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Who did you turn your back on, Jesús?

Published: 2018.02.13 - 17:13:09   /  web@renciclopedia.icrt.cu  /  Laura Barrera Jerez  /  translated by  Luis E. Amador Dominguez  /luis.amador@renciclopedia.icrt.cu
  

Who did you turn your back on, Jesús?He had a biblical name, a great-grandmother, who was brought from Ivory Coast as a slave, and a family of mambises. His father, Carlos, had reached the rank of captain in Antonio Maceo's troop.

However, Jesús studied only until the fourth grade; he learned the multiplication table and had to go out and earn a living. He worked as a sugarcane cutter, tobacco harvester, sugar purger ... And at 18 he enrolled in the trade union struggles of the Constancia Sugarmill (now Abel Santamaría).

The rebellious heritage and the fighting spirit allowed Jesús Menéndez to quickly become a leader.

In 1931, he joined the Communist Party. Ten years later he was already the Secretary General of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (FNOA) and soon had the initiative to include, in that organization, the employees and technicians of the industry. People loved him, they admired him, they listened attentively to his speeches, they trusted in his word.

He was a black and humble leader with no intellectual egos. He would look forward and see everyone at his level. The plural of his words bothered the government and impressed strength on the workers. This happened when he told the Hoy Newspaper: "We will not start the harvest if we do not pay the differential on the tip of the machete."

Of course at that point there was an order to kill him and although he was warned, he did not stop.
On January 20, 1948, Jesús Menéndez met with the executive of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (Feneta) in Santiago de Cuba. Then he went to the Mabay Sugarmill (now Arquímedes Colina) because the army was intimidating the workers to end the strike.

As he continued his journey, Captain Joaquín Casillas Lumpuy got on his same train at the Yara train station. In Manzanillo, the henchman tried to arrest Menéndez and he claimed that he could not be arrested in such a way because he was a representative of the Chamber. Then he turned his back on the soldier and tried to continue on his way.

However, the cowardice of Casillas Lumpuy made him shoot him and Jesús Menéndez fell to the ground. It was January 22, 1948.

He arrived dead at the Casa de Socorros, but at the insistence of the Batista’s army to wait for three military forensics to examine the body, doctors Borbolla, Soto and Ortiz, along with the people, managed to take the body to the Fraternidad del Puerto trade union. There, on a desk and with his head resting on a stone, Jesus Menéndez was autopsied.

From the east of the country to Havana, his mortal remains would come. This was recalled a few years ago, for the Juventud Rebelde newspaper, by Raúl Rodríguez, a party leader in Jatibonico at the time: "We all felt pain, sadness, and anger. What impressed me the most was the immense number of sugarcane workers, humble people, who came to the line to express their indignation by raising their machetes. The car had to go slowly among so many people. We sang the National Anthem. That trip was unforgettable ... The mortuary train stopped at each of the railway stations. The concentration was compact, even though everything was taken by the guard. In each station a leader of the Party spoke, his words paralyzed the soldiers. They always ended saying: They shot him in the back."

That spirit with biblical name and mambí inheritance died when he was only 37 years old. His wife was a widow and her four children, orphans. The people shuddered at the news and accompanied him, as many times. The wake was held at the National Capitol and they say that from there to the Colón Cemetery, his mortal remains were escorted by more than one hundred thousand people.

Behind him, death was no longer following, but the people and the glory were.

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