Assignment in Cuba Dickey Chapelle: My view of the water, though, is blocked by Bellevue Hospital, a symbol which some people call depressing but which I find is a reminder of compassion and challenge, too.
After I came back from Lebanon and sat down in the green chair behind the broad wooden table that faces the noisy typewriter, I forgot for the first time in my life to ask if I was a reporter. I was too busy telling what I had to report. Not till thousands of words had ground through the typewriter did I begin to understand the pattern of the history I'd been covering, though. I wanted to go on thinking of the typed sheets of paper falling one after another out of the machine as just the output of a story teller, simply the product by which I made my living.
In the Spirit of the Ancestors. Her lines are sweeping and graceful, and the cordage and rigging are so clearly defined in the silver light of the cold moon that they seem like a delicate web. Webb's Canter, Myrto, Bridegroom, and Malum a had a similar gallop.
They were stories, yes. Telling them fed me, yes.
But their substance was not innocent. I had become an interpreter of violence. I'd covered three revolutions in three years-Hungary, Algeria, Lebanon. One editor summed it up far too neatly when he remarked, "You don't mind, do you, if we call you our special correspondent to the bayonet borders of the world?
Hungary had fallen to the tanks. Brother still fought brother in Algeria. Rioting continued in Lebanon. But men continued to hope and fight for a better world.
Three weeks later, I was sitting in a Miami hotel room staring at a telephone. As soon as it rang, I would be on my way to cover my final revolution to date, that is -probably the most significant revolution of them all. The phone did ring, finally. I heard a man's deep voice saying "Cohen here," the code which the Cuban exiles hack in New York had told me would identify the leaders of the anti-Batista movement in Miami.
The office was the clandestine headquarters of the Cuban underground in Miami supporting Fidel Castro. Hour after hour I interviewed Cubans fleeing from Batista. From their words and voices, many still shrill with fear, I tried to piece together a picture of the reign of terror. The looting of Cuba on a lavish scale could not be hidden, and Batista first tried to anchor his critics to his cause as he had anchored the army-with a chain of gold.
But not all the critics were corruptible. And stolen pesos could not dry up the rising hatred felt toward him by the people he was robbing.
On the Prado it is very rare to see a lady, even accompanied, taking walking exercise; they remain in their carriages and chat with their gentlemen friends, or partake of ices and sherbets, which are brought from the brilliant caf6s in the neighborhood. Most overlook the gardens, with the remaining looking out over the beach. The woman was surprisingly young and inexpressibly weary.
There simply were too many of them. So at last he decided to try to silence them by the tried-and-true method of fear. Around his empire of corruption, Batista built a secret. The letters SIM and the sleek olive. Every police station in the large cities was said to have its own torture chamber.
A fifty-year-old woman schoolteacher who during an interrogation had been violated with a soldering iron in Havana's XII district, February 24, , described the building. She said the chief's office had walls of tile and drains in the floor so it could be cleaned with a hose each day.
Another told me lie knew of a community destroyed by the Cuban Air Force with air-dropped flaming gasoline. He asked me almost diffidently if there was any other country that could have supplied the Bastistiano planes with the napalm-the gasoline jelly bombs-but the United States.
I said I did not know, but I did not add that the answer probably was no. Later I was to see the wreckage of the burned-out town of Mayeri in Oriente, and to photograph pieces of the distinctive silvery metal casings developed by U. In Miami, I reminded my Cuban friends that the United States had embargoed all arm shipments to Batista, including those for hemisphere defense, in March of it was now mid-November of the same year.
They derided the effect of the embargo, saying that Batista's forces had been fully equipped long before with the very weapons now being turned on Cuban civilians. George, later of Life, had trekked deep into the Sierra Maestre mountains of Oriente Province to bring back reports that Castro's forces were taking on planes and armored cars with hunting rifles and shotguns-and winning.
In the end, some twenty reporters had been assigned to go through Batista's lines to Castro. Exactly half of them made it; the rest, identified enroute by Batista's secret police, had been loaded at gunpoint onto the first Miami-bound airplane. Carlos Busch, who headed Castro's underground in Miami, told me bluntly that I'd get through-if I let him ship my cameras and field gear into the Sierra Maestre area clandestinely. He said I was to travel as a tourist and that to carry the leather camera case containing my Leicas, boots and Kabar would expose the courier who must accompany me to arrest and torture.
I demurred, saying I must go with my cameras and offered to be moved blindfolded, as I'd been in Algeria, over the secret route to Castro. He replied that I'd thereby defer delivery to the Cuban revolution of ammunition weighing whatever I did.
The most important rule for negotiating with a jittery underground movement is don't argue, so I shortly left my gear in the custody of Castro's representative in Miami. As readers more astute than the writer will have guessed, I never saw it again. Eventually my fury over the loss of my cameras simmered down other reporters too were victimized by this kind of Castro trick, one of them losing a motion-picture sound camera into which he had just sunk his life savings , but to have let the trench knife given me on Iwo Jima pass into somebody else's hands-for this I can't forgive myself.
However, one twist to my last interview with Dr. Busch turned out to be pure comedy. His words of parting were, "We'll get you through so long as you have made absolutely certain no one knows that you are in Miami now. Batista's spies are everywhere. A phone call to one of them and the SIM will be waiting for you at the airport in Havana. Don't tell me; let me guess-of course you're on your way to Castro! My loyalty to the Marine Corps underwent a quick heavy strain.
The officer read correctly the dismay on my face, quickly shook hands and we parted. I was shortly in the air on a commercial plane to Havana in the company of a courier from Dr. Busch's office, a plump dark girl about twenty-five with tremendous heavy-lashed eyes. I admired her composure on the trip, for the risks she was taking were real ones. As the plane banked to land in Havana, she crossed herself and her lips moved. I discovered I was praying right along with her.
The inspection by the police at the airport was cursory for both of us. I said I was an employee of a New York firm of portrait photographers on a two-week vacation and nobody challenged it.
I'd just had my scarred passport replaced by one innocent of stamps, not for this trip but because the old one had no blank pages. And a fresh passport was typical of a casual vacationer. None of these good omens, though, were going to be too helpful on the next lap of the trip.
The Batistiano lines around the airport in the capital city of Oriente, Santiago de Cuba, at the other end of the island, had been tight for a year.
Now word came that the city was virtually besieged by Castro's forces.
I would need a really good story to tell before I'd be passed through the city proper and out into the province. The story on which I stumbled came straight from the Marine colonel's unwelcome shout. He'd thereby reminded me that there were Marines on duty at the U. I tucked into a sequin-trimmed wallet a picture I'd made of a baby-faced Marine with a scarred chin whose name unfortunately I could not remember.
The moment came when none of these preparations seemed overdone. My courier was being passed without drama by a brisk Cuban police officer at the Santiago airport barrier. I had drawn a large razor-eyed officer, and my luggage still lay unpacked. Although he'd made sure there was not a single item in my suitcase that any American tourist would not ordinarily carry, he clearly was not satisfied. In English he snapped at me, "You say you are a tourist?
There is nothing for visitors here, nothing. The city is encircled by the bandits. We do not even have enough to eat. No, you cannot be a tourist here. I looked around as if to be sure nobody else would hear me, and dropped my trembling voice an octave. I said, rushing my words, "American authorities don't want Marine-uh-Marine wives in the vicinity of the Guantanamo naval base. But I was worried; I'd thrown my Sunday punch. One more question of fact and I was done. I didn't know the name of a single Marine on duty at Guantanamo.
The police inspector said doubtfully, "You're married? Why don't you wear a wedding ring? I was playing the Mata Hari game just about as badly as I had done the last time. I hadn't thought of a wedding ring. I blushed at my defeat. And then realized a blush could mean something else. The officer's secret police mentality slid into gear at once. Incredibly, he was smiling. Obviously he had doubts about the position of marital bliss over international complication.
But stolen romance outranked it every time. Once among the winding sidestreets of the city proper, my courier delivered me to the quarters I was to occupy till I could be led to Castro: Other players included an oil expert on his way back home to Texas, a shellfish specimen collector from the University of Michigan and my colleague, Andrew St.
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