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Rafael Martínez Pupo Papers Relating to Comandos Mambises

Identifier: MS Group 297

Scope and Content

The first part of this collection consists of Martínez Pupo's correspondence with Cuban exiles, news agents, and government officials. The second group of documents contains expense reports and receipts. The third part consists of photocopies of newspaper clippings of the commando's attacks on Cuban soil. These clippings come from U.S. and Latin American newspapers. The collection also includes a magnetic tape of a communiqué sent to Salvador Lew to be aired on Miami radio, and a book written by Alejandro de la Cruz, Rafael Martínez Pupo's grandson.


  • Creation: 1959-1984
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1963-1964


Language of Materials

Includes materials written in Spanish and English.


The collection is open for research.

Biographical/Historical Note

Rafael Martínez Pupo was born in San Andrés, Cuba, in 1907. He was the youngest son of Antonia Pupo y Zayas-Bazán and Baldomero Martínez. Although the Zayas-Bazán family had been part of the Spanish aristocracy in Havana and had owned large sugar plantations, political and social turmoil had left some of its members in a dire situation. This was the case of Rafael Martínez Pupo's family. After completing fourth grade, Rafael dropped out of school to work on the family farm. His father died when he was a teenager. Soon after, he left home to work in the sugar mills. There, he became familiar with the business of sugar. Later, he took a job at a local store. At first, he delivered goods; afterwards, he tended the store and its customers.

In 1934, he married Georgina Martínez y Verdecié. They had two children: Georgina Martínez y Martínez and Rafael Martínez y Martínez. After getting married, Martínez Pupo opened up a bodega store in Holguín. It was so successful that before long he opened up another branch. When sugar prices skyrocketed at the beginning of World War II, Martínez Pupo became a millionaire. He then expanded his business to include several smaller stores, a shipping line, two pasta factories, and the representation of certain American companies. In 1948, he expanded his business to Havana, and later, he opened a radio transmission company in Guatemala: Intercomunicadora Electrónica, S.A.

During the 26th of July Movement, Martínez Pupo sent convoys of provisions and supplies to the rebels, only later to see Fidel Castro nationalize his belongings and his business empire in 1959. In 1960, he and his family went into exile. While his daughter and her family remained in Miami, he and his wife went to Guatemala. In 1963, the CIA recruited Martínez Pupo to lead a campaign of guerrilla warfare and sabotage by a commando group constituted by Cuban exiles. He called this group Comandos Mambises in honor of the Cuban insurgents who fought against Spain. The unit's mission was to sabotage strategic targets in Cuba in order to inflict economic and psychological damage to Castro's regime. In 1964, as U.S. involvement in Vietnam escalated, the CIA and President Lyndon Johnson decided to close down the Comandos Mambises. One of the reasons for this was fear that the group would act against U.S. broader policy. (See Don Bohning. The Castro Obsession. U.S. Covert Operations Against Cuba 1959-1965. Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, Inc., 2006 and Ted Shackley, Spymaster. My Life in the CIA. Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, Inc., 2006.)


0.6 Linear feet (1 box)


Rafael Martínez Pupo was a successful business man in Cuba who lost all of his enterprises and belongings when Fidel Castro nationalized private property in 1959. He went into exile to Guatemala. In 1963, the CIA recruited Martínez Pupo to lead a special operations unit of Cuban exiles whose mission was to sabotage strategic targets in Cuba. This unit was known as Comandos Mambises. The collection includes Martínez Pupo's correspondence with Cuban exiles, presidents, news agents, as well as expense reports, receipts, and documents related to the Comandos Mambises.

Physical Location

University of Florida Smathers Library Building

Alternate Form of Finding Aid

This guide is available in Spanish at

Acquisition Information

Alejandro de la Cruz, Rafael Martínez Pupo's grandson, donated the collection to the University of Florida in 2011.

Alternate Form of Material

Digital reproductions of items in this collection are available online via the University of Florida Digital Collections (UFDC). Please read the Permissions for Use statement for information on copyright, fair use, and use of UFDC digital objects.

Related Material

Alejandro de la Cruz, Rafael Martínez Pupo's grandson, has written and published three books related to his family: The Whispers of Our Fathers, A Child in Exile, and The Echoes of Our Sons. In the second book, A Child in Exile, de la Cruz gives further details on the activities and projects of the Comandos Mambises.

A Guide to the Rafael Martínez Pupo Papers Relating to Comandos Mambises
Finding aid created by Margarita Vargas-Betancourt
November 2011
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America