Copyright: © 2005 Aleida March, Che Guevara Studies Center and Ocean Press. Reprinted with their permission. Not to be reproduced in any form without the written permission of Ocean Press. For further information contact Ocean Press at and via its website at

After the victory over Sánchez Mosquera's forces, we walked along the La Plata's banks, and later, crossing the Magdalena river, returned to the already familiar region of Caracas. But the atmosphere was different from what we had experienced that first time, when we had been in hiding and the villagers had supported us. Now, Casillas's troops had passed through, sowing terror throughout the region. The peasants had gone, leaving only their empty huts and a few animals, which we sacrificed and ate. Experience had taught us it was not smart to stay in the houses, so after spending the night in one of the more isolated huts, we climbed back to the woods and pitched camp beside a small spring almost at the summit of Caracas peak.

It was there that Manuel Fajardo came to me and asked me if it were possible that we could lose the war. My response, quite aside from the euphoria of victory, was always the same: the war would unquestionably be won. He explained that he had asked me because the gallego Morán had told him that winning the war was impossible, that we were lost; he had urged Fajardo to abandon the campaign. I made Fidel aware of this, who told me that Morán had already let him know he was covertly testing the morale of the troops. We agreed that this was not the best approach, and Fidel made a short speech urging greater discipline and explaining the dangers that might arise if this discipline were disregarded. He also announced three crimes punishable by death: insubordination, desertion, and defeatism.

Our situation was not particularly happy in those days. The column lacked that spirit which is forged only through battle, and it was without a cohesive political consciousness. On one day, a compañero would leave us, on the next day another, and many requested assignments in the city that often entailed much more risk but that meant an escape from the rough conditions in the countryside. Still, our campaign continued on its course; the gallego Morán demonstrated indefatigable energy looking for food and making contact with the peasants in the immediate vicinity.

Such were our spirits on the morning of January 30, [1957]. Eutimio Guerra, the traitor, had earlier asked permission to visit his sick mother and Fidel had granted it, also giving him some money for the trip. According to Eutimio, his trip would last some weeks. We had not yet caught on to a series of incidents, but this man's subsequent behavior clearly explained them. When he rejoined the troop, Eutimio said that he had almost reached Palma Mocha when he realized government forces were on our trail. He had tried to get back to warn us but found only the bodies of the soldiers in Delfín [Torres's] hut, one of the peasants whose land became the scene of the battle of Arroyo del Infierno. Eutimio said he had followed our trail across the Sierra Maestra until he finally found us; but what had actually happened was that he had been taken prisoner. After being bribed with money and a military rank in exchange for murdering Fidel, he was now working as an enemy agent.

As part of this plan, Eutimio had left the camp the previous day and on the morning of January 30, after a cold night, just as we were getting up, we heard the roar of planes. We could not quite locate them since we were in the woods. Our field kitchen was some 200 meters below us near a small spring, where the forward guard was stationed. Suddenly, we heard the dive of a fi hter plane, the rattle of machine-gun fire, and after a moment, the bombs. Our experience was very limited and we seemed to hear shots from all sides. Fifty-caliber bullets explode when they hit the ground and, although what we heard was machine guns firing from the air, as the bullets exploded near us they gave the impression of coming from the woods. Because of this, we thought we were being attacked by ground troops.

I was instructed to wait for members of the forward guard and to gather up some of the supplies we had dropped during the air attack. We were to meet the rest of the troop at the Cueva del Humo. My compañero was Chao, a veteran of the Spanish Civil War, and though we waited quite a while for some of the missing men, no one came. We followed the column along an indistinct track, both weighed down, until we came to a clearing and decided to rest. After a while, we noticed some noise and movement, and saw that our column's tracks were also being followed by Guillermo García (today a commander) and Sergio Acuña, both from the forward guard, who were trying to rejoin the group. After some deliberation, Guillermo García and I returned to the camp to see what was happening since the noise of the planes had faded. A desolate spectacle awaited us: with an eery precision that fortunately was not repeated during the war, the field kitchen had been attacked. The hearth had been smashed to pieces by machine-gun fire, and a bomb had exploded exactly in the center of the forward guard camp, just moments after our troops had left. The gallego Morán and a compañero had gone out to scout and Morán had returned alone, announcing that he had seen five planes in the distance but that there were no ground troops in the vicinity.

The five of us, with heavy loads, continued to walk through the bleak scene of our friends' burned-out huts. We found only a cat that miaowed at us pitifully and a pig that came out grunting when it heard us. We had heard of the Cueva del Humo, but did not know exactly where it was, so we spent the night in uncertainty, waiting to see our compañeros but fearing we would meet the enemy instead.

On January 31 we took up position on the top of a hill overlooking some cultivated fields, where we thought we would find the Cueva del Humo. We scouted around without finding anything. Sergio, one of the five, thought he saw two people wearing baseball caps, but he was slow in telling us and we could not catch up with them. We went out with Guillermo to explore the bottom of the valley near the banks of the Ají river, where a friend of Guillermo gave us something to eat, but the people there were very fearful. Guillermo's friend told us that all of Ciro Frías's merchandise had been taken by the guards and burned; the mules had been requisitioned and the mule driver killed. Ciro Frías's store was burned down and his wife taken prisoner. The men who had passed through in the morning were under Major Casillas's orders, who had slept somewhere near the house.

On February 1 we stayed in our little camp, practically in the open air, recovering from the exhaustion of the previous day's march. At 11 a.m. we heard gunfire on the other side of the hill and soon, closer to us, we heard desperate shouts, like someone crying out for help. With all this, Sergio Acuña's nerves seemed to snap, and silently, he left his cartridge belt and rifle, deserting the guard post he was assigned to. I noted in my campaign diary that he had taken with him a straw hat, a can of condensed milk, and three sausages; at the time we felt deeply for the can of milk and the sausages. A few hours later we heard some noise and prepared to defend ourselves, not knowing whether the deserter had betrayed us or not. But Crescencio appeared with a large column of almost all our men, and also some new people from Manzanillo led by Roberto Pesant. Missing from our forces were Sergio Acuña, the deserter, and compañeros Calixto Morales, Calixto García, and Manuel Acuña; also a new recruit [Evangelista Mendoza] who had been lost on the first day in the cross fire.

Once again we descended to the Ají river valley, and on the way some of the supplies from Manzanillo were distributed, including a surgical kit and a change of clothes for everyone. It moved us greatly to receive clothes which had [our] initials embroidered on to them by the girls of Manzanillo. The next day, February 2, two months after the Granma landing, we were a reunited, uniform group; 10 more men from Manzanillo had joined us and we felt stronger and in better spirits than ever. We had many discussions on what had caused the surprise air attack, and we all agreed that cooking by day and the smoke from the fire had guided the planes to our camp. For many months, and perhaps for the duration of the war, the memory of that surprise attack weighed heavily on the spirits of the troop. Right to the end, fires were not built in the open air during the day, for fear of unfavorable consequences.

We would have found it impossible to believe, and I think it did not enter anyone's mind, that the traitor and informer Eutimio Guerra had been in the observation plane, pointing out our location to Casillas. His mother's illness had been a pretext to leave us and join the murderer Casillas. For some time to come, Eutimio played an important adverse role in the development of our liberation war.

Copyright: © 2005 Aleida March, Che Guevara Studies Center and Ocean Press. Reprinted with their permission. Not to be reproduced in any form without the written permission of Ocean Press. For further information contact Ocean Press at and via its website at