Biographies/Daniel Rivas Betancourt

Tags: International Brigade Cafeteria Workers Union Champlain American Federation of Workers University Hospital in Murica bilingual Cuban Spanish CP Battle of Belchite Administrator Socialist Party Battle of Jarama Florida Centuria Antonio Guitaras wounded CP USA Retreats in Gandesa 15th Brigade

Researcher: Fiona Chen, Stuyvesant '24

Daniel Rivas y Betancourt was born on September 5, 1910. He was born in Florida but there is a slight possibility that he’s born in Cuba and immigrated to Florida. In the late 1920s, tobacco unions began working towards unification, leading to mass meetings at the Socialist Hall in the Upper East Side. These events featured rallies and workshops often supported by active members of the Socialist Party. This most likely lead him to joining similar political parties and organizations.
Daniel eventually moved to New York, where he lived at either 315 6th Street Park Slope or 778 Prospect Avenue Windsor Terrace. This general area consisted of a lot of housing at the time: Park Slope there were more mansions and row houses due to Prospect Park being nearby.
Daniel identified with several political parties and organizations, including the CP USA, which he joined in 1932, the Spanish CP, the American Federation of Workers, and the Cafeteria Workers Union.
In January 1937, Daniel sailed to Spain aboard the Champlain and arrived there on January 12, 1937. He joined the International Brigade at the age of 27 becoming a soldier in the XV Brigade, Lincoln Battalion, Company 1, Section 3, Centuria Antonio Guitaras. The Lincoln Brigade was often looked down upon for the soldiers were young and had no experience in war. He served as the political delegate for his company for his bilingual skills. With little training and many speeches, Daniel was sent out to fight in the battle of Jarama. In February 1937, he was one of the many wounded in action, suffering a bullet wound in the chest.
While recovering from his wounds, Daniel served as the Responsible for Cuban comrades in Murcia. He was later appointed the Administrator for the University Hospital in Murcia, where he faced numerous administrative and executive challenges in treating thousands of wounded soldiers. There would be many people coming into the hospital for treatment and there was a limited amount of supplies. Furthermore, there was no sanitation which complicated matters of hygiene for patients.
Daniel returned to the front lines and fought at Quinto and Belchite. In the battle, the Republicans were able to gain control over Belchite but the village was decimated and thousands of people had died. It was reported that he was wounded in Belchite in September 1937. According to some sources, he continued to serve and was ultimately killed in action during the Retreats in Gandesa in April 1938. Daniel may have been of the many Republican soldiers who were trapped on the wrong side of the river and was captured or died trying to swim across the River Ebro. However it was also reported that Daniel returned to Cuba on May 27, 1939, aboard the Orduna. It could be his remains.


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12. Bosch, Jordi. "Los Cubanos en la Guerra Civil Española." Latin American Studies Organization.

13. "The Retreat through Aragon." International Brigades Memorial Trust.

14. Yglesias, Matthew. "Belchite: A Spanish Civil War Town Left in Ruins." Atlas Obscura. November 21, 2014.