Wednesday, 10 October 2007

40 years ago...

Seeing as its 40 years since Che was killed in Bolivia, I thought I'd repost the story (from my old blog) of the Seventh-day Adventist minister who saved his life when the Cuban revolution started...

In the darkness before dawn on November 25, 1956 82 men, along with their equipment, crowded onto the 60ft yacht Granma and left Mexico for Cuba.

The voyage was an unmitigated disaster! The boat was originally designed to hold 12 people and the journey took 7 days instead of 5 (which meant that the diversionary attack in Santiago had been and gone- along with their reception party of men and trucks, and of course Batista had now put his troops on full alert...), and their arrival in Cuba was more of a shipwreck than a landing (trying to find the Cabo Cruz lighthouse their navigator fell overboard, they used up the valuable darkness trying to rescue him, then when they headed for land they crashed into a sandbank)! And of course, they'd been spotted and so when the reels waded ashore (having abandoned most of their equipment on the sinking ship) and managed to eventually regroup (which took 2 days!) they were ambushed (it didn't help that their guide went straight to the nearest soldiers to report their position). In the ensuing melee Che was shot in the neck and the Castro brothers ordered a retreat; fortunately the wound was only superficial, however when they finally managed to regroup, only 22 of the original group were left alive.

Che ended up in a group of five with only a litre of water and a tin of milk. Over the next days they tried to evade the army and survive- before long they had spilled the milk and were desperately trying to share the water! A week after the ambush they found a peasant's hut and were about to go in when they heard a military toast coming from inside! They ran away, and the next day, by now tired, exhausted, and fearing that the rest of their colleagues (including Fidel) were dead they decided to knock on a farmers door and take their chances.

It turned out that the owner was a Seventh-day Adventist pastor and they were received warmly. Even more good luck awaited them. The pastor was a member of Fidel's July 26 movement and so was able to connect them back into the revolutionary network (in fact the next day church members started showing up bringing more news of the rebels and their whereabouts)! Sadly Che and his colleagues weren't such good guests: having eaten nothing for more than a week, all the food they'd kindly received had the effect that ‚"the little house that sheltered us turned into an inferno. Almeida was the first to be overcome by diarrhea; and in a flash, eight unappreciative intestines gave evidence of the blackest ingratitude."

The network of church members/July 26 managed to reunite Che with the Fidel and the rest of the revolutionaries and the rest is history.

So, lets all raise a glass of Che's beloved Mate, and light up a habanos, to the unnamed pastor who saved his life.

(from John Lee Anderson's Biog)

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