Granma International
November 30, 2001

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
                   expedition

                   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
                   1959.

                   Antonio Darío López became ill due to the contaminated water. "El
                   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
                   Héctor Aldama.

                   "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
                   his workshop.

                   "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
                   telescopic sights."

                   They also felt tremendous despair knowing that while they were still
                   at sea, there had been an uprising in Santiago de Cuba on November
                   30.

                   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
                   battle."

                   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 came
                   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
                   1959.

                   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
                   abandoned anybody."

                   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.