Before, the life in Cuba was dominated by a minority of wealthy people, Sugar Barons, Tobacco Barons, corrupt politicians backed by big US corporations and later the Mafia. Havana and Varadero were the playground of the Rich and Famous. Prostitution, gambling, casinos, were everywhere.
In contrast with this, the vast majority of the Cubans was very poor, especially on the countryside.
Extreme poverty, illiterate and illness were the keywords among the Cuban peasants.
The suffering of this people had a big influence on Fidel Castro . The regime of the dictator Batista was very cruel. A black Cuban woman named Reyita who tells the story of her life on the island says :
" The political situation of the country was very difficult. Batista's dictatorship was horrible. Every morning would bring young corpses, just dumped anywhere, the 'Guardia' (Police) did what they liked, mistreated people and beat them up for any little thing.
There was terrible poverty, the unsanitary condition in the poor neighbourhoods were alarming; many children didn't go to school, there was no work and no social security whatsoever.
That's how things were in Cuba in 1958." (1)
Revolution on the Island
This environment of poverty and brutal suppression was a fertile ground for the Revolution, led by Fidel Castro who overthrow the dictatorship of the US backed Batista.
The Revolution started with the armed assault on the Mocada Barracks. On the first of January 1959 Batista fled from Cuba to the Dominican Republic and on January 8th 1959 Fidel Castro arrived with his forces in Havana and took over the country.
The young Castro
Fidel Castro Ruz was born (August 13, 1926) on a farm in the Eastern province of Cuba.
His father was a poor farmer, immigrant from Galicia in Spain.
Don Angel Castro, his father was a talented organizer, by managing a group of farmers he built a small business and started to buy land. With the income from the sugercane and livestock the Castro family could build a strong financial position, his father became a wealthy man to Cuban standards.
Fidels youth was strongly infuenced by the hard life of the poor illiterate people in Cuba. The ideas for the "Revolution", the education of the illiterate farmers, the health care, originated from the misery he witnessed during his youth.
Fidel Castro studied at the Jesuit college in Santiago. After his studies at the Havana University, where he graduated from Law school, he got involved in politics.
He launched his first armed action in an assault on the Monacada Barracks. Several rebels were killed, Castro was captured and later released. He travelled to Mexico where he met Che Guevara together they prepared the "Granma" expedition.
The group of about 80 men disembarked on december 1956 in Cuba. Attacked by fighter jets and the Bastista army only a small group of 8-12 men could escape to the Sierra Maestra from where they started a guerrilla warfare.
Fidel admitted that he learnt many of the guerrilla tactics from reading the Hemingway novel "For Whom the Bell Tolls" about the guerrilla during the Spanish Civil War.
The dictator Batista escaped from the country on the first of January 1959. Castro became Prime Minister of Cuba and later President. On february 2008 the ailing Fidel resigned as president and was succeeded by the vice-president, his younger brother Raul Castro.
(1) REYITA : The Life of a Black Cuban Woman in the 20th Century. by Daisy Rubiera Castillo
ISBN : 1899 365 346
Episodes of the Cuban Revolutionary War 1956-1958
Ernesto Che Guevara - Pathfinder Press