Building the Rearguard
We'd get up at five in the morning, when the stars were still out, and we'd start training: running, running, running... On the first day, those of us on the Venceremos staff were told we weren't a combat unit. We only had to know enough to defend ourselves. The station's security squad was made up of real fighters, but those of us who worked in production and on the air just had to be fit enough to march so we could avoid the battles.
Jonás ran the training programme. Jonás is a man of war. He aimed to harden us and build a team. Nearly all of us were city kids and he had to bring us together, to mould us, almost like kneading bread, and make us into a single body. On every march we chanted: "We're a single man, we're a single arm, a single head, a single leg..."
He'd say, for example: "Let's run over to that fence." If we all ran and one got there first and the rest afterwards, the one who made a mistake, the dunce, was the one who ran ahead. Because the goal was to get there all at the same time. If we all ran and one fell behind for whatever reason, the one who failed, who didn't fulfil his mission, was the entire group that had gone ahead. Because no one can be left behind. That was the idea. It turned out to be exhausting.
"Halt!" Jonás yelled. "Are you tired?"
"Nooooooo!" everyone answered.
"Yup," said a low voice.
"Halt!" bellowed Jonás. "Who said he's tired?"
"Me," I said.
"Fifty knee-bends, everyone."
And down we went, squatting, standing, squatting, standing... three, four... eleven, twelve... thirty-three, thirty-four... forty-eight, forty-nine... fifty.
"Halt!" screamed Jonás. "Are you tired?"
"Nooooooo!" everyone groaned.
"Perfect. Then let's go on. Let's run twenty times around the camp. Let's go, double time! One, two, three, four... One, two, three, four... One, two, three, four."
And there you'd see us, like mules at a sugar mill, going round and round. Jonás ought to be more considerate, I thought. We've come from the asphalt and the buses, we're not used to this.
"Halt!" Jonás again. "Are you tired?"