The Cuban Revolution Began Today

Castro Leads July 26th Attack (1953)

A People’s Calendar

On this day in 1953, the Cuban Revolution began when approximately seventy rebels, led by Fidel and Raúl Castro, attacked two Cuban military installations, a battle that became the inspiration for the “July of 26th Movement“.

The communist rebels were decisively defeated: nine died in the fighting, fifty-six were executed, and Fidel himself was captured (shown) and sentenced to fifteen years in prison.

Castro under arrest after the Moncada attack, 1953. Source: Wikimedia Commons

In his subsequent trial, Fidel gave what is now known as his “History Will Absolve Me” speech, nearly four hours long, and ending with the words “Condemn me, it does not matter. History will absolve me.” Both Fidel and Raúl were later released as a part of general amnesty for political prisoners.

The Moncada Barracks in 2013 after extensive renovation. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The communist rebels fled to Mexico and began organizing to overthrow the Batista government. Several years later, they succeeded, finally ousting Batista on December 31st, 1958, replacing his government with a revolutionary socialist state.

The Cuban Revolution had powerful domestic and international repercussions. In particular, it made Cuba’s relationship with the United States significantly more antagonistic.

In the immediate aftermath of the revolution, Castro’s government began a program of nationalization, transforming Cuba’s economy and civil society. Castro’s Cuban government was also keen on international aid, providing more medical personnel to the developing world than all the G8 countries combined.

Today is celebrated in Cuba as the Day of the Revolution (Dia de la Revolución). Castro’s 26th of July Movement later reformed along communist lines, becoming the Communist Party in October of 1965.

Fidel Castro with fellow revolutionary rebels in Cuba 1959.
Photograph by Getty Images

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