‘Let’s go on, there’s solid ground ahead’
BY MIREYA CASTAÑEDA (Granma International staff writer)
LUIS Crespo is a tall, heavy-set man of 78. With his fragile health, but
with a certain caustic wit, he submits to the interview he agreed to
grant this weekly. It is to recall his participation as a member of the
expedition aboard the cabin cruiser Granma, on the 45th
anniversary of its landing on the Cuban coast.
"The problem we confronted," he says, "was that the pilot didn’t know the
because we planned to disembark at the town of Niquero, take the town, pick up
some trucks and head for the Sierra Maestra."
What really happened is known history. Fidel was forced to order the cabin
cruiser to go aground in a swamp. "The swamp wasn’t really that bad," Crespo
explained, "the worst part was the mangrove roots which blocked our way."
(I told him that Carlos Bermúdez had told us, in another interview
included here, that it was Crespo who threw a mangrove toward
him, so that he could get out of the swamp in which he was sunk up
to his chest, and Crespo, with the modesty he displayed throughout
the conversation, merely smiled and nodded.)
It wasn’t easy to get him to explain how they disembarked from the
cabin cruiser. We already knew that the first to land was René
Rodríguez. "And then me," he said after a short silence. "We were
moving with knapsacks, rifles, and the boat sunk. It was there that
the column Fidel had formed broke down, because we had to
advance however we could."
Crespo added that some of them thought they were on a cay, but
then, "I climbed up a bush and saw palm trees, the mountains and I
shouted, "Let’s go on, there’s solid ground ahead."
He explained that at that point they were already being bombarded
by Batista’s naval and air forces and that they managed to conceal
themselves in no less than a beehive, and that obviously, "when they
began to bite us like mad, then there was another dispersal."
After the confrontation in Alegría de Pío, Crespo continued
two other comrades, one of them being Armando Mestre. "I went
ahead to explore, and saw some charcoal makers who ran away
from me and, when I tried to retrace my steps, I got lost. Then I
found a road along which trucks had passed. There was lots of dust
and I went along marking arrows so they would know where I was
heading. I went on walking and came across some cattle. I said to
myself, ‘If there are cattle about, there are also homes.’ I finally
found a hut and heard noise coming from inside. It was Juan Manuel
When they all left together for the Sierra, they found a trail, which
later turned out to be that of Fidel and his group. "I was in Cinco
Palmas," he affirmed, "but my name doesn’t appear on the list."
This man, who doesn’t want to say what ranks he attained in the
Sierra, adds as if it was nothing out of the ordinary that he took part
in various combats, "and I took my first rifle off guards in La Plata,"
and at this point it seemed he had ended the conversation so as not
to overtire himself — "the first man I helped was Che, we were in the
same squadron, because his asthma was affecting him badly, and I
helped him to carry things and to walk."
During his time in the Sierra, Crespo belonged to Fidel’s Column One,
"with Celia [Sánchez] and Manolo [Piti Fajardo]," until on January 8,
1959, he entered Havana with Fidel, "and I haven’t left it since then."
A SUGARCANE WORKER
Luis Crespo was a sugarcane worker in what is now the Granma
sugar mill in Matanzas province, where he became involved in trade
union struggles. "In 45 or 70 days of harvest, you had to earn
enough to pay for what you ate during the whole year. So I became
immersed in the struggle, until Batista came on the scene and Fidel
He joined the 26th of July Movement by way of José Smith Comas,
his friend from Cárdenas, and subsequently met Ñico López and
Faustino Pérez, who asked him in 1955: "What do you think of the
situation?" "And I told him, ‘After the sugar harvest, I’m going to
In May 1956, Crespo traveled to Veracruz aboard a Spanish boat of
the same name. He had nothing with him other than a bit of paper
with an address in Mexico City, that of María Antonia González.
"I’d never left Cuba, nobody was waiting for me there. I asked where
that address was and they told me, ‘That’s in the capital.’ I hitched a
ride on a truck and arrived there in the early morning. I knocked and
María Antonia came out, half asleep. ‘What do you want?’ ‘I’ve come
from Cuba.’ Then she called someone and Raúl [Castro] came out. I
repeated what I’d said and showed him the bit of paper. He said: ‘Sit
there and wait.’ I waited until daybreak. Raúl came out again and
said: ‘Are you still here?’ and I replied: ‘Where the f--- else would I
"That morning," he continued, "they called Smith and I went straight
into training. At midday, Fidel arrived and asked me what I was doing
there, who I was, what I thought. He left me and I went on training.
It was done in the mornings, but as I was behind the others, I told
Smith, who was the chief, that I would go in the afternoons as well,
and I caught up to everyone else. I’ve been lucky enough to always
have been strong."
He was imprisoned with Fidel’s group, and on their release they all
had to split up and go underground until the moment it was time to
leave for Tuxpan. Crespo and Smith were in Héctor Aldama’s house
when Fidel and Ñico López came to find them. They gave Crespo the
task of "rounding up various groups, nobody was to be told anything,
not even where we were going. I didn’t know myself. We reached
Tuxpan at dusk and went from there to the boat."
That was 45 years ago. After the triumph of the Revolution, Luis
Crespo worked in the National Institute of Agrarian Reform (INRA), in
the Ministry of Construction, and in Maritime Projects, up until his
retirement. "Wherever I worked, I always remembered those I left
behind." And he wants them to also remember him. His comrades,
his friends. Without any doubt, even those who haven’t had the
opportunity, as I did, of talking personally with his wife Finita and with
him on a cool morning, will always remember Luis Crespo, one of the
82 heroic men of the Granma.