When Fidel Returned to the Eastern Mountains

Thousands of people across the province waited for the revolutionary leader at the center of the city, on Feb. 3, 1959

Thousands of people across the province waited for the revolutionary leader at the center of the city, on Feb. 3, 1959

(Juventud Rebelde) – Fidel Castro arrived in Santiago de Cuba on February 1st, 1959, he went all over the eastern mountains in Cuba for the first time after the triumph of the Revolution.
On his arrival Fidel reported to the press that he’d go to the Sierra Maestra to expand the organic law of the Rebel Army, and to put and end to the large estates, and to allow every small farmer till his land.

Fidel said that “the agrarian reform applied at a great length will be solid because it is the main wish, the first need of the Cuban population at present, and the first revolutionary law”.

The Commander in Chief left Santiago a few hours later towards the Sierra Maestra Mountains. He was accompanied by a large group of voluntary doctors and teachers who answered to his call to start the social rehabilitation in the territory.

The First Mass Meeting of Small Farmers

Fidel called for the first mass meeting of small farmers in the Guayabal de Nagua, a raised area between the Estrada Palma sugar mill (Bartolomé Masó at present) and the Sierra Maestra. Though this place does not appear on present maps because it was submerged under the water of the Paso Malo dam, the events that took place in the afternoon of February 2, 1959 put a mark in Cuba history.

Fidel highlighted that day in front of a thousand countrymen that the Agrarian Reform was up and running.

He said “we have come here to prove to the country folk that they have not been forgotten in the triumph, and to tell all the Cuban people to take into mind, I repeat, that we, the bearded men of the Rebel Army, are from the Sierra, and we demand that the Government make the Agrarian Reform”.

Fidel reaffirmed that the land of the owners of the large estates would be expropriated, and he cleared up that the distribution of land had not been started yet because the rules of the Agrarian Reform were not completely finished, so it ran the risk of making a disparate distribution. But the law should be in force before 30 days, otherwise he himself in front of two million of Cuban people would go towards Havana in a civic invasion.

Fidel also said in another moment of his address that in the Caney de las Mercedes would be built a School City with a capacity for 20,000 students, and it would have clinic, hospital, secondary school and art halls.

When Fidel finished his speech he received a hundred teachers who had come walking from Bayamo and Manzanillo to offer their enthusiastic cooperation to work in the Sierra Maestra together with the people from Guantánamo.

On February 3 Fidel met the people in Guantánamo, and he said “I do not come here as a ruler to listen to demands; I come here as revolutionary to support them. I do not come here to be told what you need, I come here together with you to tell to the Revolutionary Government what the people need. (…) I’m not the Government, I’m a revolutionary. I don’t want to say that to be the Government means not to be a Revolutionary. No; but I do not come here with a ruler’s functions; because I’m not the Government. But, I’m really a revolutionary, and I come before the public opinion to listen to the public opinion, to talk to the public opinion, and to interpret the public opinion”.

Fidel said that he had been in a meeting with the leaders of the teacher‘s school to ask for “volunteers for the literacy campaign, and I had the great surprise to realize that instead of the expected 300 or 400 or 500 volunteers, thousand and thousand of volunteers have been coming to teach. (…) They didn’t demand a budget, not even a wage (…) I want to tell you that the first brigade of teachers is under way to Sierra Maestra. Let’s go there, teachers of tenderness”!

Raúl Ferrer, the unforgettable teacher was inspired by the extraordinary answer of the Cuban teachers to the call made by Fidel to rehabilitate the Sierra Maestra socially, and he wrote a poem entitled Invitation.

It was already said by Fidel/ The Sierra is hard!/ Paths in the Sierra are really hard!/ And they are  harder in the darkness of the night/and they are darker when the homeland is at war./ But the Sierra is pure:/ hope reigns on its peaks./ The man that in his valleys works or swears/ neither loses grains nor misses his shots./ Let’s go there, teachers of tenderness/ The sad boy of the Sierra is calling us/and the Turquino will offer us its height/ where the sky joins the land!