Cuba Does Not Forget Its History

By Alejandra Garcia on July 25, 2021 from Havana

Santiago de Cuba, photo: Bill Hackwell

On July 26, 1953, a group of young people changed the course of Cuban history forever. Gunshots from the Moncada Barracks, then the second most important military fortress in the country, shook Santiago de Cuba in the early hours of Santa Ana Day, a religious celebration very popular during the years of the Republic. Those first shots marked the beginning of the end of the darkest dictatorship that the country had lived until then.

The attack began at 5:15 am local time. Simultaneously, another group assaulted the Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Barracks in the adjacent province of Granma. The bravery of those hundreds of young men, led by a 20-year-old Fidel Castro, is still shocking. They were at a total disadvantage against an enemy superior in arms and men entrenched inside those fortresses.

“Our will was greater to fight to erase the old ways, open a new course, make a revolution, create a new life,” the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution said about the assault a few years later.

Eight assailants died that day in combat. Fifty other revolutionaries were killed later by U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista’s henchmen.

Cuban journalist Marta Rojas, who witnessed these events, recounted the hours that followed the assault. “At 4pm that day, we were taken to tour the barracks. I noticed that most of the corpses lying on the floor had spotless military uniforms on and that some of them did not even have their belts fastened. It was evident that they were bodies of revolutionaries who were dressed as soldiers to imply that the police suffered more casualties,” she said.

The murder of those young men, and the subsequent persecution of the survivors, woke Cuba up. The Moncadistas, who went down in history as “young people of the centennial generation” to honor the Apostle José Martí, gained empathy among the Cuban people, jaded by disease, poverty, and hopelessness. The repression unleashed by Batista further strengthened the desire to overthrow it.

“And that was how that July 26 was for us, the new beginning after believing that the struggle to start our people’s liberation battle was ending,” Fidel (1926-2016) added.

From Moncada, Cuba also inherited “History Will Absolve Me,” the self-defense plea delivered by Fidel during the trial for the July 26 events. In it, he outlined the path that the future Revolution was to follow and defined that it would be, above all things, “a Revolution from the humble, by the humble and for the humble people.”

Sixty-eight years later, Cuba does not forget these words, especially in these days when the island is targeted by media campaigns that seek to encourage a civil war on the island and put an end to the political system that the Moncadistas undertook.

On July 11, a few days before Cuba honors the heroes and martyrs of that assault, President Miguel Díaz-Canel spoke to the people from San Antonio de Los Baños. In that Havana neighborhood, an anti-government demonstration was unleashed and spread later to other parts of the capital amid an unprecedented international media campaign was being amplified against the island.

“We are living in severe conditions, mainly due to the U.S. hostilities towards Cuba. Life, history, and facts show us that Washington is behind these riots. It is trying to suffocate, to put an end to the Revolution, to discourage our people, to confuse them,” Diaz-Canel mentioned.

“But history is on our side. The bloodshed by the Moncada youth was not in vain. We will not surrender the sovereignty of this nation, created for the humble and by the humble people,” he asserted.

This remark shook Cuba as the bullets’ impact on the Moncada fortress that early morning of 1953. Diaz-Canel’s words are reminiscent of those pronounced by Fidel in 1988, to mark the 35th anniversary of the Assault on Batista’s barracks, when the fall of the Soviet Union was on the horizon: “If we do not defend our Revolution, our country, who else will?”

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano – English