Cuba: Origins of the Revolution - Frank Fernando González Herrera | An Spréach

"The little David against the great Goliath: Origins of the Revolution"


Within a few days, to be exact, on January 1, 2019, the world will be commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. The road has not been easy, and many heroes and martyrs have sacrificed their lives for the dream of a free and sovereign Cuba.

The beginning of the revolutionary movement that triumphed in 1959 was the product of the contradictions of the capitalist system in Cuba and the economical domination of US imperialism. To provide an interesting fact, in 1953, Cuba was in third place among the nations of America in terms of North American investments. It was only surpassed by Venezuela and Brazil, according to the analysis offered by Paul M. Huberman and Leo-Sweezy, in the book "Cuba, Anatomy of a Revolution".

However, this did not mean the improvement of the standard of living of the Cuban citizen. In that period, 23.6 percent of Cuba's population was illiterate, with a total of 9,000 unemployed teachers. 60% of the peasants lived in huts of guano roof and ground floor, without sanitary service, nor potable water. The fundamental food of these peasant families was based on rice, beans and viands. Only 4% ate meat; 2% consumed eggs; and 11% took milk. His diet had a deficit of more than 1,000 calories a day, with absence of essential vitamins and minerals. 

To these statistics, we should add the coup of 1952 against the constitutional order of the Republic, established in 1940. The social and political situation of Cuba in the 1950s stimulated the awakening of national consciousness, especially in the country's youth.

After the failure of the revolutionary movement in the assault on the Moncada Barracks in 1953, and during the trial of the survivors of this armed action, the then young lawyer Fidel Castro denounces the crimes and tortures of the army against his comrades, analyzes the situation in Cuba and exposes the political program that the Cuban Revolution would assume almost 6 years later.

I come to the close of my defense plea but I will not end it as lawyers usually do, asking that the accused be freed. I cannot ask freedom for myself while my comrades are already suffering in the ignominious prison of the Isle of Pines. Send me there to join them and to share their fate. It is understandable that honest men should be dead or in prison in a Republic where the President is a criminal and a thief. I know that imprisonment will be harder for me than it has ever been for anyone, filled with cowardly threats and hideous cruelty. But I do not fear prison, as I do not fear the fury of the miserable tyrant who took the lives of 70 of my comrades. Condemn me. It does not matter. History will absolve me.” 

The prison of the revolutionaries was hard, but this time was of learning and preparation for the new stage of struggle. On May 15, 1955, they were released by virtue of the implementation of the Amnesty Law in Cuba. Mexico would be the destiny of the Cuban revolutionaries to prepare the armed struggle against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. During this period, Che Guevara joins the Expedition of the Granma Yacht as the group's doctor.

On December 2, 1956, the 82 expedition members arrived on the Cuban coast, and after the failure of the first battle against the Dictatorship Army and the dispersion of the group, only a dozen fighters managed to reach the Sierra Maestra with a few rifles. The government of the United States, the Dictator Batista and his thugs thought that this was the end of the Revolution. They were wrong, this was just the beginning. The will of the Cuban people triumphed, and the Guerrilla demonstrated that the people in arms were capable of defeating a regular Army, well prepared and trained by North American advisers.

On January 1, 1959, the Rebel Army and the Underground movement in the cities took control of the country. Batista had escaped. Twenty thousand dead revolutionaries, a country full of social and economic problems was the result of 6 years of dictatorship.

From that moment until now, Cuba is a truly free and sovereign country. The land, the industries and the means of production belong to the people, not to the foreign transnationals. Education, health and access to sports are free for all our citizens. In the international sphere, the Cuban people have given innumerable signs of solidarity in almost all areas.

On the eve of the 60th Anniversary of the Revolution, and despite all the challenges we still have to face, Cuba has overcome and is an example that the will of a united people can change the course of history.

From Issue 3 of An Spréach Magazine, Jan - Mar 2019

Frank Fernando González Herrera is a Bachelor of International Relations at the Diplomatic College of Cuba 'Raúl Roa Garcia'.