Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC


Source:  Bulletin No. 113, Public Relations Department of the
Ministry of Foreign Relations, Havana, 23 May 1960, pp 1-10

People of Pinar del Rio:

More than a year ago, the first gathering after the revolutionary
triumph was held in this city.  It was, if I remember rightly, in the month
of January of last year.  This, then, is the second gathering I have had
the opportunity of attending.  There was one I missed, in the Province of
Oriente, at which I could not be present.  However, on this occasion,
although it was not announced long ago and despite the fact that we all
have great work to do, I did not want to miss this gathering of the people
of Pinar del Rio.  Not only many months, but many things have transpired in
our country since then.  On that first occasion the first revolutionary law
had not been issued, and the work of the revolution had barely begun.  On
that occasion, we had only the faith of the people.  The people had faith,
the people believed.  On that occasion we celebrated the hour of
liberation, on that occasion our people, after seven long years of terror,
began to sense the clam, the safety and the happiness which the revolution
had brought us.  At that time, our joy was not as it is today.  That was a
joy which derived from the feeling of those who had freed themselves of a
threat hanging over them.  For the mothers and the fathers, it was as if
the fear of death for their children had been removed.  For the peasant, we
had taken away the terror of the rural guard, the threat of the machetes,
etc.  For the students and the workers in the cities, we had removed the
threat of the tyrant's police.  We, the revolutionaries, that is to say,
the people themselves, had freed the country from the hired ruffians,
the rascals, that whole band of criminals and evil individuals who had
caused us to live in terror, who had made us live in the  midst of danger
and horror.  This was the happiness on that occasion, the happiness of a
people who had done away with a heavy threat which hung over them.

It is possible that little by little we will forget, and it is
natural, it is natural that we should become accustomed to living
freely, and that those days should seem increasingly distant.  Now we are
hardly happy for the same reasons that we were a year ago, because other
joys have come to replace the joy of yesterday.  Today's joy is that of a
people in what they have been creating, the happiness of today is not only
because of what no longer hangs over us, but because of what we have done
since the triumph of the revolution.  The joy of today is also partly
because we have done away with many things, because we have done away, for
example, with  many privileges and abuses.  First of all, it was necessary
to triumph over the hired ruffians.  Then, we had to defeat the interests
of the powerful, and we still have powerful adversaries and enemies to

Today we are not happy because of a hope or a promise.  Today we
are happy because of the reality, and because of the fulfillment of some
dreams.  Moreover, there is a fact which we must take into account, and it
is that today there are more people here than at that first gathering.
And there is a reason for this.  No one has given the individuals who came
here a prize for doing so.  The men and the women of the people who are
here are not here for the reasons that they attended public ceremonies in
the past, because they had been given or offered something. The men and the
women who are here have come in an absolutely spontaneous and voluntary
manner.  In the past, some politicians could rally some people.  On many
occasions, citizens were forced to attend gatherings.  There were workers
on public projects who were obliged to attend certain meetings and
government employees who ran the risk of losing their jobs if they did not

For this reason, what is important to us today is something other
than the number of citizens who  have gathered, something still more worthy
of recognition -- the enthusiasm of the men and women who have gathered
here, the faces of the men and women who have gathered here, the happiness
and the faith of the men and women, the boys and girls, the young people
and the old people, who have gathered here.  Because this is worth much
more than the number, because this is what says more and this is what
inspires us more.  And this is the manifestation of fact -- of what the
revolution is doing and of the fact that the people recognize the work of
the revolution.

If there are more Cubans here today than on the earlier occasion,
it is because the revolution has been serving the people.  If the
revolution were not serving its purpose, there would have been fewer
citizens at this gathering this year.  If the revolution had not fulfilled
the hopes of our people, if the revolution had not done its work, if the
revolution had not advanced, there would not be more citizens today than
yesterday, because today they are not here because of the happiness
resulting from that 1 January triumph, but because of the work which is
being done.

The peoples respond to events, they do not respond to words.  they
respond to deeds.  And our people have suffered many deceptions, our people
have been deceived many times, and how many times the people have nurtured
the hope, how many times they have created a dream, but they were not long,
not very long, in suffering.  How many times has a hope arisen, but it was
not long in being lost, because often our people were betrayed.

Many of you who are gathered here are peasants, many are workers
in the city, students, humble men and women of the people, and you will
recall how long you have heard talk in Cuba of agrarian reform.  There has
been talk -- all the demagogues and the politicians talked of agrarian
reform.  For many years, there was talk of the poor rural people, and
they used the phrases "the poor peasant," "the forgotten rural sector,"
It was said that they were exploited with the sharecropping contracts, that
they did not own their land and that they had no land to work.  It was said
that they had no work, no schools, no credit.  It was said that they paid
very high interest, or paid double for bonds, or were charged more than
the minimum prices established by law.  It was said that speculators
controlled tobacco, or that the politicians stole stabilization fund
money.  It was said that goods were high and there was speculation in
urgently needed items.  It was said that there many abuses in the rural
sector, that the rural guard dealt machete blows to the workers and the
peasants, or that the ministers stole school and hospital funds.  It was
said that such and such a gentlemen had purchased a 300 or 400 caballeria
estate with the money he had stolen from the people, or that such and such
was the owner of the Guanahacabibes Peninsula, or that someone else was the
owner of half of the Sierra de Los Organos Range, or that there was
smuggling through La Coloma, La Esperanza, Mariel, or Cabanas.  It was said
that so and so had made himself rich, or that there were so many
bottlers ...

Everyone remembers that past, everyone remembers those days.  The
politicians came, and what did they do?  The politicians came, and what
did they offer us?  They plastered the walls with posters, they tacked
cartoons to the fences and palm trees.  They did not come wearing palm
sombreros, but fine straw hats.  They did not come with men dressed in
green, but with men dressed in yellow.  They carried much money in their
wallets and they had many flatterers in their courts of followers.  And for
how many years did they make their propositions?  For how many years did
they promise?  For how many years did they beat their breasts?  And
shamelessly, year after year, election after election, reorganization after
reorganization, they presented themselves, and it was always the same
thing, always the same deception, always the same lies, always the same

And how could we make the people believe that the evils in the
republic could be corrected?  And how could we rally the people in
meetings?  And what real hope could the people of Cuba have of resolving
these evils by this path one day?  What hope could there be while that
institution existed, that institution called the army, armed to the teeth,
which would never have been willing to renounce its privileges, and which
was always on the side of the enemies of the people and of interests
inimical to the fatherland?  What hope was there of resolving these
problems while there was this inviolate army, this powerful army alone a
against which no politician had dared to raise his voice, let alone a
weapon?  What hope was there that these immoral charlatans would let our
people advance?  Because it was a question of advancing, of advancing
through a wall of rifles aimed at the people, advancing through a wall of
rifles aimed at the people, advancing through a wall of interests.  Because
here the peasant or the worker did not count for anything.  Those who
counted here were those who dressed well and drove long Cadillacs.  Here
it was the owners of great estates,,the colonels or the generals, the
politicians, who counted.  And they were the all-powerful masters of the
economy of the country.

Here the sweaty peasant with his straw hat or the worker in his
blue shirt counted for nothing.  No one respected them, no one had any
consideration for them.  Those who counted were those who went once a week
to their estates, greeting those who worked there as if they were doing a
favor, as if one should be grateful if one day they deigned to touch the
callused hand of their farm workers with their delicate fingers.  They
visited and collected, and the others lived there, did everything but
collected nothing.

But if they paid some taxes on these profits, supposedly to go for
schools or hospitals, these funds remained in the hands of the politicians
of the military.  And what happened to the people?  What happened to the
people during these 50 years, except misery?  What happened to the people
who labored?  What happened to the people who produced?  How many sons of
peasants and workers went to the universities?  How many sons of peasants
and workers had a doctor within call, and what was the peasant or the
worker to do when his child was ill?  What could he do but sell the few
chickens he owned.  What could the worker do but mortgage his salary or
place it in the hands of a moneylender at 100% interest?

What did the people receive?  What were the people given?  The
people who produced everything, the people who worked, the people who
created, what were the people given? What was left for the people? How many
schools were built in our rural sector? How many teachers, how many books
were sent out? How many roads were built? How many boats were given to
fishermen? What did they do for the people, who produced everything and
created everything?

If a tobacco grower was lent money, he was charged 8 or 10 or 15
or 20% on it.  Also, he was sold fertilizer mixed with earth.  His tobacco
was bought at a price lower than that established by law.  He was cheated
when the tobacco was weighed and on top of this they took a third of it
from him.  But also they sold the goods at a high price.  Also, they
subjected him to fear and terror.  Also, they threatened him, and the
peasants knew what to expect if they tried to organize to demand some
rights.  The peasants knew what would happen to them if they protested
against all this.  And thus, thus they plundered the people for 50 years,
they stole from them, they robbed your fathers and your grandfathers.
Thus, calmly, as if it were a proper thing, as if it were a just thing, as
if it were a good thing.  And meanwhile, your children could not attend
schools, your children could not go to the universities, in many cases
your children could not even learn to write their names.

They were preparing for something.  Do you know what?  To continue
robbing. Why should they be interested in building schools?  Why should
they be interested in having the peasants learn?  Why should they be
concerned that the peasants acquire an education?  Why should they want the
peasants to understand?  What was it that suited those who took away a
third of all the crops and charged 20% interest and paid prices below the
minimum and sold fertilizer mixed with earth?  How could it benefit them if
you had education?  That the people remained ignorant, yes, this is what
they wanted, because it was the only way, the only way to continue that
exploitations from the great-great-grandfathers to the
great-great-grandsons and thus, in all honesty, could the people have
accepted all this, if they had been aware of the abuses being perpetuated
against them?  There were instances in which peasants almost believed they
should thank the landlord who gave them a morsel of ground, who took away a
third of the crop, who charged them 20%, who cheated on weighing their
crops, who paid them less than the law required, who sold their crops at
the highest price, double what they were paying for them, and on top of all
this, sold them fertilizer mixed with earth.

There were peasants who felt they should feel gratitude to these
landlords.  Why?  Because they were not aware of the exploitation of which
they were the victims.  The people were not aware of their strength.  The
citizens met in the streets and complained and grumbled to each other,
saying:  "That one is a thief," "this one is an embezzler," "that fellow is
an exploiter, he paid me so much for my crop," "they took so much from me,"
but the peasant, the worker, the student, the intellectual worker, the
people who were indignant about these things talked, everyone talked, but
nonetheless things continued to be the same.

The people were not aware of their own strength.  The people did
not know what these militias of organized workers, these militias of
organized peasants, these militias of organized students, these militias of
organized women, these militias of organized children, were.  The people
did not know what they themselves were capable of.  The people did not know
that they they themselves could produce braver soldiers and better
combatants than those who kept our people in terror.  The people were not
aware of their own strength, and it was for this reason that a few, handful
of the military, plus a handful of citizens representing these interests,
could maintain the vast majority of the people in this situation, because
the people were not aware of their own strength.

If the people had been aware of their own strength, if the people
had been aware of what they could do in revolutionary fashion, if the
people had been aware of what they could do by rebelling, that abuse and
that exploitation would not have endured from the time of our grandfathers,
our great-grandfathers, our great-great-grandfathers, until today, as it
did.  If the people had known what they are capable of, if the people had
seen themselves with guns as they have marched today, if these peasants had
seen themselves with these rifles, if these workers and students had seen
themselves with these rifles, if these women and these young people had
seen themselves with these rifles, if they had imagined themselves parading
one day as they did today, they would have understood what their strength
was, instead of dividing themselves as the people did divide, forming
groups backing each demagogue, each politician, each little band.  If only
they had understood the strength which lay in unity of the people, rather
than in the absurd division whereby with their registers they enrolled
some peasants in the Liberal Party, others in the Conservative Party, and
still others in the Nationalist Party, dividing the peasantry, which
was a single unit and which had the same problems and which had the same
problem, the same suffering, the same pain and misery, which was exploited
by the same estate, innumerable groups, and the political lieutenants when
forth making friends everywhere, saying to the noble and good peasants:
"Join us, comrade;" "join here, I will send your boy to school;" or "I will
send your child to another school;" "sign up here and I will find you a
little job in public works;" or "I will find a nice government job for
you;" "join us, and I can help you;" and also "sign up with us, because you
are my friend and friends must help each other."

And thus they divided what was the same thing, they divided the
peasants of one sector or those of another, and they provided rum, and they
killed steers, and they danced the conga, in order to make the peasant
forget his misery, his pain, to remove from his mind the spirit
of struggle, and to keep the peasants divided, so that this divided
people, these divided workers, who were a single people and who had the
same interests, could be kept divided into a thousand factions so that
these people would be impotent.  In brief, they employed the tactics of
turning the workers against each other, the peasants against each other,
and the people had been aware of the strength which unity could provide, if
the people had been aware of the tremendous strength they would have when
all this disappeared, exploitation and abuse would not have endured for
half a century in our land.

But in the end they abused, exploited, and maltreated the people
to such an extent, they overstepped themselves so far, that what had to
happen happened. The day had to come when the people were fed up with it!
The day had to come when the people were disgusted! The day had to come
when the people rebelled! The day had to come when the people would take up
guns and machetes! The day had to come when the people would decide to
demand an accounting! The day had to come when the people would have had
enough of so many thieves and would take back from them what they had
stolen! The day had to come when the people would do away with the
politicians!  The day had to come when the people would do away with the
estate owners!  The day had to come when the people would do away with the
privileges!  The day had to come when the people would say:  "Enough!  Out!
Guns for the workers and the peasants!  Machetes for the peasants!  Guns
for the students!  Guns for the men!  Guns for the women!  Guns for the old
people!  Guns for the children!  Guns for everyone!"  The day had to come
when the people would say:  "I will join this militia, because it is a
militia of my trade union, of my cooperative, of my peasant association!
And I am a peasant -- those here, as in Oriente -- and I am a worker --
those here, as in Oriente -- and I am a student -- those here, as in
Oriente, and I am like the student in Oriente, I belong to this vast force
which is called the people!  I am a part of this extraordinary and powerful
force called the people, more powerful than all the privileges of the past,
more powerful than the military who 9oppressed us yesterday!  I am a part
of this people which has fought, I am a part of this people which closed
ranks, I am a part of this victorious people!  I am a single thing, I am
the people, and I am the united people, the strong people, and now I am not
alone, now no one can come to attack me, because to attack me they would
have to attack the entire people!

"Now no one can come to murder my child, because to murder my
child, they would have to murder the children of all the  mothers, all the
mothers and all the fathers.  Now no one can come to rob me, no one can
come to exploit me, because to exploit me, to rob me, they would have to
rob the entire people.

"Now they cannot come to take my little piece of land from me, now
they cannot come to pull down my hut with a team of oxen, now they cannot
come to leave my children without a roof, because to tear down my house, to
leave my children homeless, they would have to destroy the houses of all
the hundreds of thousands of brothers I have, because now I am not alone to
defend myself.  In the past, there was no one to whom to turn, in the
past we were divided, in the past we could count on no one, in the past I
was alone.  Now I am not alone, now I am millions of human beings, now it
is not my strength alone, now it is not the strength of my arms alone, but
the strength of millions of arms.  Now it is not I alone who am indignant.
Now all are indignant at the injustice committed against me, an entire
people is indignant.  And now I shall no longer be someone who does not
count.  Today I count, today everyone counts, today I am not ashamed of
my sweat shirt, of my straw hat, of my workers' clothing in the city
streets. Because today it is no shame to be a peasant or a worker. Today
those who feel shame are those who in the past traveled in their Cadillacs
through the misery of our people. Today to be a worker, or a peasant, or a
student, or an intellectual worker, or to be useful in one way or the
other to the fatherland, is an honor and a sign of honor. In the past there
was only misery for me, never honor. I did everything but I did not even
receive recognition for my efforts. Yesterday I was poor and ignored and
unknown. Today I am the leading citizen of the republic. Today I am the
most beloved and respected citizen of the republic -- a peasant, a worker,
a student."

And there will be no more exploitation, no longer will they take
one-third from those who produce the fruits of the land with their labor.
No longer will they snatch away the products of their harvests, steal them,
as they robbed in every way.  This will never be again, never again will
it be as it was, and never again will anyone abuse the people, or rob the
people again, or divide the people in factions again, or destroy the
strength of the people, or confuse the minds of the people, or keep the
people in ignorance so that people will continue to be a useful tool of
the privileged.  Their children will not grow up ignorant, or without
schools.  These valleys, these beautiful valleys in this province, which
were the "Cinderella," will never again be the "Cinderella" of Cuba.  These
valleys will not only be beautiful valleys, not only beautiful because of
the landscape, but they will also be beautiful because of the happiness
which will prevail there, and these lovely mountains will be more beautiful
still because the people there are happier.

And this will be one of the richest provinces of Cuba.  It
suffices to compare the total money, that is to say, the total value of the
tobacco harvest last year and the total value of the tobacco harvest this
year in the countryside, excluding the tobacco already stripped, assorted
and processed, the gross value of the tobacco in the countryside.  In
1958-59, the value was $23,368,892, while that this year is $41,377,600.

This means that, according to conservative estimates, the total
value of this product, the main product of this province, has almost
doubled in value from last year to this.

This means that in tobacco alone, the money earned by this
province has virtually doubled.  The loans granted to 18,000 peasants
totals 17 million pesos.  The buildings, the tobacco barns, constructed,
exceed 500.  More than a thousand have been rebuilt.  Thirty thousand tons
of pure fertilizer have been used.  And the value, the value which was
never paid for in earlier years, that established by law, which was never
paid for on the basis of fair weight, and which for the first time last
year had to be paid for, was paid for this year, thanks to the efforts of
the revolutionary government, because when the revolutionary government
takes a step, it takes that which it can, not that which it would like to,
and when there is a price measure, it cannot be the price we would want.
Would that we could establish a high price for all products and that all
could have absolutely everything they need to satisfy all their

But government leaders have their limitations, which are very
strict, and the fact is a government official cannot alter the price of a
product on the world market.  We cannot alter this price of sugar on the
world market by decree, and that price depends on the quantity of sugar
produced in the world.  We have to sell at the price prevailing on the
world market.  We would like to be able to sell sugar at a much higher
price, so that the sugar worker could earn twice what he does, or three
times as much, but we cannot raise the price of sugar on the world market
by decree, and we have to accept the price we are paid for this product, in
accordance with the existing [Unreadable text] and the supplies of sugar in
the world.

Government leaders have very strict limitations.  We cannot alter
the price of tobacco on the world market by decree, just as we cannot
alter the price of coffee, and these limitations stand above our desires.
But despite this fact, we study the advantages which may be offered to the
peasants, trying, naturally, to avoid any threat to another sector of the
people, because there are many workers, thousands of humble workers who
make a living from rolling tobacco.  There are thousands of small tobacco
processors, there is a people consuming tobacco, and the sugar worker who
cannot be paid more because there is a certain price for sugar on the
world market, and if we raise the price of something used every day such as
cigarettes and tobacco, we would be seeking a solution which would benefit
some at the cost of making others suffer.  And for this reason, we as
government leaders have our limitations, these limitations which the
people understand, because today being in the government means only
watching over the interests of the people, fighting for the people, trying
to benefit all of them, and in particular, to benefit those who have
nothing, those who earn the least, those whose situation is the worst.

And for this reason, within these limitations, despite these
limitations, the revolutionary government has been able to increase the
price of tobacco classified as third category, which was established at 20
pesos in the past, but which was often not paid.  It has raised this price
25%, so that it is now worth 25 pesos.  Second category tobacco has been
raised from 22.50 to 28 pesos, and first category tobacco from 25 to 28
pesos.  This means that in addition to the credit, the machinery, the rent
which no longer needs to be paid, the improvement in the prices of
fertilizers and seed, we have, after analyzing all the possibilities, all
within our reach, raised the price of tobacco by more than 20%.  And thus
this province will receive almost the double in millions of pesos of what
it received last year for this product.

But it is not a matter of tobacco alone.  In the San Cristobal
zone, for example, more than 5,000 persons have been working in the
cooperatives which have been organized.  In the Nantua zone, 30 million
eucalyptus seedlings are being planted.  And you know that the land lying
to the north and the south of the Organos Range had a rich pine forest in
the past, from which fabulous quantities of wood were taken out.  Now this
wealth has disappeared and we must reestablish it so that within 10 or 12
or 15 years, this province will be one of the richest provinces in wood,
which will provide a living for thousands and thousands of citizens of the

And we are promoting the planting of potatoes, peanuts and onions.
We are establishing a number of herds of purebred swine for the production
of items which we are still importing.  We are sowing vast areas of rice.
We are establishing great livestock breeding centers and also we are
establishing villages, like the Hermanos Saiz village, like the village of
the El Rosario cooperative, like the village of San Vincente.  And so
it is that we will build villages throughout the province.

With the resources of these first years, with what we earn in
these first years, because we must wage the battle against poverty, we
cannot rest until our efforts have removed from our rural sector the last
crude hut, until each peasant and each worker, each village family has a
house, like the houses which exist in each of the cooperatives.  We cannot
rest, and we cannot relax in our work of establishing schools.  You know
that the squadron headquarters has been converted into a home for children.
You know that the regiment has already moved out of its quarters and that
we are going to establish a great school city there.

You know that the army has converted 16 barracks into schools.
You know that one no longer sees barracks along thee highways.  You know
that in all these places where the visitor once found barracks, there are
today schools which no longer show any evidence of having been barracks.

Thus, the visitors who come to this province, a province which is
receiving more visitors than ever before, because thousands and thousands
of persons come every week and the number of persons who come to Vinales,
or Soroa, or Cabanas, or to any one of the many villages such as San Diego,
such as the old Cortina Estate, and other tourist centers, or to the
beaches, these visitors no longer find barracks here.  They find schools.

And we will continue along this path of education and training the people.
We will continue to carry out this work, because this is the work the
people wanted and the revolution is doing what the people wanted. Pinar del
Rio will no longer be the Cinderella of Cuba. Pinar del Rio will be one of
the provinces where the most work is done, which has the highest standard
of living and general welfare. Pinar del Rio will be one of the leading
provinces, and it will have an increasingly prosperous economy. It will
have greater income every year, and the day will come when not one person
will be unemployed. Even this year there were some zones, for example San
Cristobal and Mantua, where, when the harvest began, there were no workers
to be found, because they were engaged in harvesting tomatoes or working
planting eucalyptus, and no one could be found to work, manpower for the
sugar cane harvest was lacking. This means that for the first time in our
history, manpower was needed, and this after only one year of revolutionary
government. In the tobacco sector, for example, or in the education sector,
if you like, to limit it to that, the revolutionary government has
appointed 600 new teachers, converted 16 barracks into schools, established
8 secondary schools, 19 urban school centers and more than 200 rural

This has been the work of one year, and for this reason there are
more people here today than the first time, because that happiness, the
happiness of triumph, was a happiness which was to pass, because these
emotions die away.  On the other hand, there is a feeling which never dies
away, a happiness and a feeling which never ceases, and this is the
people's sense of progress, the creative zeal of the people, the work that
the people are doing.  This feeling never passes, and this is the feeling of
today and will be the feeling of tomorrow.  This is what we are doing, and
this is what the fatherland means.  the fatherland is what we are creating
and it is being done with rice, with dignity.  And we are crating a
fatherland.  We all dream of a future, a future which will be different
from the past, a future which will be much better than the present.  We
dream of this fatherland we are creating.  We dream of these children who
are growing up.  We dream of what this fatherland will be when all our
fields are cultivated, when thousands and thousands of schools have been
established throughout the country, when hundreds of thousands of children
are studying in our school cities, when each Cuban knows how to read and
write, when each family has a proper house, when each peasant has his future
and his happiness and that of his children and his grandchildren assured,
when these conquests we have made today are definitive conquests for the
coming generations.  We dream of this fatherland of the morrow of which we
have a right to think and dream, because we are building it, because we are
establishing it, because we are creating it.  To take this dream from us,
they will have to take life from us!  To destroy this fatherland of ours,
they will  have to destroy us, and for this reason we advance, and for this
reason, we have organized militias, each Cuban who loves his fatherland
will have a gun and will know how to handle this gun, because when a people
is building its future, when a people has emerged from the past and broken
its chains, and has made a breach in a wall of interests, that people does
not and never will resign itself to abandoning the path it has taken!
Nothing and no one can triumph over such a people!  This people is too
firmly rooted in its land, in its hope, in its dreams, to resign itself to
return to the past.  This people can never be dominated! This people can be
conquered!  And if foreign powers try to subjugate us, if foreign powers
come to destroy this work, let them know that they will find a gun in each
hand, that in each breast lies a hero, that in each Cuban they will
encounter a soldier, and that no one an separate us from our land, no one
can separate us from our dreams.  No one can destroy this fatherland we are
creating, because our slogan is fatherland or death!