the storm. Today Mongo spoke to us Cubans about our discipline and about how it was our duty to set an example for the Bolivians. He said ‘we are the makers of a victorious revolution. Our moral obligation is therefore much greater than theirs.’ He said we had to have a spirit of sacrifice at all times.
The Bolivians have more recent experience in weapons than many of the Cubans, who Mongo reminded them have been dealing with politics for many years now and may have got rusty or forgotten the practical skills of being a soldier and especially a guerrilla. He told us we cannot afford to be slack or weak. He praised me for my attitude and my skills and said ‘If Jejenito can do it, you can do it also.’
He told us that we were not guaranteed victory and that if we did not stay alert and take all precautions possible we may fail in our goals. He said ‘an open struggle against idleness needs to be waged and not just during moments of action.’ He gave us some examples of laziness (and not just of the Bolivians) which made many of the men present feel ashamed. He told us that he was constantly testing us.
‘Yesterday, no one noticed the lantern I dropped,’ he said. ‘No one picked it up.’ He told us we had to act as we would at home, with as much respect and care for our possessions and fellow men. He said we need to guard against feeling that things are not personal to us – ‘everything is personal to all of us,’ he said. He stressed the need for unity amongst us. We all agreed that we would try to lead by example and to work harder to make unity in the group as later we will rely on each other for our lives.
When Mongo tells us off I feel ashamed and I looked at the faces of men who have known him and fought with him for years and I recognise how they feel. Everyone knows that when Mongo criticises us it is well deserved and we all know that he tells us things for the good of all. ‘I will be like Che’ I told him. I made the promise to myself and I made it out loud to him. I mean it. I have never met a man like him. All the other men are great fighters and experienced revolutionaries but none of them, not even Pombo, are as great as Che. Maybe the Bolivians do not know so much about him, but even they are coming to respect him from their experience of living with him. I believe that Mongo will bring us together as a group, but of course we have to work to make this happen and to be worthy of his trust in each and every one of us.
Pacho spoke to me about Mongo’s talk of yesterday. He said ‘ I watched your face Jejenito,’ and he told me I must listen to Mongo and not be angry if he tells us off. I told him I understood that it is for our own good. ‘He is the best of leaders,’ Pacho said ‘he is firm but he is also fair and he would pick up the burden or lay down his life for any of us.’ I told Pacho I understood and that I respected Mongo. I said ‘ it is just that when he is angry it makes me a bit afraid.’ ‘That is a good fear for you, Jejenito,’ he said. ‘What you feel as fear now is respect growing. Your fear is within. You can lose it by rising to expectations.’ I told him I would work my hardest and become the best cadre I could. I told him that I didn’t think some of the Bolivians took me seriously. ‘You can set an example,’ he said. ‘You can show that even a young Cuban can have both commitment and skill. And then, if you are a good leader, who will not follow? But you have to be better than the next man, and better again. And there are so many good men here you will have to work very hard for respect. But I believe in you and Mongo believes in you, and in time the rest of them will see the kind of man you are and you will gain their respect.’ He made me feel a bit better and I resolved to try even harder with the Bolivians.
After two days of talking and reflection, I was glad to get out of the camp and have a chance to prove myself in the field. I went with Mongo and some of the others to work on the second cave. I prefer to be working than sitting around. I feel sorry for Tuma. His leg is still bad so he has to remain at camp. It took us a while to reach the creek and we made a camouflaged path. We were looking for a place to make a cave. It is very rocky, but there are no obvious caves and too hard to dig into. Mongo says we will keep on scouting tomorrow. He sent Inti and Urbano to hunt deer. We are hungry and our food supply is small and has to last till Friday. It is Tuesday.
We found a place and began working on a tunnel. It is harder to dig when you are hungry and I am hungry most of the time now. Also the tools are not good when trying to get into the hard rock. When Inti and Urbano returned we hoped they had food but they had not shot anything. We had short rations. However, when it became nightfall, Urbano killed a turkey he found wandering around – which means tomorrow we will eat it for breakfast. I never thought I would be eating turkey for breakfast but right now I don’t care which meal is which as long as I eat. Mongo says it may get much worse.
Inti, Mongo and I went to a ridge which looked over the creek. It was a hard climb but probably not as bad as staying behind to work on digging the tunnel which was what Miguel and Urbano did. Later in the day Pombo, Marcos and Pacho arrived up at the ridge. Pacho was very slow. Marcos says he is not up to the standard required. I said I would help him if he needed help. Mongo said that tomorrow he and I and Pacho will return to the camp and Pacho must stay there to rest. Everyone is getting split up now with some men at the cave, which is camp 2 and some back at camp 1.
We got back to the camp at about noon. Pacho is to stay here for a while. We tried to make radio contact with camp 2 but it didn’t work. I don’t know if it was the radio or if I was working it wrong. I still don’t feel confident about using the radio. Mongo says I must let Tuma teach me properly. Tuma and Pacho are both feeling the strain now. I am sorry for them but it proves to me that being young is not the biggest problem for a guerrilla.