Cuban Revolution

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Cuban Revolution
Part of the Cold War
Raúl Castro (left), with his arm around his second-in-command, Ernesto "Che" Guevara, in their Sierra de Cristal mountain stronghold in Oriente Province, Cuba, in 1958
Date26 July 1953 – 1 January 1959
(5 years, 5 months and 6 days)

26th of July Movement victory


M-26-7.svg 26th of July Movement
Supported by:
Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg  United States


Flag of Cuba sky blue.svg Second National Front of Escambray
Socialist red flag.svg Student Revolutionary Directorate
Flag of Cuba sky blue.svg Republic of Cuba
Supported by:
Flag of the Dominican Republic.svg  Dominican Republic
Commanders and leaders
M-26-7.svg Fidel Castro
M-26-7.svg Raúl Castro
M-26-7.svg Che Guevara
M-26-7.svg Abel Santamaría   Skull and Crossbones.svg
M-26-7.svg Camilo Cienfuegos
M-26-7.svg Huber Matos
M-26-7.svg Juan Almeida Bosque
M-26-7.svg Frank País  
Flag of Cuba.svg Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo
Flag of Cuba.svg William Alexander Morgan
M-26-7.svg René Ramos Latour  
M-26-7.svg Roberto Rodriguez 
M-26-7.svg Rolando Cubela Secades
M-26-7.svg Humberto Sori Marín
M-26-7.svg Alfonso Perez Leon
Socialist red flag.svg José Antonio Echeverría  
Socialist red flag.svg Reynol Garcia  Skull and Crossbones.svg
Flag of Cuba sky blue.svg Fulgencio Batista
Flag of Cuba sky blue.svg Eulogio Cantillo
Flag of Cuba sky blue.svg José Quevedo
Flag of Cuba sky blue.svg Alberto del Río Chaviano
Flag of Cuba sky blue.svg Joaquín Casillas  Skull and Crossbones.svg
Flag of Cuba sky blue.svg Cornelio Rojas  Skull and Crossbones.svg
Flag of Cuba sky blue.svg Fernández Suero
Flag of Cuba sky blue.svg Cándido Hernández
Flag of Cuba sky blue.svg Alfredo Abon Lee
Casualties and losses
5,000+ combat-related deaths; unknown thousands of dissidents arrested and murdered by Batista's government; unknown number of people executed by the Rebel Army [1] [2] [3] [4]
Part of a series on the
History of Cuba
Insigne Cubicum.svg
Governorate of Cuba (1511–1519)
Viceroyalty of New Spain (1535–1821)
Captaincy General of Cuba (1607–1898)

US Military Government (1898–1902)
Republic of Cuba (1902–1959)

Republic of Cuba (1959–)

    Flag of Cuba.svg Cubaportal

    The Cuban Revolution (Spanish : Revolución cubana) was an armed revolt conducted by Fidel Castro's revolutionary 26th of July Movement and its allies against the military dictatorship of Cuban President Fulgencio Batista. The revolution began in July 1953, [5] and continued sporadically until the rebels finally ousted Batista on 31 December 1958, replacing his government with a revolutionary socialist state. 26 July 1953 is celebrated in Cuba as the Day of the Revolution. The 26th of July Movement later reformed along communist lines, becoming the Communist Party in October 1965. [6]

    Spanish or Castilian, is a Romance language that originated in the Iberian Peninsula and today has over 450 million native speakers in Spain and in the Americas. It is a global language and the world's second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese.

    Fidel Castro Former First Secretary of the Communist Party and President of Cuba

    Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz was a Cuban communist revolutionary and politician who governed the Republic of Cuba as Prime Minister from 1959 to 1976 and then as President from 1976 to 2008. A Marxist–Leninist and Cuban nationalist, Castro also served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from 1961 until 2011. Under his administration, Cuba became a one-party communist state, while industry and business were nationalized and state socialist reforms were implemented throughout society.

    26th of July Movement Cuban political organization

    The 26th of July Movement was a Cuban vanguard revolutionary organization and later a political party led by Fidel Castro that in 1959 overthrew the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship in Cuba. The Movement fought the Batista regime on both rural and urban fronts. The movement’s main objectives were distribution of land to peasants, nationalization of public services, industrialization, honest elections, and large scale education reform.

    The Cuban Revolution had powerful domestic and international repercussions. In particular, it transformed Cuba's relationship with the United States, although efforts to improve diplomatic relations have gained momentum in recent years (see the Cuban thaw). [7] [8] [9] [10] In the immediate aftermath of the revolution, Castro's government began a program of nationalization, centralization of the press and political consolidation that transformed Cuba's economy and civil society. [11] [12] The revolution also heralded an era of Cuban intervention in foreign military conflicts, including the Angolan Civil War and the Nicaraguan Revolution. [13] Several rebellions occurred the six years after 1959 among the impoverished peasantry, mainly in the Escambray mountains, which were repressed by the Revolutionary government. [14] [15] [16] [17]

    Cuba–United States relations Bilateral relations between Cuba and the US

    Cuba–United States relations are bilateral relations between the Republic of Cuba and the United States of America. Cuba and the United States restored diplomatic relations on 20 July 2015, relations which had been severed in 1961 during the Cold War. U.S. diplomatic representation in Cuba is handled by the United States Embassy in Havana, and there is a similar Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C. The United States, however, continues to maintain its commercial, economic, and financial embargo, making it illegal for U.S. corporations to do business with Cuba.

    United States Federal republic in North America

    The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Most of the country is located contiguously in North America between Canada and Mexico.

    Cuban thaw

    The Cuban thaw was a warming of Cuba–United States relations that began in December 2014 ending a 54-year stretch of hostility between the nations. In March 2016, Barack Obama became the first U.S. President to visit Cuba since 1928.


    In the decades following United States' invasion of Cuba in 1898, and formal independence from the U.S. on May 20, 1902, Cuba experienced a period of significant instability, enduring a number of revolts, coups and a period of U.S. military occupation. Fulgencio Batista, a former soldier who had served as the elected president of Cuba from 1940 to 1944, became president for the second time in 1952, after seizing power in a military coup and canceling the 1952 elections. [18] Although Batista had been relatively progressive during his first term, [19] in the 1950s he proved far more dictatorial and indifferent to popular concerns. [20] While Cuba remained plagued by high unemployment and limited water infrastructure, [21] Batista antagonized the population by forming lucrative links to organized crime and allowing American companies to dominate the Cuban economy, especially sugar-cane plantations and other local resources. [21] [22] [23] Although the US armed and politically supported the Batista dictatorship, later US presidents recognized its corruption and the justifiability of removing it. [24]

    Spanish–American War Conflict in 1898 between Spain and the United States

    The Spanish–American War was an armed conflict between Spain and the United States in 1898. Hostilities began in the aftermath of the internal explosion of USS Maine in Havana Harbor in Cuba, leading to U.S. intervention in the Cuban War of Independence. The war led to emergence of U.S. predominance in the Caribbean region, and resulted in U.S. acquisition of Spain's Pacific possessions. That led to U.S. involvement in the Philippine Revolution and ultimately in the Philippine–American War.

    Platt Amendment

    On March 2, 1901, the Platt Amendment was passed as part of the 1901 Army Appropriations Bill. It stipulated seven conditions for the withdrawal of United States troops remaining in Cuba at the end of the Spanish–American War, and an eighth condition that Cuba sign a treaty accepting these seven conditions. It defined the terms of Cuban–U.S. relations to essentially be an unequal one of U.S. dominance over Cuba.

    Second Occupation of Cuba

    The Second Occupation of Cuba by United States military forces, officially the Provisional Government of Cuba, lasted from September 1906 to February 1909.

    During his first term as President, Batista had not been supported by the Communist Party of Cuba, [19] , and during his second term he became strongly anti-communist. [21] [25] Batista developed a rather weak security bridge as an attempt to silence political opponents. In the months following the March 1952 coup, Fidel Castro, then a young lawyer and activist, petitioned for the overthrow of Batista, whom he accused of corruption and tyranny. However, Castro's constitutional arguments were rejected by the Cuban courts. [26] After deciding that the Cuban regime could not be replaced through legal means, Castro resolved to launch an armed revolution. To this end, he and his brother Raúl founded a paramilitary organization known as "The Movement", stockpiling weapons and recruiting around 1,200 followers from Havana's disgruntled working class by the end of 1952. Batista was known as a corrupt leader and constantly pampered himself with exotic foods and elegant women. [27]

    Communist Party of Cuba ruling party of Cuba

    The Communist Party of Cuba is the ruling political party in the Republic of Cuba. It is a communist party of the Marxist–Leninist model. The Cuban constitution ascribes the role of the party to be the "leading force of society and of the state". Since April 2011, the First Secretary of the Central Committee has been Raúl Castro, younger brother of the previous First Secretary Fidel Castro, who died on 25 November 2016. The Second Secretary has been José Ramón Machado Ventura.

    Raúl Castro First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba

    Raúl Modesto Castro Ruz is a Cuban politician who is currently serving as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, the most senior position in the socialist state, succeeding his brother Fidel Castro in April 2011. He has also been a member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of Cuba, the highest decision-making body since 1975. In February 2008, he was appointed the President of the Council of State and President of the Council of Ministers. He stepped down as President on 19 April 2018, but remains the first secretary of the Communist Party, still holding considerable influence over government policy.

    Early stages

    Attack on Moncada Barracks

    Striking their first blow against the Batista government, Fidel and Raúl Castro gathered 69 Movement fighters and planned a multi-pronged attack on several military installations. [28] On 26 July 1953, the rebels attacked the Moncada Barracks in Santiago and the barracks in Bayamo, only to be decisively defeated by government soldiers. [5] It was hoped that the staged attack would spark a nationwide revolt against Batista's government. He had around 150 factory and farm workers. After an hour of fighting the rebel leader fled to the mountains. [29] The exact number of rebels killed in the battle is debatable; however, in his autobiography, Fidel Castro claimed that nine were killed in the fighting, and an additional 56 were executed after being captured by the Batista government. [30] Due to the government's large number of men, Hunt revised the number to be around 60 members taking the opportunity to flee to the mountains along with Castro. [31] Among the dead was Abel Santamaría, Castro's second-in-command, who was imprisoned, tortured, and executed on the same day as the attack. [32]

    Moncada Barracks barracks

    The Moncada Barracks was a military barracks in Santiago de Cuba, named after the General Guillermón Moncada, a hero of the Cuban War of Independence. On 26 July 1953, the barracks was the site of an armed attack by a small group of revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro. This armed attack is widely accepted as the beginning of the Cuban Revolution. The date on which the attack took place, 26 July, was adopted by Castro as the name for his revolutionary movement which eventually toppled the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista on 12 January 1959.

    Santiago de Cuba City in Cuba

    Santiago de Cuba is the second-largest city in Cuba and the capital city of Santiago de Cuba Province. It lies in the southeastern area of the island, some 870 km (540 mi) southeast of the Cuban capital of Havana.

    Bayamo Municipality in Granma, Cuba

    Bayamo is the capital city of the Granma Province of Cuba and one of the largest cities in the Oriente region.

    Imprisonment and emigration

    Numerous key Movement revolutionaries, including the Castro brothers, were captured shortly afterwards. In a highly political trial, Fidel spoke for nearly four hours in his defense, ending with the words "Condemn me, it does not matter. History will absolve me." Castro's defense was based on nationalism, the representation and beneficial programs for the non-elite Cubans, and his patriotism and justice for the Cuban community. [33] Fidel was sentenced to 15 years in the Presidio Modelo prison, located on Isla de Pinos, while Raúl was sentenced to 13 years. [34] However, in 1955, under broad political pressure, the Batista government freed all political prisoners in Cuba, including the Moncada attackers. Fidel's Jesuit childhood teachers succeeded in persuading Batista to include Fidel and Raúl in the release. [35]

    Presidio Modelo former Cuba jail

    The Presidio Modelo was a "model prison" with panopticon design, built on Isla de Pinos in Cuba. It is located in the suburban quarter of Chacón, Nueva Gerona.

    Soon, the Castro brothers joined with other exiles in Mexico to prepare for the overthrow of Batista, receiving training from Alberto Bayo, a leader of Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War. In June 1955, Fidel met the Argentine revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara, who joined his cause. [35] Raul and Castro's chief advisor Ernesto aided the initiation of Batista's amnesty. [33] The revolutionaries named themselves the "26th of July Movement", in reference to the date of their attack on the Moncada Barracks in 1953. [5]

    Guerrilla warfare

    Attack on Domingo Goicuria barracks

    While the Castro brothers and the other July 26 Movement guerrillas were training in Mexico and preparing for their amphibious deployment to Cuba, another revolutionary group followed the example of the Moncada Barracks assault. On 29 April 1956 at 12:50 PM during Sunday mass, an independent guerrilla group of around 100 rebels led by Reynol Garcia attacked the Domingo Goicuria army barracks in Matanzas province. The attack was repelled with ten rebels and three soldiers killed in the fighting, and one rebel summarily executed by the garrison commander. Florida International University historian Miguel A. Brito was in the nearby cathedral when the firefight began. He writes, "That day, the Cuban Revolution began for me and Matanzas." [36] [37]

    Granma landing

    The yacht Granma departed from Tuxpan, Veracruz, Mexico, on 25 November 1956, carrying the Castro brothers and 80 others including Ernesto "Che" Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos, even though the yacht was only designed to accommodate 12 people with a maximum of 25. The yacht arrived in Cuba on 2 December. [38] The boat landed in Playa Las Coloradas, in the municipality of Niquero, arriving two days later than planned because the boat was heavily loaded, unlike during the practice sailing runs. [39] This dashed any hopes for a coordinated attack with the llano wing of the Movement. After arriving and exiting the ship, the band of rebels began to make their way into the Sierra Maestra mountains, a range in southeastern Cuba. Three days after the trek began, Batista's army attacked and killed most of the Granma participants – while the exact number is disputed, no more than twenty of the original eighty-two men survived the initial encounters with the Cuban army and escaped into the Sierra Maestra mountains. [40]

    The group of survivors included Fidel and Raúl Castro, Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos. The dispersed survivors, alone or in small groups, wandered through the mountains, looking for each other. Eventually, the men would link up again – with the help of peasant sympathizers – and would form the core leadership of the guerrilla army. A number of female revolutionaries, including Celia Sanchez and Haydée Santamaría (the sister of Abel Santamaria), also assisted Fidel Castro's operations in the mountains. [41]

    Presidential palace attack

    On 13 March 1957, a separate group of revolutionaries – the anticommunist Student Revolutionary Directorate (RD) (Directorio Revolucionario Estudantil, DRE), composed mostly of students – stormed the Presidential Palace in Havana, attempting to assassinate Batista and overthrow the government. The attack ended in utter failure. The RD's leader, student José Antonio Echeverría, died in a shootout with Batista's forces at the Havana radio station he had seized to spread the news of Batista's anticipated death. The handful of survivors included Dr. Humberto Castello (who later became the Inspector General in the Escambray), Rolando Cubela and Faure Chomon (both later Commandantes of the 13 March Movement, centered in the Escambray Mountains of Las Villas Province). [42]

    Strengthening insurgency and United States involvement

    According to Tad Szulc the United States began funding the 26th of July Movement around October or November of 1957 and ending around middle 1958. "No less than $50,000" would be delivered to key leaders of the 26th of July Movement. [43] The purpose being to instill sympathies to the United States amongst the rebels in case the movement succeeded. [44]

    Comandante William Alexander Morgan of the Second National Front of the Escambray William Alexander Morgan.jpg
    Comandante William Alexander Morgan of the Second National Front of the Escambray

    While Batista increased troop deployments to the Sierra Maestra region to crush the 26 July guerrillas, the Second National Front of the Escambray kept battalions of the Constitutional Army tied up in the Escambray Mountains region. The Second National Front was led by former Revolutionary Directorate member Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo and the "Yanqui Comandante" William Alexander Morgan. Gutiérrez Menoyo formed and headed the guerrilla band after news had broken out about Castro's landing in the Sierra Maestra, and José Antonio Echeverría had stormed the Havana Radio station. Though Morgan was dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Army, his recreating features from Army basic training made a critical difference in the Second National Front troops battle readiness. [45]

    Thereafter, the United States imposed an economic embargo on the Cuban government and recalled its ambassador, weakening the government's mandate further. [46] Batista's support among Cubans began to fade, with former supporters either joining the revolutionaries or distancing themselves from Batista. Once Batista started making drastic decisions concerning Cuba's economy, he began to nationalize U.S oil refineries and other U.S properties. [47] Nonetheless, the Mafia and U.S. businessmen maintained their support for the regime. [48] [49]

    Batista's government often resorted to brutal methods to keep Cuba's cities under control. However, in the Sierra Maestra mountains, Castro, aided by Frank País, Ramos Latour, Huber Matos, and many others, staged successful attacks on small garrisons of Batista's troops. Castro was joined by CIA connected Frank Sturgis who offered to train Castro's troops in guerrilla warfare. Castro accepted the offer, but he also had an immediate need for guns and ammunition, so Sturgis became a gunrunner. Sturgis purchased boatloads of weapons and ammunition from CIA weapons expert Samuel Cummings' International Armament Corporation in Alexandria, Virginia. Sturgis opened a training camp in the Sierra Maestra mountains, where he taught Che Guevara and other 26th of July Movement rebel soldiers guerrilla warfare.

    In addition, poorly armed irregulars known as escopeteros harassed Batista's forces in the foothills and plains of Oriente Province. The escopeteros also provided direct military support to Castro's main forces by protecting supply lines and by sharing intelligence. [50] Ultimately, the mountains came under Castro's control. [51]

    In addition to armed resistance, the rebels sought to use propaganda to their advantage. A pirate radio station called Radio Rebelde ("Rebel Radio") was set up in February 1958, allowing Castro and his forces to broadcast their message nationwide within enemy territory. [52] Castro's affiliation with the New York Times journalist Herbert Matthews created a front page-worthy report on anti-communist propaganda. [53] The radio broadcasts were made possible by Carlos Franqui, a previous acquaintance of Castro who subsequently became a Cuban exile in Puerto Rico. [54]

    During this time, Castro's forces remained quite small in numbers, sometimes fewer than 200 men, while the Cuban army and police force had a manpower of around 37,000. [55] Even so, nearly every time the Cuban military fought against the revolutionaries, the army was forced to retreat. An arms embargo – imposed on the Cuban government by the United States on 14 March 1958 – contributed significantly to the weakness of Batista's forces. The Cuban air force rapidly deteriorated: it could not repair its airplanes without importing parts from the United States. [56]

    Operation Verano

    Batista finally responded to Castro's efforts with an attack on the mountains called Operation Verano, known to the rebels as la Ofensiva. The army sent some 12,000 soldiers, half of them untrained recruits, into the mountains, along with his own brother Raul. In a series of small skirmishes, Castro's determined guerrillas defeated the Cuban army. [56] In the Battle of La Plata, which lasted from 11 to 21 July 1958, Castro's forces defeated a 500-man battalion, capturing 240 men while losing just three of their own. [57]

    However, the tide nearly turned on 29 July 1958, when Batista's troops almost destroyed Castro's small army of some 300 men at the Battle of Las Mercedes. With his forces pinned down by superior numbers, Castro asked for, and received, a temporary cease-fire on 1 August. Over the next seven days, while fruitless negotiations took place, Castro's forces gradually escaped from the trap. By the 8 August, Castro's entire army had escaped back into the mountains, and Operation Verano had effectively ended in failure for the Batista government. [56]

    Final offensive and rebel victory

    The enemy soldier in the Cuban example which at present concerns us, is the junior partner of the dictator; he is the man who gets the last crumb left by a long line of profiteers that begins in Wall Street and ends with him. He is disposed to defend his privileges, but he is disposed to defend them only to the degree that they are important to him. His salary and his pension are worth some suffering and some dangers, but they are never worth his life. If the price of maintaining them will cost it, he is better off giving them up; that is to say, withdrawing from the face of the guerrilla danger.

    Che Guevara, 1958 [58]
    Map of Cuba showing the location of the arrival of the rebels on the Granma in late 1956, the rebels' stronghold in the Sierra Maestra, and Guevara and Cienfuegos' route towards Havana via Las Villas Province in December 1958 Revolution Map of progress.jpg
    Map of Cuba showing the location of the arrival of the rebels on the Granma in late 1956, the rebels' stronghold in the Sierra Maestra, and Guevara and Cienfuegos' route towards Havana via Las Villas Province in December 1958
    Map showing key locations in the Sierra Maestra during the 1958 stage of the Cuban Revolution Sierra Maestra -mapa rev cubana-.png
    Map showing key locations in the Sierra Maestra during the 1958 stage of the Cuban Revolution

    Rebel offensive

    On 21 August 1958, after the defeat of Batista's Ofensiva, Castro's forces began their own offensive. In the Oriente province (in the area of the present-day provinces of Santiago de Cuba, Granma, Guantánamo and Holguín), [59] Fidel Castro, Raúl Castro and Juan Almeida Bosque directed attacks on four fronts. Descending from the mountains with new weapons captured during the Ofensiva and smuggled in by plane, Castro's forces won a series of initial victories. Castro's major victory at Guisa, and the successful capture of several towns including Maffo, Contramaestre, and Central Oriente, brought the Cauto plains under his control.

    Meanwhile, three rebel columns, under the command of Che Guevara, Camilo Cienfuegos and Jaime Vega, proceeded westward toward Santa Clara, the capital of Villa Clara Province. Batista's forces ambushed and destroyed Jaime Vega's column, but the surviving two columns reached the central provinces, where they joined forces with several other resistance groups not under the command of Castro. When Che Guevara's column passed through the province of Las Villas, and specifically through the Escambray Mountains – where the anticommunist Revolutionary Directorate forces (who became known as the 13 March Movement) had been fighting Batista's army for many months – friction developed between the two groups of rebels. Nonetheless, the combined rebel army continued the offensive, and Cienfuegos won a key victory in the Battle of Yaguajay on 30 December 1958, earning him the nickname "The Hero of Yaguajay".

    Battle of Santa Clara and Batista's flight

    On 31 December 1958, the Battle of Santa Clara took place in a scene of great confusion. The city of Santa Clara fell to the combined forces of Che Guevara, Cienfuegos, and Revolutionary Directorate (RD) rebels led by Comandantes Rolando Cubela, Juan ("El Mejicano") Abrahantes, and William Alexander Morgan. News of these defeats caused Batista to panic. He fled Cuba by air for the Dominican Republic just hours later on 1 January 1959. Comandante William Alexander Morgan, leading RD rebel forces, continued fighting as Batista departed, and had captured the city of Cienfuegos by 2 January. [60]

    Cuban General Eulogio Cantillo entered Havana's Presidential Palace, proclaimed the Supreme Court judge Carlos Piedra as the new President, and began appointing new members to Batista's old government. [61]

    Castro learned of Batista's flight in the morning and immediately started negotiations to take over Santiago de Cuba. On 2 January, the military commander in the city, Colonel Rubido, ordered his soldiers not to fight, and Castro's forces took over the city. The forces of Guevara and Cienfuegos entered Havana at about the same time. They had met no opposition on their journey from Santa Clara to Cuba's capital. Castro himself arrived in Havana on 8 January after a long victory march. His initial choice of president, Manuel Urrutia Lleó, took office on 3 January. [62]

    Women's roles in the revolution

    Raul Castro, Vilma Espin, Jorge Risquet and Jose Nivaldo Causse in 1958 Raul, Vilma, Jorge Risquet y Jose Nivaldo Causse.jpg
    Raúl Castro, Vilma Espín, Jorge Risquet and José Nivaldo Causse in 1958

    The importance of women's contributions to the Cuban Revolution is reflected in the very accomplishments that allowed the revolution to be successful, from the participation in the Moncada Barracks, to the Mariana Grajales all-women's platoon that served as Fidel Castro's personal security detail. Tete Puebla, second in command of the Mariana Grajales Platoon, has said:

    Women in Cuba have always been on the front line of the struggle. At Moncada we had Yeye (Haydee Santamaria) and Melba (Hernandez). With the Granma (yacht) and November 30, we had Celia, Vilma, and many other compañeras. There were many women comrades who were tortured and murdered. From the beginning there were women in the Revolutionary Armed Forces. First they were simple soldiers, later sergeants. Those of us in the Mariana Grajales Platoon were the first officers. The ones who ended the war with officers' ranks stayed in the armed forces. [63]

    Before the Mariana Grajales Platoon was established, the revolutionary women of the Sierra Maestra were not organized for combat and primarily helped with cooking, mending clothes, and tending to the sick, frequently acting as couriers, as well as teaching guerillas to read and write. [64] Haydée Santamaría and Melba Hernandez were the only women who participated in the attack on the Moncada Barracks, afterward acting alongside Natalia Revuelta, and Lidia Castro (Fidel Castro's sister) to form alliances with anti-Batista organizations, as well as the assembly and distribution of "History Will Absolve Me". [65] Celia Sanchez and Vilma Espin were leading strategists and highly skilled combatants who held essential roles throughout the revolution. Tete Puebla, founding member and second in command of the Mariana Grajales Platoon, said of Celia Sanchez, "When you speak of Celia, you've got to speak of Fidel, and vice versa. Celia's ideas touched almost everything in the Sierra. [63]


    Our revolution is endangering all American possessions in Latin America. We are telling these countries to make their own revolution.

    Che Guevara, October 1962 [66]

    Media appearances

    Fidel Castro during a visit to Washington, D.C., shortly after the Cuban Revolution in 1959 Fidel Castro during a visit to Washington.jpg
    Fidel Castro during a visit to Washington, D.C., shortly after the Cuban Revolution in 1959

    On 11 January 1959 Ed Sullivan would interview Fidel Castro in Matanzas and broadcast it on The Ed Sullivan Show. In the interview Ed Sullivan refers to the Castro and other rebels as "a wonderful group of revolutionary youngsters" and point out their admiration for Catholicism. Fidel Castro would deny the rebels affiliation with communism. Hours after the interview Fidel Castro would ride on captured tanks into the capital in Havana. [67]

    On 15 April 1959, Castro began an 11-day visit to the United States, at the invitation of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. [68] He said during his visit: "I know the world thinks of us, we are Communists, and of course I have said very clear that we are not Communists; very clear." [69]

    Revolutionary tribunals

    Hundreds of Batista-era agents, policemen and soldiers were put on public trial, accused of human rights abuses, war crimes, murder, and torture. About 200 of the accused people were convicted of political crimes by revolutionary tribunals and then executed by firing squad; others received long sentences of imprisonment. A notable example of revolutionary justice occurred after the capture of Santiago, where Raúl Castro directed the execution of more than seventy Batista POWs. [70] For his part in taking Havana, Che Guevara was appointed supreme prosecutor in La Cabaña Fortress. This was part of a large-scale attempt by Fidel Castro to cleanse the security forces of Batista loyalists and potential opponents of the new revolutionary government. Though many were killed or imprisoned, others were fortunate enough to be dismissed from the army and police without prosecution, and some high-ranking officials of the Batista administration were exiled as military attachés. [70] Most scholars agree that those executed were probably guilty as accused, but the trials did not follow due process. [71]

    Centralization of power and nationalization

    Revolutionary leaders Che Guevara (left) and Fidel Castro (right) in 1961 CheyFidel.jpg
    Revolutionary leaders Che Guevara (left) and Fidel Castro (right) in 1961

    During its first decade in power, the Castro government introduced a wide range of progressive social reforms. Laws were introduced to provide equality for black Cubans and greater rights for women, and there were attempts to improve communications, medical facilities, health, housing, and education. In addition, there were touring cinemas, art exhibitions, concerts, and theatres. By the end of the 1960s, all Cuban children were receiving some education (compared with less than half before 1959), unemployment and corruption were reduced, and great improvements were made in hygiene and sanitation. [72] Fidel dedicated many of his years to the equality among Afro-Cubans and the wealthy white people of Cuba. His anti-discrimination legislation was his first and major attempt to give equality to the people of Cuba. His many reforms (healthcare, education, and equality) gave opportunities to those Afro-Cubans who lived in poverty because of the racial discrimination in Cuba. [73]

    The equal right of all citizens to health, education, work, food, security, culture, science, and wellbeing – that is, the same rights we proclaimed when we began our struggle, in addition to those which emerge from our dreams of justice and equality for all inhabitants of our world – is what I wish for all.

    Fidel Castro [74]

    Castro's government was entirely based on his ideologies of equality and fair measures for the people of Cuba. After he considered to have done everything in his power toward equality, he passed a legislation that counter-attacked his past anti-discrimination legislation. This law made it illegal to even mention discrimination or the topic of equality. [73]

    According to geographer and Cuban Comandante Antonio Núñez Jiménez, 75% of Cuba's best arable land was owned by foreign individuals or foreign (mostly American) companies at the time of the revolution. One of the first policies of the newly formed Cuban government was eliminating illiteracy and implementing land reforms. Land reform efforts helped to raise living standards by subdividing larger holdings into cooperatives. Comandante Sori Marin, who was nominally in charge of land reform, objected and fled, but was eventually executed when he returned to Cuba with arms and explosives, intending to overthrow the Castro government. [75] [76]

    Shortly after taking power, Castro also created a revolutionary militia to expand his power base among the former rebels and the supportive population. Castro also created the informant Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) in late September 1960. Local CDRs were tasked with keeping "vigilance against counter-revolutionary activity", keeping a detailed record of each neighborhood's inhabitants' spending habits, level of contact with foreigners, work and education history, and any "suspicious" behavior. [77] Among the increasingly persecuted groups were homosexual men. [78]

    In February 1959, the Ministry for the Recovery of Misappropriated Assets (Ministerio de Recuperación de Bienes Malversados) was created. Cuba began expropriating land and private property under the auspices of the Agrarian Reform Law of 17 May 1959. Farms of any size could be and were seized by the government, while land, businesses, and companies owned by upper- and middle-class Cubans were nationalized (notably, including the plantations owned by Fidel Castro's family).

    Reforms and worsening relations with the United States

    Fidel Castro (far left) and Che Guevara (centre) lead a memorial march in Havana on 5 March 1960 for the victims of La Coubre freight ship explosion CheLaCoubreMarch.jpg
    Fidel Castro (far left) and Che Guevara (centre) lead a memorial march in Havana on 5 March 1960 for the victims of La Coubre freight ship explosion

    Cuba-United States relations were heavily strained after the explosion of a French vessel, the La Coubre , in Havana harbor in March 1960. The ship carried weapons purchased from Belgium, and the cause of the explosion was never determined, but Castro publicly insinuated that the U.S. government was guilty of sabotage. He ended this speech with "¡Patria o Muerte!" ("Fatherland or Death"), a proclamation that he made much use of in ensuing years. [79]

    By the end of 1960, the revolutionary government had nationalized more than $25 billion worth of private property owned by Cubans. [11] The Castro government formally nationalized all foreign-owned property, particularly American holdings, in the nation on 6 August 1960. [12]

    In 1961, the Cuban government nationalized all property held by religious organizations, including the dominant Roman Catholic Church. Hundreds of members of the church, including a bishop, were permanently expelled from the nation, as the new Cuban government declared itself officially atheist. Education also saw significant changes – private schools were banned and the progressively socialist state assumed greater responsibility for children. [80] The Cuban government also began to expropriate from mafia leaders and taking millions in cash. Before Meyer Lansky fled Cuba, he was said to be worth an estimated $20M ($163,685,121 in 2016, accounting for inflation). When he died in 1983, his family was shocked to find out that his estate was worth about $57,000. Before he died, Lansky said that Cuba "ruined" him. [81]

    In July 1961, the Integrated Revolutionary Organizations (IRO) was formed by the merger of Fidel Castro's 26th of July Movement, the People's Socialist Party led by Blas Roca, and the Revolutionary Directorate of 13 March led by Faure Chomón. [82] On 26 March 1962, the IRO became the United Party of the Cuban Socialist Revolution (PURSC) which, in turn, became the modern Communist Party of Cuba on 3 October 1965, with Castro as First Secretary. Castro remained the ruler of Cuba, first as Prime Minister and, from 1976, as President, until his retirement in February 20, 2008. [83] His brother Raúl officially replaced him as President later that same month. [84]

    Opposition to Fidel Castro

    Luis Posada Carriles Posada.jpg
    Luis Posada Carriles

    In the wake of the revolution, thousands of disaffected anti-Batista rebels, former Batista supporters, and campesinos (peasants) fled to Cuba's Las Villas province, where an anticommunist underground had been forming since early 1960. Operating out of the Escambray Mountains, these counterrevolutionary rebels, also known as Alzados, made a number of unsuccessful attempts to overthrow the Cuban government, including the abortive, United States-backed Bay of Pigs Invasion of 1961. [85] In the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, the United States promised not to invade Cuba in the future; in compliance with this agreement, the U.S. withdrew all support from the Alzados, effectively crippling the resource-starved resistance. [86] The counterrevolutionary conflict, known abroad as the Escambray Rebellion, lasted until about 1965, and has since been branded the War Against the Bandits by the Cuban government. [86]

    Luis Posada and CORU are widely considered responsible for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people. [87] [88]

    Between 1959 and 1980, an estimated 500,000 Cubans left the island for the United States, for both political and economic reasons; 125,000 left in 1980 alone, when the Cuban government briefly permitted any Cubans who wished to leave to do so. [89] By 2010, the Cuban American community numbered over 1.9 million, 67% of whom lived in the state of Florida. [90] As a voting bloc, Cuban Americans have traditionally been strongly opposed to ending the U.S. embargo of Cuba, but in recent years there has been growing support for diplomatic engagement among the younger generations. [91]


    I believe that there is no country in the world, including the African regions, including any and all the countries under colonial domination, where economic colonization, humiliation and exploitation were worse than in Cuba, in part owing to my country's policies during the Batista regime. I believe that we created, built and manufactured the Castro movement out of whole cloth and without realizing it. I believe that the accumulation of these mistakes has jeopardized all of Latin America. The great aim of the Alliance for Progress is to reverse this unfortunate policy. This is one of the most, if not the most, important problems in America foreign policy. I can assure you that I have understood the Cubans. I approved the proclamation which Fidel Castro made in the Sierra Maestra, when he justifiably called for justice and especially yearned to rid Cuba of corruption. I will go even further: to some extent it is as though Batista was the incarnation of a number of sins on the part of the United States. Now we shall have to pay for those sins. In the matter of the Batista regime, I am in agreement with the first Cuban revolutionaries.

    U.S. President John F. Kennedy, interview with Jean Daniel, 24 October 1963 [92]
    The greatest threat presented by Castro's Cuba is as an example to other Latin American states which are beset by poverty, corruption, feudalism, and plutocratic exploitation ... his influence in Latin America might be overwhelming and irresistible if, with Soviet help, he could establish in Cuba a Communist utopia.

    -– Walter Lippmann, Newsweek , 27 April 1964 [93]

    The Cuban Revolution was a crucial turning point in U.S.-Cuban relations. Although the United States government was initially willing to recognize Castro's new government, [94] it soon came to fear that Communist insurgencies would spread through the nations of Latin America, as they had in Southeast Asia. [85] Castro, meanwhile, resented the Americans for providing aid to Batista's government during the revolution. [94] After the revolutionary government nationalized all U.S. property in Cuba in August 1960, the American Eisenhower administration froze all Cuban assets on American soil, severed diplomatic ties and tightened its embargo of Cuba. [7] [12] [95] The Key West–Havana ferry shut down. In 1961, the U.S. government backed an armed counterrevolutionary assault on the Bay of Pigs with the aim of ousting Castro, but the counterrevolutionaries were swiftly defeated by the Cuban military. [85] The U.S. Embargo against Cuba – the longest-lasting single foreign policy in American history [96] – is still in force as of 2018, although it has undergone a partial loosening in recent years, only to be recently strengthened in 2017. [7] The U.S. began efforts to normalize relations with Cuba in the mid-2010s, [9] [97] and formally reopened its embassy in Havana after over half a century in August 2015. [10] The Trump administration has reversed much of the Cuban Thaw by severely restricting travel by US citizens to Cuba and tightening the US government's 59-year-old embargo against the country. [98] [99]

    Propaganda poster in Havana, 2012 Outdoor em Havana, Cuba.jpg
    Propaganda poster in Havana, 2012

    Castro's victory and post-revolutionary foreign policy had global repercussions. In line with his call for revolution in Latin America and beyond against imperial powers, laid out in his Declarations of Havana, Castro immediately sought to "export" his revolution to other countries in the Caribbean and beyond, sending weapons to Algerian rebels as early as 1960. [13] In the following decades, Cuba became heavily involved in supporting Communist insurgencies and independence movements in many developing countries, sending military aid to insurgents in Ghana, Nicaragua, Yemen and Angola, among others. [13] Castro's intervention in the Angolan Civil War in the 1970s and 1980s was particularly significant, involving as many as 60,000 Cuban soldiers. [13] [100]

    Following the American embargo, the Soviet Union became Cuba's main ally. [12] The two Communist countries quickly developed close military and intelligence ties, culminating in the stationing of Soviet nuclear weapons in Cuba in 1962, an act which triggered the Cuban Missile Crisis. Cuba maintained close links to the Soviets until the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991. The end of Soviet economic aid and the loss of its trade partners in the Eastern Bloc led to an economic crisis and period of shortages known as the Special Period in Cuba. [101]


    See also

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