Frank País and the Underground Movement in the
An excerpt from Terrence Cannon’s book:
REVOLUTIONARY CUBA Thomas Y. Crowell, New York © 1981 by Terrence
Most accounts of the Cuban Revolution logically
focus on the guerrillas in the mountains. Little written about even
today is the struggle that took place in the plains, the broad
movement against Batista that unfolded in the major cities and towns
of Cuba, a movement that was both open and clandestine. It was in the
cities that the outcome of the revolution would, in great part, be
determined. There, in every organization, plans were debated, actions
carried out; in the labor unions, where the Communists were organizing
“fighting committees” in the universities and high schools, where the
Revolutionary Directorate and the M-26-7 had influence, even in the
professional and business organizations of the middle and upper
The underground movement against Batista was
everywhere, but nowhere was it stronger than in Santiago, the home of
Frank País. Shortly after the attack on the Moncada garrison in 1953,
País had begun talking with students and young working people, men and
women he knew personally, drawing them around him in an embryonic
“Frank had a tremendous presence,” one of those who
joined the underground said. “He had a sense of the movement we were
living through. HE created respect by the way he acted. Even though he
was disciplined, he had a real human personality. He was one of us, a
País asked each person to organize a cell, to
prepare a list of their friend and close associates, people they could
trust. There were both blacks and whites among those selected. Some
worked; others were in school. Their average age was seventeen.
They prepared carefully, finding, repairing, and
hiding weapons, participating in mass demonstrations against the
dictatorship, raising money, collecting medical supplies. They
published a little mimeographed bulletin which sold for ten cents,
reporting news and criticizing the government, countering the
censorship with which Batista periodically blanketed the island.
In the summer of 1955, País’ organization merged
with the July 26 Movement of Fidel. Frank became the leader of the new
organization in Oriente province.
Up to this moment neither the police in Santiago nor
the members of the group themselves knew the extent of the
organization frank had so painstakingly built. Then one day in early
1956 each cell was given the order to paint the name of the movement
and slogans against the tyranny on all the walls and buildings in
The next morning, the army, the police, and the
people of Santiago awoke to the magnitude of the resistance. Every
block in the city was covered with writing splashed in paint; “Down
with Batista! M-26-7.” No one had been arrested.
Toward the end of that year, the movement began to
prepare the armed uprising that would cover Fidel’s landing and
entrance into the mountains.
M-26-7 uniforms were sewn by women who worked in the
garment factories, working from a list of the sizes of each man in the
cell, sewing at night in their homes. Those who cut the patterns did
not know those who sewed them. Those who sewed were not told their
final destination or the names of those who picked them up. The
movement in Santiago by that time counted on about three hundred
members, one hundred and fifty of who had participated in the failed
November 30 uprising. Hundreds more were close collaborators.
December 1956 was a cruel month. In retreat, after
the uprising had been crushed, people would spontaneously go to the
house of the family to express their indignation and support.
Sometimes they would intercede when the police were trying to make an
The movement was soon able to use factories rather
than homes to hide arms and sew uniforms.
After the November uprising, the police were given
the power to enter homes and to arrest at will. Some became notorious
for their treatment of prisoners, tearing the names of sympathizers
out of them in police-station basements. They entered restaurants,
eating without paying, killing rivals in love and business, raping
women with no fear of investigation.
The movement organized to strike back, assassinating
some of the worst torturers, taking reprisals against the police
whenever a revolutionary was killed. These retaliatory measures made
the M-26-7 even more popular.
the death of País, it was alleged by ex-Castro exiles living in Miami
that Vilma Espín (later married to Raul Castro) betrayed Frank País to
the police. These exiles claimed she did this at the behest of Fidel
Castro who allegedly feared that País was becoming too popular. Espín
denied this claim and there is no evidence to support these
Fact is that Frank Pais often had
referred do Castro as a "Caudillo" and that their relationship was