Moncada Day

"The 26th is the happiest day in history”

On July 26, 1953 a group of young men and two women led by Fidel Castro attacked the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba while another group attacked the Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Barracks in the city of Bayamo. Although this was a defeat for the revolutionaries, this event paved the way for the insurrection against Batista. It was “the small engine that ignited the big engine of the Revolution.”

How many countries commemorate a military defeat as their national holiday? Cuba does. In fact, it celebrates the ill-fated events that took place on July 26, 1953 with three days off.

The events began one year earlier in May 1952 when a group of young people grouped around Abel and Haydee Santamaría, Melba Hernández and Fidel Castro began meeting in an apartment building in Havana to discuss their discontent with the disruption of the constitutional order imposed by the military coup launched by the dictator Fulgencio Batista. All legal channels exhausted, plans were made to start the armed struggle and fight the de facto government. Working with people across the country, they began to obtain uniforms, guns and ammunition to attack the Moncada Barracks and other strategic targets.

A year later, those who were to participate in the assault traveled to Santiago de Cuba, which was celebrating its traditional summer carnival. The date was chosen so that the authorities would not suspect the young people who by train, bus and 17 cars were coming into the city with the apparent purpose of enjoying themselves during the festivities. The leaders of the attack were hoping that the relaxed atmosphere, the distance from the capital, the surprise factor, and the nearby mountains of the Sierra Maestra would help them achieve their goal.

Upon their arrival in Santiago, the revolutionaries gathered together at the small Siboney farm located near the city. During early morning, the guns hidden inside a well were distributed. Then, the details of the attack, which had been kept in the utmost secrecy by the leaders, were given—they were going to attack the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Barracks and take over two strategic places, the Saturnino Lora Hospital and the Palace of Justice. The objectives: to disarm the enemy and summon the people to take armed revolutionary action that would lead to the overthrow of Batista.

At 4:00 am on Sunday, July 26, 129 men and two women left the Siboney farm. The plan was to have the main body of the inexperienced troops (around 90 men) led by Fidel Castro advance to the army facility; the two women (Melba Hernández and Haydee Santamaría) and other fighters led by Abel Santamaría would take over the hospital; and the group of around 35 men led by Raul Castro would seize the Palace of Justice. The last two groups were able to achieve their goal, but the group led by Fidel lost the element of surprise—after reaching one of the posts, an unexpected patrol that was doing the rounds because of the carnival came across them. The guards alerted the  troops and a battle ensued outside the garrison.

Given the disadvantage of the assailants, many were captured alive and killed. The group that tried to gain the foothills of the Sierra Maestra was captured several days later.

The assailants and Fidel Castro were held for trial. Fidel Castro assumed his own defense and he gave a four-hour speech on October 16 that was published under the title "History Will Absolve Me,” which was his concluding sentence. Although sentenced to terms of up to 15 years, many of the survivors relocated to Mexico after having been granted an amnesty and released from prison in 1955. In Mexico, they continued their plans to form a disciplined guerrilla force to overthrow the dictator Batista and returned to Cuba on the Granma yacht in December 1956 to begin the guerrilla struggle that culminated in the victory of 1959.

Since 1959, Cuba has commemorated July 26th with rallies and speeches. In 1976, July 25, 26 and 27 were made holidays. As a verse of a song by a popular Cuban band says, "The 26th is the happiest day in history.”

A Victory for the People in Havana

The historic restoration of diplomatic ties between the Cuba and the U.S.after 54 years is but the first step:

“Only the lifting of the economic, commercial and financial blockade which has caused so much harm and suffering to our people; the return of the occupied territory in Guantánamo and the respect for Cuba’s sovereignty will lend some meaning to the historic event that we are witnessing today.”
Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Rodriguez

Hasta la Victoria Siempre!" 

Be more than just a tourist!

Join the 33rd Southern Cross Brigade to Cuba

Grab the flyer

Always wondered what life is like in Socialist Cuba?

Now is the time to find out. 

Join the 33rd Southern Cross Work-Study Tour and support Cuba in the most direct manner by working alongside Cubans for a few days of agricultural work such as picking fruit or vegetables, pruning or planting fruit trees or slashing grass and then visiting hospitals, cultural sites & urban agriculture projects.

You will experience at first hand the cultural, political and social conditions in socialist Cuba. This year’s program will give participants an opportunity to visit historical sites in Havana,  Artemisa,  and Pinar del Provinces  and  an insight into how the Cuban people have triumphed over adversity to keep the revolution strong. 

Fidel congratulates Alexis Tsipras

Fidel Castro sent a message of congratulations to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras for his victory at the referendum held in the European nation.

In his message Fidel says that Greece is a very familiar nation to the Cuban people, who learned from that country subjects such as Philosophy, Arts and Ancient Sciences during school years and with those, the most complex of all human activities, which is arts and the science of politics.

Fidel says that Greece, and particularly its courage in the current scenario, sparks admiration among Latin American and Caribbean countries as they see how Greece in the face of foreign aggressions, defends its identity and culture.

The Cuban leader also recalls that a year after Hitler attacked Poland, Mussolini ordered its troops to invade Greece, but that valiant nation rejected the aggression and forced the invaders to withdraw, which led to the deployment of German armored military units towards Greece, deviating from the original target.

Cuba knows the braveness and the combat capacity of Russian troops, which allied to the forces of powerful China and other nations of the Middle East and Asia, will always try to prevent war, but they will never allow any military aggression to take place without giving a strong and devastating response, Fidel pointed out.

And he concluded by noting that in the current political world scenario, when peace and human survival hang by a thread, each decision must be careful designed and implemented more than ever before, so that nobody can doubt about the honesty and responsibility with which many of the most committed and responsible leaders are fighting to face the calamities threatening the world.

Fidel wished the Greek Prime Minister, describing him as most esteemed comrade, the best success.

Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba

Get on the Little Yellow School Bus to Break the Blockade!

The blockade and travel ban have not been lifted but we are very close to finally accomplishing what our Cuban brothers and sisters have been asking us to work towards all of these years! 

Making this summer’s caravan one of the most important ever!

Follow the the 26th Caravan's route 

Pastors for Peace Homepage

US Allocates 'Democracy Funds' for Cuba

The US Committee on Appropriations approved on Friday US$30 million for “programmes to promote democracy and strengthen civil society in Cuba, of which not less than US$8,000,000 shall be for NED,” as quoted from the committee report. 

The NED is the National Endowment for Democracy, a fund used by the U.S. to undermine left-wing and socialist governments and support opposition groups by supposedly promoting “democracy.” 

“The Committee directs that funds shall only be used for programs and activities pursuant to section 109(a) of the Cuban Liberty and Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996 and section 1705 of the Cuban Democracy Act (CDA) of 1992, and shall not be used for business promotion, economic reform, entrepreneurship or any other assistance that is not democracy-building,” the report states. 

The committee also stipulated that any locally awarded grants of over US$1 million should be to groups in Cuba that have “experience promoting democracy” there. If the project for 2016 funding is approved by congress, it will be in addition to US$20 million already assigned for this year. 

The measure comes as the U.S. said last year that it wanted to normalise relations with Cuba, and the two countries have since held a number of talks. 

Last month the U.S. removed Cuba from its list of so-called terrorist countries, but it has not yet put an end to its decades-long economic blockade on the island. 

Further, yesterday the Appropriations Committee also did not approve funding for opening a U.S. embassy in Cuba.

There can be no ‘normalisation’ while the

pernicious blockade remains in place

Kenia Serano (c) with Robert Reid of FIRST Union(l) , and Cuban Ambassador to NZ,  Maria del Carmen Herrera Caseiro (r). 

Kenia Serrano, president of the Cuba Institute forFriendship with the Peoples and an MP in the Cuban Parliament made a flying visit to Aotearoa during the week.

National Radio’s Wallace Chapman interviewed her this morning – particularly worth listening to for a Cuban view of the much discussed Cuban-U.S. thaw

Hear the interview here