Monday, 5 May 2014

Women Warriors: the Cuban Revolution

Here's an extract from Marianas in Combat, a book about the Mariana Grajales Brigade during the revolution in Cuba in the 1950s. It's by Tete Puebla, who was fifteen when she joined the revolutionary forces, and rose to be a Brigadier General in the Revolutionary Armed Forces, including a period serving in the Mariana Grajales Brigade.

"We had already proved that women could do just about everything. We withstood the bombings, delivered weapons, and were in the places where fighting was taking place. But we were still not allowed to fight.

“If women have to take part in all the duties of the revolution,” we said, “why can´t we fight for the revolution in the same way as our men fight?”

After the army´s offensive had been defeated, we asked our commander in chief to allow us to fight arms in hand. He agreed. Fidel said yes, women had won the right to fight with a rifle face to face with the enemy....

There was a discussion at this roundtable meeting that lasted more than seven hours. Fidel had a very big argument there. There were still not enough weapons for everyone, and the men were saying, “How can we give rifles to women when there are so many men who are unarmed?”

Fidel answered: “Because they´re better soldiers than you are. They´re more disciplined.”

“In any event,” he said, “I´m going to put together the squad, and I´m going to teach them how to shoot.”"

There were only 14 members of the Mariana Grajales Brigade, named after an earlier Cuban heroine, but many other women were involved in the revolution.

There are some who say that Celia Sanchez was the one who made the important decisions that Fidel Castro went along with, for instance. I'd never heard of her until I started doing a bit of research, but she seems to have worked closely with Fidel Castro until her death in 1980, including fighting alongside him during the Cuban Revolution. In fact, Fidel Castro was in prison when she launched the Revolution, and she saved him and Che Guevara, and ten other men of the eighty or so who returned to the island and were mostly instantly captured by the Batista regime.

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