Che and Fidels route from Granma Landing to Havana. Map or track available?
Replies: 13 - Last Post: Nov 24, 2012 4:01 PM Last Post By: pbekkerh
Nov 3, 2012 9:24 AM
Nov 3, 2012 2:57 PM
1pbekkerh: you are talking about a 2+ year journey with many extended stops along the way. It certainly was not a direct route. And, there were many important stories along they.
The 2 1/2 hour Showtime movie "Fidel Castro" which can be seen on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20rCxqg-Vzw may be a summary of the events that lead to this journey, the actual journey itself, and the aftermath. It is a very condensed summary of 50 years into 2 1/2 hours and should not be considered as totally historically accurate but will give you some idea.
Nov 3, 2012 3:42 PM
Nov 3, 2012 4:40 PM
3pbekkern: you might enjoy the photo book "Havana - Revolutionary Moment: by Burt Glinn which contains photos and stories of Fidel's 8 day march into Havana after Batista fled the country. He left a party in New York on New Years eve when he learned that Batista had fled and arrived in Havana on New Years Day. He photographed in Havana, then met up with Fidel and his troops in Santa Clara and accompanied them on to Havana.
Used copies of the book are available from the normal sources. I actually own 3 new copies, 2 of which are signed by the author but unwilling to part with any of them.
Nov 3, 2012 7:11 PM
4I thought Fidel was hiding in the nun's convent in Santiago de Cuba when Che Guevara defeated Bautista at the Battle of Santa Clara. Do cuban nun's have any problems with sex? How many children did the popes have?
Nov 3, 2012 9:03 PM
5You will find some very interesting information about the revolutionaries in the Sierra Maestra in Rosa Jordan's book The Woman She Was' - a semifictional treatment of Celia Sanchez and her relationship with and influence on Fidel Castro. Rosa posts to this forum as ttjpdo and has written two travel-rlated books about Cuba as well.
I doubt that you would get a better description of the comandancia, and the book also allows the reader to start thinking about the fact that the 'troops' contained both genders. It's a good read.
Nov 3, 2012 9:55 PM
Nov 3, 2012 11:34 PM
7Here are a few sights, having traveled on this journey a few years ago, though I am sure little has changed. I think the best thing for you is to figure out what YOU want to see. My thoughts on 2 places that may be of interest.
First, the Parque Desembarco de Granma, where history has been generous by describing it as a landing. A lot of the participants, notably Che, described it as a shipwreck followed by mosquito bites as they trucked through mud. To get here, you will have to travel to Manzanillo and then get a private taxi to take you the rest of the way. Public transportation heading to Playas Coloradas from Manzanillo is pretty much non-existent. There is a replica of the ship Granma there and a small museum.
Second is the rebel hq at Comandancia up in the Sierra Maestra. There are several ways to do this trip, you may want to do a search of this site for the few reviews. I know this is going to SHOCK many Fidelistas here, since I have become a critic of the revolution, but this hike IS MY BEST EXPERIENCE IN CUBA. I took the one day option. I stayed in a casa in Bayamo, and asked my hosts to find me a driver willing to take me there for the whole day. We left Bayamo soon after 6 am, arrived in Santo Domingo where the park entrance is located. There is a small museum, which I took in before we headed to the park office. You have to use a guide, they will not let you go there alone. Anyway, I was lucky in that it turned out to be only the two of us. I brought snack bars and gum that I shared with him.
It is a tough hike, one that I would not recommend in the summer. Little has changed from the pictures and footage you might see in documentaries, which appealed to me. Depending on your level of Spanish, you may or may not want to read up on history as not all the guides speak English. I read up, and had a few arguments with my guide, whose version of some events was one that has been laundered by Fidel.
DO NOT hesitate to drink from the small springs you will come across, I emptied my water bottles, drank from them and lived to tell. I figured of Fidel & company drank and lived, so could I. It was the sweetest water I have ever sipped. We went all the way to Comandancia, where I saw they bed where Fidel and Celia Sanchez shacked up, and also the offices of Radio Rebelde. We came down the mountain later on in the afternoon, I shared the sandwiches I had brought with my guide, and my driver took me back to Bayamo. Please make sure you tip well.
Nov 4, 2012 2:31 AM
Nov 4, 2012 12:50 PM
9I was not downplaying the important role that Celia Sanchez played in the revolution. They did have a relationship that started when they met in the Sierra Maestra. Why are people so touchy about this?
Fidel even seriously considered marrying Celia soon after they marched into Havana, but chose not to because she was from a "Bourgeois background." The peasants and the poor were seen as the backbone of the success of the rebels, and Fidel was super cautious about how he would be perceived if he turned around and married a woman from a prominent family in Manzanillo (Celia's father was a very well known doctor). Remember that Fidel's family, though rich, were looked down upon by the social elite as crude Guajiros lacking "Class."
But I digress, back to the OP. I forgot to add, that these sites are kind out of the way so getting there and back is not that easy, and you will definitely have to pay for a private taxi so budget accordingly.
Nov 4, 2012 4:09 PM
10Good advice from most here.
Doing a day trip to La Plata headquarters in the Sierra Maestra is very easy to organise from either Bayamo or Manzanillo if staying in either town or at the very close-by Villa Santo Domingo.
It's a very easy walk for anyone reasonably fit from the Park's headquarters in terms of gradient etc. Normally an easy stroll except after/during rain when parts of the track can turn quite muddy. We left from Bayamo about 9.30am - spent a couple of hours at La Plata itself and were back down to Santo Dominga for lunch early afternoon.
Nov 24, 2012 11:11 AM
11It is not difficult to follow Che and Fidel's route from the Granma Landing to Havana, and could well be one of the most interesting ways to simultaneously understand that aspect of Cuban history will seeing important aspects of contemporary Cuban culture. Here's how you'd do it:
Get yourself to MANZANILLO (by plane or bus), and from there by whatever is rolling (probably a local-transport truck) to PLAYA LAS COLORADAS, about 90 km down the coast. The landing spot of the Granma is 1 km further on, plus a 1-km walk through the mangroves along a raised walkway. You don't need a guide to get there, but will need to get someone at the campismo (basic cottages--a good, inexpensive place to stay) to line you up with a guide to take you from the landing site along the trail to Alegria de Pio, where most of the 82 men that came on the boat were slaughtered three days later. From that point on the survivors were scattered, then most of them reunited, then roaming through the sierra making hit-and-run attacks on small military installations. So you can't really follow their "trail," such as it was, over the next few months. However, I believe by April 1957 Celia Sanchez had established a base camp for them in the mountains above the village of Santo Domingo, known then and now as LA COMANDANCIA DE LA PLATA.
So rather than try to find a guide to lead you over the mountains from Alegria de Pio to La Comandancia, I would recommend that you return to BAYAMO, and from there hire a car to take you to SANTO DOMINGO. There you will find a place to stay--pleasant cottages above the river known as Villa Santo Domingo, as well as a small museum with a large table relief map that shows that whole reigon of the Sierra Maestra, and will help you get a feel for the lay of the land. This is also where the park office is located--about 500 metres from the villa--where you need to go to pay your 10-CUC fee to get into the park and engage a guide to take you up to the Comandancia. I too consider this one of the most interesting excursions one can make in Cuba (and despite being mountainous, quite a bit easier than the hike from where the Granma landed to Alegria de Pio.) My recommendation would be that you arrive at Santo Domingo the day before, visit the museum and line up your guide, with an agreement to leave for the Comandancia EARLY next morning (more like 6 a.m. instead of the 8 or 9 a.m. they prefer. This will ensure that you are hiking in the beautiful cool of the morning and will be back down in plenty of time for lunch at the villa before heading back to Bayamo. And as suggested by Bahaman, do tip your guide well--10 CUC, maybe. These guides are well informed and will add considerably to your understanding (assuming you and the guide have a language in common, and you should make sure when you pay your fee at the park office that this will be the case.)
If you have the time and mobility to visit more than these two sites at the eastern end of the island, you might also find someone in Palma Soriano (about 80 km east of Bayamo, on the highway leading to Santiago) who can show you the sugar mill where Fidel, Celia, and other commanders (not Che) spent New Years' Eve of 1958, before marching on to Santiago. This is not a usual tourist destination, though, and you might have trouble arranging this unless you have your own wheels and are fairly fluent in Spanish.
Che, of course, was by this time moving east, where he defeated Batista's troops in various places including, most famously, Santa Clara. There for sure you will want to visit the Che monument/memorial/masoleum, surely one of the most impressive in Cuba. After bribing the commander of Batista's troops (who subsequently fled to Miami in his yatch and became immensely wealth as head of a large construction firm), Che claimed victory and continued his march to Havana. Don't recall how long it took him, but you can make the trip by bus in about four hours. You'll find lots more Che stuff in the Museo de la Revolucion, if it's open. (Last I heard it was closed, undergoing renovations). Also at the Museo de la Revolucion, outdoors in a glass building, is the Granma. (The one on display at the Disembarco is a replica.)
Nov 24, 2012 11:17 AM
12By the way, Poster #3 wrote, "He left a party in New York on New Years eve when he learned that Batista had fled and arrived in Havana on New Years Day," he naturally meant the author Burt Glinn, not Fidel. As indicated above, on New Years' Eve Fidel was "shacked up" with Celia Sanchez and other of his commanders and troops in a sugar mill outside Palma Soriano.
Also, do, if you get a chance, take Poster #6's advice and check out the Camilo Cienfuegos museum at Yaguajay.
Nov 24, 2012 4:01 PM
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