On July 26, 1953, a small band of Cuban revolutionaries launched an armed attack on the Moncada Barracks in the city of Santiago. The attack was intended to start a revolution against the corrupt dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, and was led by a young man named Fidel Castro, who had been an activist student at the University of Havana.
The rebels did not succeed on that day. Some were killed and many others became prisoners, some of whom were murdered by Batista's goons. But eventually a mass campaign led to the amnesty of Castro and other remaining prisoners.
But the 26th of July was the beginning, not the end. Moncada led to the formation of the 26th of July Movement, which became the central organizing force of the Cuban Revolution. The seeds sown on July 26, 1952, germinated on January 1, 1959, as the victorious July 26th movement marched into Havana as the last of Batista's top cronies fled for Miami.
On trial, Fidel Castro famously said "history will absolve me." That turned out to be an understatement. Not only has the Cuban Revolution survived 10 hostile U.S. presidencies, it has been a beacon of hope to the oppressed worldwide.
Besides transforming Cuba, it has contributed mightily to ending colonialism in many parts of the world, and especially to putting an end to the odious apartheid regime in South Africa.
Today, the Cuban Revolution, through its medical and other aid projects, has extended a hand of help to earthquake victims in Haiti, people with hearing and vision problems in the Andes, and many thousands more around the globe. Cuba's leaders, including Fidel, continue to speak out fearlessly on every topic, from peace to global warming.
It's in the American and Cuban people's interests for us to fight harder than ever to abolish the 50 year trade blockade against the island. We can start by getting our congressional representatives to support HR 4645, a bill to end the restrictions on travel to Cuba, which will also loosen restrictions on food sales to Cuba.
And let us not forget that five dedicated Cuban patriots are serving outrageously unjust jail sentences in U.S. prisons for the "crime" of working to stop terrorist attacks on Cuba. Let us resolve to celebrate July 26 by intensifying our work for the freedom of the Cuban Five!
Photo: The Moncada Barracks in Santiago is now a 26 of July Historical Museum. (GNU)