Writing about the Cowards / Reinaldo Escobar

Moncada Barracks
Moncada Barracks

Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 24 July 2015 — I do not know if I’ll be the first to do it, but at a time like this I want to congratulate the cowards.

Those who 62 years ago were summoned to a Revolutionary action in Santiago de Cuba, and who, when they heard the details describing the madness that involved storming the Moncada barracks, declined to participate.

I do not know the exact number of those who backed out at the last moment, much less their names. I have heard that their identities have never been disclosed, because among them there were some who later joined the fight and even fell in combat. The official story goes that of 135 implicated only four did not “step up.” Other versions raise to 165 the number of the conspirators and about 30 who thought better of it.

I can imagine those young idealists on the Siboney Farm, listening to fiery verses of Raul Gomez Garcia proclaiming “We are already in combat”; I can imagine the transfer of uniforms, the smell of the greased metal of the weapons and the invocation to the motherland, the future, the Revolution, while Santiagans were hungover from Saturday’s carnival.

A thousand armed and trained men were waiting behind the walls of the fortress. The fathers of families, sons, brothers, someone’s boyfriend. Many had chosen a military career precisely because of their humble origins. You would have to kill them to take their place and they were willing to kill to stop you.

The Cuban blood spilled on both sides that morning in Santa Ana made impossible any political understanding, any dialogue. Does it make sense now to discuss the inevitability of the armed option? The rash often exert a fatal attraction to the innocent. The radicals, those who did not want to hear nor reason, raised their pedestal on the blood of their own and others.

Now nobody cares if there were four or thirty. They said, “Don’t count me in,” and no one knows if they have lived years of regret or if, all this time, they congratulating themselves on their decision. If they serve for something, those who have survived, here I leave them my understanding, because I’m all out of applause.