Walking towards sunrise
ē Carlos Bermúdez tells the fascinating story of his life in a simple
fashion ē His quiet pride: to have been a member of the ĎGranmaí
BY MIREYA CASTAÑEDA (Granma International staff writer)
ON these December days, Carlos Bermúdezí heart is overflowing
with memories. Some are sad remembrances of those no longer
present, but others are enormously happy ones, for those still with
us. He is one of the 82 people who traveled with Fidel in the Granma
cabin cruiser, from Tuxpan, Mexico, to Cuba.
"I had the privilege of knowing a group of men who were convinced
they could go anywhere," he told Granma International in an exclusive
interview. "Some died, but if they hadnít, they would still be fighting
for the Revolution."
Born in Placetas, former province of Las Villas, in 1933, he moved
with his family to Havana in 1952. Before he was 20 years old, he
had joined a group of young people who "used to visit No. 107 Prado
Street," the Orthodox Partyís headquarters.
On March 10, 1952, Fulgencio Batista carried out a coup díétat in
Cuba. Bermúdez, working in a tannery in Regla (a town of the
outskirts of Havana), didnít go to work that day but "went out, to
the university and different places where people might try to do
something against Batista."
That same day he lost his job, but embarked on a path of struggle
that would take him to Mexico, allow him to get to know Fidel and
Che Guevara, to become one of the 82 members of the Granma
expeditionary force, and to continue to work in secret until the
triumph of the Revolution in 1959.
He commented sadly that he although he knew some of those who
attacked the Moncada Garrison under Fidelís orders on July 26,
1953, he "knew nothing of the preparations."
He explained that "really, I joined the 26th of July Movement when
Haydée [Santamaría] and Melba [Hernandez] were released from
prison [both took part in the Moncada attack], and Carlos Interián
introduced me to Melba."
For Bermúdez, his first major work was after Fidel and the others
involved in the Moncada attack were released from the Model Prison
on the Isle of Pines, when he began distributing History Will Absolve
Me, in Guanabacoa. "I was given copies hidden in a copy of
Bohemia magazine that had a hole cut out of its pages. "
He went on to other work, including his most important: at the end
of 1955, the movementís leaders asked him if he wanted to go to
Mexico. "I began to get the documents ready and was given a
passport in 1956."
SHORT VISIT TO MEXICO CITY
That March, Carlos Bermúdez was a third-class passenger on an
Italian ship bound for Mexico. He didnít realize he would be traveling
alongside two of his future comrades, including Universo Sánchez.
"When I left, I was only given one address in Mexico City, that of
Maria Antonia Gonzálezí house."
Raúl Castro was waiting for them at the port of Veracruz; when
Bermúdez ended his bus journey in Mexico City, Fidel, Jesús Montané
and journalist Félix Elmuza were there.
"I lived at No. 5 Insurgentes Street, in one of the movementís few
houses. My initial training was to walk up and down the avenue. Then
we went to Bucarelliís gym, where I got to know Che."
Forty-five years later, Carlos Bermúdez recalls each detail, each
moment. The long walks, target practice with Springfield 3006 rifles
and pistols, military training given by General Bayo, who fought in the
Spanish Civil War.
"On the ranch, we drank water from a well that turned out to be
contaminated. Ciro Redondo was responsible for bringing supplies out
from the city, and one day he arrived with some injections, but
nobody wanted to have them. Che picked up a syringe, telling me to
give him the injection. Iíd never give anyone an injection in my life."
That may have been the beginning of a friendship which blossomed in
Antonio Darío López became ill due to the contaminated water.
Gallego," as he was called, had to be taken back to the city, to the
house where Keper and Copérnico were living (these are the sort of
details that Bermúdez recalls), and Bermúdez was one of those who
had to accompany him. "Fidel has this unique thing about caring for
his comrades, and he went there to see El Gallego."
It was precisely when leaving this house one night that Fidel and
others were arrested by the police. Bermúdez was the one who
returned to the ranch where they were training to warn Raúl and
"It was very dangerous for Fidel to be arrested, because we knew
they would try to kill him. Raúl and Juan Manuel Márquez began the
fight to save him."
TAKING ARMS TO TUXPAN
It was a difficult moment for the movement. Bermúdez, Arsenio
García, Calixto Morales and other comrades were dispatched to
Veracruz to see Spanish sculptor Fidalgo, a friend of Ñico López, who
put them up in his house. When more people arrived, they stayed in
"We had very few resources. During the day we lived on the beach,
eating only at night. When the situation improved, I returned to
Mexico City, this time completely in secret. We were leaving in 10
days. I visited Tuxpan twice, transferring arms."
Chuchú Reyes was repairing the Granma in Tuxpan. "We were
staying in a pretty house that had an orange grove in the courtyard.
It was by the river. I didnít see the boat until the very day we left, on
the morning of the 25th, when Chuchú brought it alongside the bank.
We then built a pier out of planks and ropes."
There were some funny moments, too. He told GI of the food that
Chuchú brought on board the Granma. "I thought it was for two or
three people: a carton of eggs, two hams. I saw the boat ready and
the part where we were to travel, so I filled up 18 sacks with
oranges from the courtyard. Those were the Granma oranges."
NO SAILING ALLOWED
Weather was bad on the night of November 25, 1956; sailing was
prohibited, so the boat left under cover of darkness. When it reached
the sea, "all was calm."
Fidel endeavored to speak, and everyone sang the national anthem
and the 26th of July Movementís song. There was a feeling of
tremendous happiness because we had set off and were about to
fulfill Fidelís commitment."
Many tales have been told of their journey, but Carlos Bermúdez
remembers two or three extremely clearly. "We didnít all fit in the
boat and we were all struggling to find a space to sit down and rest.
Meanwhile, Fidel passed the time preparing the guns, setting the
They also felt tremendous despair knowing that while they were still
at sea, there had been an uprising in Santiago de Cuba on November
WALKING TOWARDS THE SUN
Batistaís navy had the Granmaís description and was already on the
lookout for the boat when it reached Las Coloradas. It was not
where they thought they would land, but rather a swampy zone.
"The boat capsized and sank, which is why we had to jump into the
water. Fidel had already given his orders and named the heads of the
platoons." Bermúdez was in Juan Almeidaís team.
"I had the bad luck to be caught up to my chest in the swamp, and
another member of the expedition, Luis Crespo ó who was very
strong ó threw me a piece of mangrove, hauled me out and saved
me. But I pulled tendons in my hip and it was extremely hard work to
walk in the column. I think that crossing the swamp was the first
This is part of the best-known anecdote. The expedition members
dispersed. They walked without direction because they had no
knowledge of the area. They met their first campesino, received help
Ė water and honey Ė and were pursued by Batistaís army and navy.
Something important happened. "Fidelís orders to walk eastward in
the direction of where the sun rises surprised us, but helped us
enormously. We then went on to Alegría de Pío.
Bermúdez added, "Calixto García, Calixto Morales and myself
together in that hell, and Iím alive today thanks to their help." García
was one of those who had attacked the Moncada Garrison and was
more experienced. He knew how to avoid houses and camouflage
the direction he took. "This is how we arrived at the Ojo del Toro
bridge, where Ñico López was killed." From there they escaped the
siege by jumping off a cliff. They ate "La Gloria crackers with guava
jelly in the Cedeño café. Then we met the campesino groups of
Cresencio Pérez and Guillermo García."
He hasnít forgotten that he felt "the greatest joy" in a place called El
Cilantro, when he heard the news that Fidel was alive. "We made
such a noise, even though the army was nearby."
Calixto Morales joined with Fidel in Cinco Palmas, and the groups had
a historic reunion, and Calixto García and Bermúdez saw Fidel again
in Los Negros. They set off once more on their journey, but Fidel
ordered Bermúdez Ė injured when he disembarked from the Granma
Ė to return to Havana. His mission: to find Faustino Pérez and tell
him to carry out the order that Fidel had given him as soon as
possible. (Later it became known that the order was to take U.S.
journalist Herbert Matthews to the Sierra Maestra.)
In Havana, Bermúdez carried on his clandestine life, meeting with
others in the same situation ó El Curita, Machaco Ameijeiras, Enrique
Hart; being imprisoned by Ventura Novo, one of the Batista regimeís
greatest murderers; being put in El Principe jail and escaping in July
1957; participating in the April 1958 strike and other actions up until
CALLED BY CHE
When the Revolution triumphed, Che "called me to work with him on
oil nationalization. When I went to Mexico, I had reached 4th or 5th
grade at primary school. In our free time, Calixto Morales gave me
classes and Che knew of this. When I told him I needed to study, he
remembered, because we had lived together in various houses. He
told me not to worry and found me a teacher. When I missed
classes, he placed me under arrest."
Bermúdez continued in the oil group, "until Che left Cuba." He later
left for Cienfuegos to work with a fertilizer industry brigade created
by Fidel, returning to Havana to run the Perdurit factory for the next
23 years. Currently he is the Perdurit Industrial Groupís adviser.
"And look what happened aboard the Granma," he highlighted. "Fidel
didnít abandon the man who fell overboard, everyone searched for
him until he was found, and today at Perdurit we are making roofing
for the victims of Hurricane Michelle, because Fidel has never
Since his early youth, Carlos Bermúdez has sought the path to the
sun. And he found it. For him, it lies in his family (three children and
four grandchildren) and his country.