One day Consuelo received a disturbing letter from her parents, asking her to go back to Cuba. They feared it was the last time the family could be together – her brothers had been arrested by Fidel’s government and some of her father’s land had been taken away. “This was when communism was already installed in the country, but no one accepted it yet. But we knew exactly what it was,” said Consuelo. She spent 5 months in Cuba – the last time she would ever be in her native country.
Consuelo de la Campa was born in Cuba on January 25, 1934. Most of her family had been involved in politics before the Revolution – her uncle had been the Minister of State and then Minister of Foreign Relations under Batista, her cousins had been ambassadors to several countries around the world. Consuelo lived through the Cuban Revolution, but left Cuba behind when she married Luis Alberto Benítez and moved to Guatemala.
“After I received my parents’ letter and went back to Cuba, I could tell that something was different,” said Consuelo. “The environment was hostile.” She knew then that Cuba had changed.
During her stay there, Consuelo had time to catch up with all of the changes that were happening in the country and within her family.
“We were told that one day, at dawn, two jeeps with several of Fidel’s Barbudos – the term we use to call Fidel’s men – had come knocking at the door. They had come to take my two brothers away.”
The Castro regime had accused Consuelo’s brothers of conspiring against the government. “They took one of my brothers in one jeep, and the other in another one. They wouldn’t let them go together,” recalled Consuelo. Her brothers were taken to the Camaguey Prison, where they remained for four months. “One was only 15… completely innocent.”
During their time there, her brothers were kept in separate cells and were not allowed to contact each other. They were often taken to the basement, where they were psychologically tortured. “They would tell one of my brothers that the other had confessed guilty to the crimes they were accused of, and then would tell the same thing to the other.” Despite what her brothers went through, neither of them ever confessed.
They were only released because a friend of the family was a lawyer with Party influences. However, her brothers were warned to leave the country. “It was certain that the government would look for them again, and if they were caught, they were certain to be killed.”
“My older brother left the country. Unfortunately, my younger brother stayed behind. And because of the abuses of the prison, he joined the opposition. He traveled the country distributing documents and weapons. We all knew he would eventually get caught. When it finally happened, he was taken to the wall, where he was shot. His last words were ‘Viva Cuba Libre! Viva Cristo Rey!’” (‘Long live free Cuba! Long live Christ!’).
Consuelo’s family lost 4 farms and all of their cattle when the communists expropriated their land.share quote on Twitter
Consuelo’s family lost 4 farms and all of their cattle when the communists expropriated their land.
“Its funny how coincidences happen. It’s ironic,” said Consuelo referring to a time well before the Cuban Revolution when her husband was the Guatemalan Consul in Havana.
Luis Alberto, her husband had been negotiating the release of some Guatemalan students who had been arrested, along with other Cuban students, for studying in the Soviet Union. He wasn’t the only one negotiating the students’ release—a young Cuban man was also there. After completing their mission, Luis Alberto offered the young man a ride, not knowing who he would become in the future.
“It wasn’t until a couple of years later that we understood who my husband had been in the car with,” said Consuelo. “The young man interceding for the Cuban students was Fidel Castro.”