Going back to Fidel Castro’s passion of transforming politics into something feasible regardless of having to face a thousand adversities on the way.
Back to his boldness when up against enemies a thousand times more powerful than him and not giving up in his attempt.
Back to his determination to continue advancing in the hardest of circumstances, as it was after the assault on the Moncada Barracks or the complicated landing of the Granma yacht.
Back to his intelligence when defending the ideas that inspired him to enter into the difficult task of defeating tyrant Fulgencio Batista and to defend himself during his Moncada trial, claiming that Jose Marti was the one to be blamed for this assault.
Back to his harshness without abandoning his fondness, evidenced in every combat, every decisive moment in which the slightest doubt would have cost his own and his comrades’ lives.
Back to his lessons about the necessary combination between mass struggle and armed struggle to achieve conclusive victories as the one reached by Cuba during these sixty years of existence. Sound victories that are not taken out with coups or conspiracies, as the U.S. imperialism has always desired.
Back to his military strategist’s sagacity that allowed him to overcome, as in the Sierra Maestra as in hard years in government; moments that foretold of impending defeats but were instead turned into victories thanks to his coherence and fighting spirit.
Back to that of the foresight, together with his brother in arms Ernesto Che Guevara, that as soon as the dictator was defeated—the significance and necessity of building a tool to fight the disinformation and misrepresentation of their ideals and transformations. The two of them, together with another warrior in Jorge Ricardo Masetti, were the masterminds of Prensa Latina news agency, which continues triggering accurate information to this day.
Back to giving the constant example so that the entirety Cuba could understand that weapons ready for combat are as important as voluntary work, in order to boost production and generate a self-sufficient economy.
Back to his endless patience to teach, train and foster knowledge among those who had always been marginalized, excluded, humiliated. Literacy as a starting point and then, throughout the entire Revolution, training and studying were among his greatest concerns in order to achieve an educated nation willing to continue growing in this sense.
Back to his huge humanity, devising tools to ensure public health for all men and women in Cuba but then doubling the bet by creating an army of white coats bringing solidarity to faraway places around the world.
Back to his brightness when determining that U.S. imperialism was the enemy to be fought and to not leave a day without denouncing it as the opposite to a society in which life is always defeating death.
Back to his brightness when realizing that Cuba’s women were as valuable as its men, helping from the beginning to create the female guerrilla group Mariana Grajales and then, when building the revolutionary government, “collaborating as necessary to create, together with Vilma Espin, the Federation of Cuban Women, an essential agency for training and struggle of the spirit.
Back to his understanding of socialism and communism, in which society becomes a world of equals without a chance for variants of capitalism, neither shortcuts aimed at deceiving the peoples, including reformism or social democracy.
Back to his understanding of internationalism, in which the struggle of any nation in the world facing imperialism is the same as Cuba’s struggle, something clearly evidenced during these sixty years.
Back to Fidel, the hero of a thousand battles but also the thoughtful statesman a step ahead of the future, predicting that this Humanity shall be saved among all of us or it will perish.
Back to Fidel, who contrary to other fake leaders made humbleness his lifestyle, avoiding unnecessary self-worship and elitist behaviors. He was always ready with his people for whatever would come, always ready to lead them to victories in the hardest battles.
Now, three years after he passed away, his revolutionary legacy continues enlightening this tough moment for the American continent and the world. But these new insurgencies awaking among our people evidence that he was not wrong when predicting that beyond its brutality and uncontrolled ambition, U.S. imperialism is going to collapse this century.
Going back to Fidel is to continue imagining a socialist Revolution as the one he built to prove that the path is already marked. The only thing we have to do, as Uruguayan folk singer Daniel Viglietti would sing, is start walking.
Two rooms, one that served as a living-dining room and the other a bedroom, plus a tiny bathroom and kitchen, comprised apartment 603 in the building at 164 25th Street, between O and Infanta, in the Havana neighborhood of Vedado, where planning began for the armed actions that took place July 26, 1953.
On this date, assaulted by rebels were the Moncada Garrison in Santiago de Cuba and the Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, in Bayamo, both in the east of the island, with the goal of capturing weapons to continue the struggle against the dictatorial government of Fulgencio Batista, who had cast the country into political, social, and economic chaos.
Abel Santamaría Cuadrado, one of the youth who joined the cause, lived in this apartment, and worked for a car agency. He rented it in January of 1952, since it was close to his workplace, and invited his sister Haydée to come live with him.
This is the story historian Seriozha Mora Candebat told us, at the Casa Abel Santamaría Museum. She has investigated the revolutionary ideas and conduct of the patriotic young man, born October 20, 1927, in the municipality of Encrucijada, Villa Clara province.
Abel moved to the capital in 1947, planning to become a professional. He won a competition to enroll in a commercial school and at the same time continued his studies to graduate from high school. He found work as an office assistant at Ariguanabo Textiles, and later at the Pontiac dealership, where he was responsible for the cash register and accounting. He joined the Orthodox Party, which could have won the elections, if this possibility had not been eliminated by Batista’s coup on March 10, 1952.
Abel Santamaría, like so many youth of the era, expressed his outrage in the face of such unconstitutional events, and it was enough for him to meet the young lawyer Fidel Castro – in Colon Cemetery – to seal his commitment to action.
It was May 1, 1952, when, after attending a commemoration for the Cuban revolutionary Carlos Rodríguez, who had played an outstanding role in the neocolonial republic’s years, the two met, becoming fast friends committed to social change in Cuba.
Over the following days, Fidel visited the apartment several times and organization of a movement began – later known as the July 26 Movement (M-26-7). On the basis of reflection, analysis, and different proposals during these meetings, it was agreed that it was necessary to take up arms to overthrow Batista, who had come to power using violence.
“Fidel appreciated the building’s privacy. Silence reigned here and the neighbors were quiet. Plus, it was a secure place, with two access doors, one onto 25th Street and another onto O, which facilitated meetings, contacts, and conspiring. Among those who came here frequently were Jesús Montané Oropesa, Melba Hernández, Raúl Martínez Arará, Ñico López, Boris Luis Santacoloma, Raúl Gómez García, and other youth from Pinar del Río and Artemisa, who would later sacrifice their lives in Santiago de Cuba,” the historian relates.
During a trip to Birán, the Castro family home in the eastern province of Holguín, Fidel and Abel discussed plans for the armed action. They decided on taking the military garrison in Santiago de Cuba, where the most important regiment in the eastern part of the country, with 909 armed troops, was housed. The rebel assailants were only 160, among them two women, Melba Hernández and Haydée Santamaría.
“The days prior to the assault, the Havana apartment was very quiet and meetings were reduced. Discretion was paramount, to trick the dictatorship’s intelligence agents. On July 7, Fidel sent Abel to Santiago. It was his responsibility to finalize details with Santiagan Renato Guitar, in the Villa Blanca house on the Siboney farm, from which they would depart to complete their military objectives the night of July 25, during the dawn hours of the 26th,” Seriozha Mora explained.
By this time, other meeting sites had been established in the capital, like Jovellar 107, the home of Melba Hernández; the Mi Tío bar at the intersection of Infanta and 23rd Street; a house in the municipality of Marianao; and most often used, the building at 910 11th Street, where Natalia Revuelta lived, a great collaborator who had instructions to disseminate news of the assault, once victory was won.
The night of July 24, 1953, Fidel locked the apartment on 25th Street and left to write history. After the assault failed, Abel Santamaría was held prisoner in Santiago’s Saturnino Lora Hospital. He was savagely tortured. They killed him, gouged out his eyes, and showed them to his sister Haydée, thinking they could make her talk. Within a few days, the dictatorship’s intelligence services raided the apartment on 25th, looking for evidence, but found nothing.
In August, Abel’s mother, Joaquina Cuadrado, and her sister Aida removed the siblings’ belongings from the apartment in Havana, so the owners could rent it to another family. After the triumph of the Revolution in 1959, Haydée Santamaría, by then director of the Casa de las Américas, recalled the days she lived with her brother in the apartment during conversations with artists and intellectuals, and the idea of making it a museum emerged.
On June 9, 1973, the apartment was inaugurated as an institution affiliated with the National Culture Council, later the Ministry of Culture. Given its place in Cuban history, the site was designated a National Monument in 1980, and is visited today by many persons interested in the history of the Moncada assault.
On July 24, 1953 José Ramón Martínez Álvarez kissed his mother, saying he was going to the beach in Varadero. Like him, many other young men in Artemisa, southwest of Havana, said goodbye to their families and departed for Santiago de Cuba.
Fidel had given José Suárez Blanco (Pepe), a member of the Orthodox Party’s national leadership, the mission of establishing the July 26 Movement in Artemisa, where his years of work allowed him to pull together financial resources, recruit individuals, and begin to think about the program that would be implemented after the victory. It was Fidel himself who explained to this group, during a meeting in 1952, the most significant components of the radical change that was needed in Cuba, which would address issues such as land reform, industrialization, housing, unemployment, education, and healthcare.
As the movement was consolidated, the inevitable need for armed action became clear. Shooting practice on nearby farms was stepped up, meetings became more discreet, and weapons here stored in caves near the houses. Time went by and the work of the Artemisa group became better organized and more disciplined. Thus their participation in the Santiago assault was earned.
Some 28 young men from Artemisa, among them Comandante de la Revolución Ramiro Valdés Menéndez, left their hometown for the Moncada.
“We were just a handful, but we took the spirit of the people with us, inspired by Martí’s call not to look toward the side where one can live better, but toward the side where duty lies,” Ramiro Valdés said in 2014, when the anniversary of the historic assault was celebrated in the province.
The rebels left Havana via several different routes – some by train, others on the bus, and a few in cars. On the 25th, blending in among carnival-goers, they were taken in small groups to the Siboney farm.
Remembering the events of the 26th, Fidel said in an interview with Spanish journalist Ignacio Ramonet, for his book A hundred hours with Fidel, “In the end, a car rescued me. I don’t know how or why, a car was coming in my direction, reached where I was, and picked me up. It was a boy from Artemisa driving a car with several compañeros, me among them, and he rescued me… I’ve always wanted to talk with this man, to know how he got himself into the hellfire that was going on there.”
In the July 26th actions, 14 young men from Artemisa lost their lives. Others continued on the long road, participating in the Granma landing, and the struggle in the Sierra Maestra. They are all honored in Artemisa’s Martyrs Mausoleum.
Inaugurated July 16, 1977 and dedicated to the youth of the Centenary Generation from Artemisa, the memorial today demands an obligatory visit by all who want to understand the heroism offered by this city to the revolutionary cause.
The tombs holding the remains of those who fell, some of their belongings and photographs can be seen at the site, where also buried, since 2000, are rebels from the province who participated in the Moncada and died after the triumph of the Revolution.
Displayed at the entry to the Mausoleum is a heartfelt remark made by Fidel in his celebrated defense statement, known as History will absolve me, “My comrades, moreover, are not forgotten or dead. They are more alive today than ever, and their murderers must be horrified to see how the victorious specter of their ideas rises from their cadavers.”
In the dawn hours of July 26, at the Siboney farm outside Santiago de Cuba, the Moncada Manifesto, written by Raúl Gómez García, was read aloud. The national anthem sung, and the armed rebels departed in small groups to assault the Moncada Garrison, the courthouse, and the Saturnino Lora Hospital in the city of Santiago. At the same time, in Bayamo, another group moved on the Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Garrison.
Before the attack, Fidel spoke to his comrades: “Within a few hours, you may win or be defeated, but in any event – listen carefully, compañeros – in any event, the movement will triumph. If we win tomorrow, that to which Marti aspired will be done sooner. If the opposite occurs, the effort will serve as an example to the people of Cuba, to take up the banner and continue forward. The people support us in Oriente and throughout the island. Youth of the Apostle’s Centenary! As in 68 and 95, here in Oriente we give the first shout of “Liberty or Death!” You already know the objectives of the plan. No doubt whatsoever, it is dangerous and everyone who departs with me tonight must do so entirely voluntarily. You still have time to decide. In any event, some will stay behind, because of the lack of weapons. Those who are determined to go, take a step forward. The idea is to not kill, but to do so only as the last resort.”
The 131 combatants, dressed in Batista army uniforms, were organized in three groups. The first directed its efforts toward the main building, the Moncada Garrison. The other two, led by Abel Santamaría and Raúl Castro, would attempt to take the hospital and the courthouse, respectively.
The operation began. Fidel, leading the first group, reached its destination as planned, but the unexpected arrival of a patrol car led to premature gunfire that alerted troops inside the garrison. Abel and Raúl reached their targets, but the enemy, with more men and weapons, was able to repel the attacks.
Something similar occurred in Bayamo. The plan there was that a city resident, who was well known by officers at the garrison, would accompany the head of the assault forces to the site and they would be let in. Once inside, the soldiers on watch would be disarmed and forced to open the gates for the rest of the rebel group. The plan did not go are foreseen, since the guide failed to appear, and an alternative strategy was attempted.
Thus the planned attacks of the day were not victorious, but they did achieve the objective of initiating a new stage in the revolutionary struggle against the pro-U.S. general, Fulgencio Batista.
These actions led by Fidel Castro Ruz showed the Cuban people that the armed struggle was the route to victory. Later came the Granma expeditionaries, who landed December 2, 1956, to open a guerilla front in the Sierra Maestra.
On January 1, 1959, the revolutionary insurrection would culminate with the defeat of the dictatorship, and the taking of political power. The former Moncada Garrison is now a school, the “Ciudad Escolar 26 de Julio”, and part of the building has been remodeled as a museum, to ensure that these feats are never forgotten.
An atmosphere of celebration, joy and patriotism reigned today in Santiago a city which just celebrated the 500th anniversary of its founding, and in which the children confess that these same emotions are always present when they celebrate their most important date – the date which marks the heroic deed of the attack on the Moncada Garrison led by Fidel 62 years ago .
The red and black, white and blue colors abounded on the streets; in the clothes of its inhabitants, in homes and public buildings, as the Cuban and 26 of July flags flew while chants ennobling revolutionary fervor filled the air.
Again, participants in the attack on the Moncada Garrison reunited with history, and heroes and the people joined in one embrace in the morning of Saint Ana at the site of the July 26 School City, where at 5:12 a.m. the traditional symbolic attack was carried out and the main rally for National Rebellion Day was held.
Students reenactment of the Fidel Castro led attack on the Moncada barracks
The July 26 Monument Area, remodeled for the occasion, was in all its finery, with its Abel Santamaria park-museum, the old Saturnino Lora Hospital and the Law courts, sites that keep a piece of the heroic deeds lived in 1953 by Santiago de Cuba by locals and youth of the Centennial Generation.
For journalist and retired combatant Manuel Antonio Rodriguez, the indomitable spirit of the inhabitants of this land is reaffirmed in such a significant date for the country, when the struggle for national sovereignty, which brought about the dawn of January 1959, was restarted.
We are proud, he said, in a city that is a symbol for its history, culture and people, with notable work and full of deeds; yesterday in emancipation, after winning the definitive freedom; today, working hand to hand to make this piece of Cuba grow in stature.
Teacher and Labor Hero Rolando Beltran runs a school named after martyr Abel Santamaria, where there is no better prize and reward, he says, than educating men and women of the same lineage.
He highlighted the spirit of his countrymen, capable of rising to the challenge of creating after the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, following the example of the Moncada attackers, of its heroes and martyrs.
July is a peculiar month to those born in this part of the archipelago, who live days of homage, of holiday and work, with streets filled with singing and folklore of people expressing unceremoniously all the joy harbored in their hearts, all the strength coming from their ancestors.
This is a people of love and virtue, a people who honor the rebelliousness and bravery of their city every July 26 as if the shots and the light of Moncada had shaken Santiago de Cuba again and the city shook and throbbed with more verve to the beat of all Cuba.
Melba Hernández Rodríguez del Rey, known as a Heroine of the Moncada for her participation in the first armed action led by Fidel Castro against the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship, died in Havana, official media said. She was 92.
The Central Committee of the Communist Party reported Sunday “with deep sorrow” the death of Hernández from complications related to diabetes.
“For our people, she is one of the most glorious and beloved combatants of the revolutionary process, an everlasting example of the Cuban woman,” the Central Committee said in a statement.
The statement recalled that she was an active participant in the fight against the 1952-1959 Batista regime and was one of the first to join the ranks of the revolutionary movement led by Fidel Castro.
It also noted that Hernández and the late Haydee Santamaría were among the participants in Fidel’s July 26, 1953 assault on the Moncada Garrison in Santiago de Cuba.
Hernández spent time behind bars for her part in the attack and once released, played a “decisive role” in compiling and organizing the notes that Fidel Castro was able to sneak out of jail and which constituted his defense in the Moncada trial, during which he uttered the phrase: “History will absolve me.”
Following the victory of the revolution in 1959, Hernández held a succession of important posts, including that of Cuban ambassador to Vietnam and Cambodia.
Melba Hernández, a 1943 graduate of the University of Havana law school, was one of the founders of Cuba’s Communist Party.
For Cuba July 26th represents the most important day of the year. On July 26th 1953, 124 rebels attacked the Moncada Barracks in Santiago, the capital of Oriente province in Cuba which was the second largest military post in the country.
The attack took place in the time when Fulgenico Batista ruled Cuba. Batista, who was a puppet of the US, was totally financed and supported by the Yankees. It was a time when life for Cubans was very harsh. People were being jailed, disappeared, tortured or killed by Continue reading →
London.— A delegation of Cuban and Latin American athletes attending the London Olympic Games held a ceremony on Tuesday, July 24, to mark the 229th anniversary of the birth of Simon Bolivar and the 59th anniversary of the attacks on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel Barracks.
On Tuesday, a group of Cuban and Latin American sports men gathered at the Bolivar Hall in London paid tribute to Simon Bolivar and to Moncada heroes; and ratified their commitment to the ongoing struggle for Latin American independence, a dream championed by Jose Marti, Simon Bolivar, Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro.
Attending the ceremony was Cuban Ambassador to England Esther Armenteros. In her Continue reading →
Jamaica Cuba Friendship Association , Montego Bay Chapter
July 26, 2012
On behalf of the members of the Jamaica Cuba Friendship Association, Montego Bay Chapter we extended our heartiest congratulation to the people and government of Cuba on the commemoration of the 59th anniversary of the attacks on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Cespedes Barracks. The commitment, persistence, sacrifices and dedication in standing up for the sovereignty of the nation of Cuba is a true inspiration to the rest of world.
We the members of this small, but growing solidarity group will continue on our mission in maintaining and strengthening the mutual bonds between the two sister nations, continue Continue reading →