The Cuban revolution is often seen as the modern-day David vs Goliath story, of the oppressed sticking it to the man, of the prevalence of justice against evil. But like all wars and revolutions, the truth is a lot more complicated and the divide between right and wrong, a lot murkier.
For some, the revolution and the ensuing rift between the Caribbean island and the US was the result of the philosophies, and the egos, of capitalism and communism coming to a head: yet another political war glorified into something more. For others, it was about the people fighting an oppressive dictator. The seeds of the revolution were laid down in 1952 when Sergeant Fulgencio Batista ran for elections. Despite having served as president from 1940 to 1944, Batista was not a particularly popular man and it was soon clear that he would lose. The power-hungry army man cancelled the election and took over the government. An upcoming 25-year-old politician, Fidel Castro, was galled by this turn of events and started plotting an overthrow of the government, but he knew he had to bide his time.
Then, almost without warning, exactly 61 years to the day, 138 men attacked the Moncada barracks on July 26, 1953, aiming to take the army by surprise and rob it off the weapons that the revolution so desperately needed. The attack failed, with many of the rebels either captured or killed. But it did not matter; the revolution had begun, the dogs of war were set loose and from then on, the revolution, which amounted to little more than wishful whispering before that, had a new name: the 26th of July movement. Castro, who had been captured during the raid, was released by Batista after increasing political pressure, despite being given a 15-year sentence, and the July 26 revolution continued to gain momentum, with a certain Argentine doctor called Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevera joining in with the rebels.
Clearly feeling threatened, Batista panicked in mid-1958 and launched an offensive, sounding his own death knell. The rebels took to guerrilla warfare and a large part of Batista’s army was captured, soon agreeing to join the rebels. The end was near. By the end of the year, the offensive became more open and entire towns were captured by the rebels. Batista fled soon after and the 26th of July movement culminated, for better or for worse, with communism taking over the reins in Cuba. The rest, as they say, is history.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2014.