Before Granma sets sail for Cuba ›Today in History› Granma

The latest news is not at all flattering for the future expedition members of the Granma yacht, so the leader Fidel Castro rushes on the night of November 21, 1956 to meet with Jesús Montané and Melba Hernández, who reside in an apartment on Pachuca Street. , almost on the corner of Francisco Márquez, Condesa neighborhood, in Mexico City.

For days Fidel has suffered from a severe flu condition that forces him to wear a thick scarf around his neck. But that doesn’t stop him. He continues with his energy and enthusiasm that characterize him.

He informs Montané and Melba of the report he has received from Captain Fernando Gutiérrez Barrios, an official of the Security Federation, in which he informs him that he must leave the country in 72 hours at the most because the Mexican police are on his heels, to starting from the occupation of the weapons that were in the Sierra Nevada house.

Everything seems to indicate that this event was produced by the denunciation of a traitor, as it did. That is why Fidel is of the opinion to leave as soon as possible, that is, in 48 hours, because the risk of staying longer in Mexico is very high.

Montané and Melba, who have listened to him in silence and with great attention, agree with him that no more time should be wasted. We must begin to vacate the houses-camps.

After visiting other apartments and giving new directions, Fidel goes to the Mi Ranchito motel in Xicotepec, where he receives Antonio Conde (el Cuate), the Mexican who had acquired the Granma yacht, which he was now repairing and fitting out for the expedition.

Fidel informs Cuate that the departure is imminent. He discusses the plan for the transfer of the different groups of combatants to the final point of concentration and tells him that he will not participate in the expedition, but will remain on the ground, fulfilling other important tasks.

Granma sales communication. Photo: File
Technical Inspection Certificate. Photo: File
Machine Certificate. Photo: File
Certificate of registration. Photo: File

That night Fidel stays at cabin 13, the furthest from the motel, along with his brother Raúl and Juan Manuel Márquez.

The next day, Thursday, November 22, the main Mexican newspapers widely reported on the occupation of weapons in the Sierra Nevada house, in Lomas de Chapultepec, last Saturday, the 17th, and the arrest of the Cubans Pedro Miret, Enio Leyva and Tete Casuso.

That Thursday, Fidel, along with Cándido González and Carlos Bermúdez, left the Mi Ranchito motel in a car and headed for a house located on Recreo Street, between Alvaro Obregón and Benito Juárez, in Santiago de la Peña, on the banks of the Tuxpan River.

The property is made up of the main house, a smaller one and a large warehouse that is used as a garage and warehouse, surrounded by a large plot of land planted with orange trees. There they hide several suitcases with weapons that remain in the custody of Carlos Bermúdez.

For his part, that same November 22, Ñico López arrived in the city of Veracruz with the order to move the group of combatants by bus to the city of Xalapa.

The 32 men who left the Abasolo camp the night before, led by Faustino Pérez, were staying in different hotels in the city of Victoria, waiting for the moment of departure.

Meanwhile in the Aztec capital Jesús Montané and Melba Hernández begin to evacuate the camp houses in accordance with the instructions received from Fidel.

Fidel returns to the Mexican capital on the 22nd to attend to pending matters. He takes advantage of his stay to say goodbye to some friends who have given him valuable help in the preparations for the expedition. One of them is Captain Fernando Gutiérrez Barrios, to whom he communicates that he is leaving to fight for the freedom of his country.

The officer listens to Fidel and is silent. He does not ask when, or how, or where.

From left to right, Arsacio Vanegas, María Antonia González, Fidel Castro, Elvira Belmonte in Mexico. Photo: File

At midnight on the 23rd, Fidel went to the Pedregal de San Angel residence, where he said goodbye to his sisters and other companions. There he shaves and on top of the gray suit he wears he puts on a blue coat. He visits other apartments and returns to the Mi Ranchito motel, where Juan Manuel Márquez and a group of colleagues await him.

Early in the morning of November 24, the combatants began to leave the house-camps in the capital. Hat 9’s apartment, Dolores building, where René Rodríguez and other colleagues stayed; the house on calle Génova 14, near Paseo de la Reforma; Insurgentes 5 and 6 apartments.

Almost at noon on that Saturday the 24th, Raúl Castro visits for the last time the house on Calle Fuego 791, corner of Risco, Jardines del Pedregal de San Angel, to say goodbye to his sisters Lidia, Enma and Agustina. There he changes his clothes, and then goes to a house located on Calle Génova 14 where a group of colleagues are waiting for him.

On that Saturday night, Raúl wrote several letters and documents, including the Political Testament of Antonio López Fernández and Raúl Castro.

From various points of the capital, the combatants who still remained in the houses-camps began to leave for Poza Rica. The first group does it in two cars, in one of them Juan Almeida travels.

The second group, made up of three companions, leaves almost at the same time, but from another place. Before leaving, they leave a sick person in the apartment in Jalapa 68.

The last group to leave the Aztec capital is the one made up of Raúl Castro, René Rodríguez, Fernando Sánchez-Amaya and Horacio Rodríguez, who pick up Ciro Redondo on the way.

That morning Chuchú Reyes, complying with Fidel’s instructions, docked the Granma yacht next to the house of Santiago de la Peña and Carlos Bermúdez, on the Tuxpan River. He will be in charge of driving it to the mouth of the river. But there is still a very important document missing: the ship’s navigation permit issued by the Harbor Master’s Office.

Antonio del Conde (El Cuate) has been in charge of this management, who that afternoon appears at the Captaincy and requests an exit permit for that morning to Isla de Lobos, distant about 32 miles north of there, to take some friends on a fishing trip and outing.

Bad weather is announced and the Cuate knows it, so he has to substantiate his request very well to try to convince the naval officers who are in charge of these procedures. At the moment it does not succeed. He then asked to meet with Mr. Angel Laso de la Vega, then Captain of the Port.

Again the Cuate exposes his arguments to go sailing that morning, insists and goes further in his justification when he has the audacity to invite the naval officer to dinner and to accompany him on the trip.

The Captain of the Port frowned, looked him up and down and gave in, not before warning him to take all the necessary precautions to avoid a fatal accident on the high seas and proceeded to issue him the navigation authorization for November 25. .

Antonio del Conde (El Cuate). Photo: File
Ángel Laso de la Vega, Captain of the port of Tuxpan. Photo: File

As Fidel organized, the groups of future expedition members from Granma arrived in Poza Rica at sunset on that rainy Saturday, November 24, to walk from there to where Nacional and Benito Juárez streets meet, and then continue the march through a muddy road along the river bank until we reached the house in Santiago de la Peña where the Granma yacht was docked.

Night has fallen, the rain and bad weather continue and the men load the suitcases with the weapons, other packages, the few provisions that have been obtained and they settle as they can little by little in the small space of the boat.

The presence of two soldiers guarding a patana barely 50 meters from there, forces us to take extreme precautions so as not to be detected.

Almost all of them have embarked and the crew made up of Onelio Pino, as their captain, Roberto Roque, as second Captain and Pilot; the Dominican Ramón Mejías del Castillo (Pichirulo), as first officer; Arturo Chaumont and Norberto Collado, helmsmen; Jesús Chuchú Reyes as a machinist, and the radio operator Rolando Moya, are on the command bridge.

It is midnight and Fidel is concerned because he is informed that Héctor Aldama is missing. Then he sent two companions to the town with the task of finding his whereabouts. They wait for him for a reasonable time, but he does not appear and they return.

The companions who remained inside the house go out to say goodbye to the expedition members. Melba hugs Fidel, who then gets on board and gives instructions for the exit maneuver to begin.

It is approximately 2:00 a.m. on November 25, 1956, when the plank separating the ship from the makeshift dock is removed. The bow and stern lines are extended, the engineer starts the engines, the helmsman puts the rudder in the middle, and the Granma begins to sail slightly ahead heading north, downstream.

With the lights off, in silence and with the ban on smoking, the 82 expedition members as they can squeeze aboard, each one deep in thought.

The yacht has sailed for about half an hour to cover a journey of approximately eleven kilometers to the mouth of the river. When they reach this point Jesús Chuchú Reyes, climbs the bridge and hands over the command of the Granma to Captain Onelio Pino, for his voyage on the high seas.

The pilot Roberto Roque marks through the lighthouse of the mouth and the boat leaves the river behind, crosses the breakwaters of the mouth and enters the choppy waters of the Gulf that receives it with strong winds, heavy seas and fine drizzle.

Shortly after, the lights are turned on and the expedition members embrace joyfully. They sing the National Anthem and the March 26th of July. They shout Long live the Revolution! Down with the dictatorship!

Fidel had said it just a few days ago: «If I go out, I’ll get there; if I arrive, I enter; If I go in, I win. As it happened.

Sources:

The epic of Granma, Office of Historical Affairs of the Council of State.

The Pawned Word, by Heberto Norman Acosta, Volume II

Clarification: Héctor Aldama Acosta, due to a confusion, was not notified in time. Expeditionary status was recognized. Coronel ® del Minint, passed away on November 1, 2003.

Photo: File
Photo: File
Photo: File
Photo: File

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