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Almeida Bosque, Juan

Almeida Bosque, Juan

February 17, 1927


The Cuban revolutionary leader Juan Almeida Bosque was born into poverty in Havana. He had to drop out of school after completing only the fourth grade in order to find a job so he could help his parents take care of his brothers and sisters. Even while working as a bricklayer in the early 1950s, Almeida continued to give some of what he described as "a miserable salary" to his parents. Although he worked daily, his salary was never enough to prevent him from enduring hunger and misery. Almeida's economic condition was undoubtedly a result of his ethnicity. As a mulatto, Almeida confronted a racist system that generally denied Cubans of African descent the opportunity to obtain the skills and experience required by labor organizations to hold the title of master bricklayer.

Almeida's political and economic career began after Fulgencio Batista overthrew the Cuban government of President Carlos Prío Socarrás in March 1952. After the coup occurred, Almeida went to the University of Havana

with a friend, Armando Mestre, to protest Batista's actions. One of the principal leaders of the protest was a young lawyer by the name of Fidel Castro Ruz. Almeida and Castro immediately became friends for life. Almeida was inspired to become politically active by discussions with Castro on how to create a revolution against the man responsible for compromising Cuba's political development since the mid-1930s and by Castro's call for unity between young Cubans and those in other sectors of society who had not been collaborators of Batista in the past. It appears that their friendship grew out of mutual respect. According to Castro, Almeida could be trusted because he was a "man of the people."

After joining the Orthodox Party, Almeida helped Castro and others organize the resistance against Batista in the province of Matanzas, though their effort was unsuccessful. Their failure led them to conclude that they themselves had to overthrow the Batista government. Establishing clandestine groups that trained without communicating with each other, Almeida, Castro, and other conspirators, including Abel Santamaria, met in July 1953 in Santiago de Cuba in order to attack the Moncada army barracks, hoping to seize a large cache of weapons and to encourage the Cuban nation to rise up against Batista. The attack failed miserably, and Castro, Almeida, and other moncadistas fled into the nearby Sierra Maestra Mountains to avoid capture. Nevertheless, on August 1, 1953, both Almeida and Castro were caught. In October, Almeida was tried and sentenced to ten years in prison on the Isle of Pines. In prison for a total of eighteen months, he and the other moncadistas were released in May 1955 after Batista issued an amnesty decree.

By February 1956, Almeida had joined Castro and other opponents of the Batista regime in Mexico, where they began training for an invasion to force Batista out of power, planned for the fall of 1956. On November 25, 1956, Almeida, now holding the rank of captain, and with twenty-two men under his command, boarded the yacht Granma along with Castro and sixty other rebels and sailed for Cuba.

Juan Almeida demonstrated exceptional courage, heroism, and leadership during the revolution. On December 5, 1956, he saved the life of Ernesto Che Guevara, one of the masterminds of the revolution, and others at the Battle of Alegria de Pio. Between the spring of 1957 and the fall of 1958, Almeida commanded the rebel army of the Third Front. He became responsible for engaging and weakening Batista's troops in the territory that stretched from Santiago de Cuba to Guantanamo. In October 1958, Castro ordered Almeida's army to take Santiago de Cuba. The assault on the city proved to be the first step of the final rebel offensive that encouraged Batista to capitulate by the end of 1958.

Because of his loyalty to Castro, as well as his military prowess, Juan Almeida Bosque has been appointed to numerous high-ranking positions within both the Revolutionary government and the Communist Party. Promoted to the rank of major as Batista left the country, Castro appointed Almeida to head the Cuban Air Force in June 1959, following the dismissal of Diaz Lanz for insubordination.

According to some writers of Afro-Cuban history, Fidel Castro cynically used Juan Almeida in the early 1960s as a symbol of the revolutionary government's committed endeavors to address and end racism and racial discrimination and segregation in Cuban society. These writers point to Castro's 1960 visit to New York City, where he addressed members of the United Nations, as proof. After Castro moved the Cuban delegation to a hotel located in Harlem, he urgently sent for Almeida, who was living in Santiago de Cuba. Upon his arrival, Castro proceeded to parade Almeida through the streets of black Harlem. Almeida even dined with leaders of black America. Some have claimed that Almeida's token presence in New York allowed Castro to strategically employ race as a fundamental element in Cuba's foreign policy as a way of enhancing Castro's status among members of the Non-Aligned Movement centered in Africa and Asia, as well as among leaders of the African-American community of the United States.

Nevertheless, it appears that within Cuba Almeida has never been regarded as a token figure. In 1961 he became a member of the Integrated Revolutionary Organizations, a body that preceded the formation of a new Communist Party. He also served as the president of JUCEI, or the Board of Coordination and Inspection, for the province of Las Villas. This government agency sought to convey the interests and power of workers and peasants at the local level. In 1966 he graduated from the Superior Academy for Officers of the Revolutionary Armed Forces. Since 1965 Almeida has continuously served on the Politburo of the Communist Party, and in 1998 the Cuban state awarded him the honorary title of "Hero of the Republic of Cuba." Since 1993 he has served as president of the National Association of Combatants of the Cuban Revolution, and he represents the Cuban government and nation before foreign dignitaries at home and abroad as vice president of the Cuban Council of State. Almeida has also become one of the most popular musicians and poets in Cuba; he has written over three hundred songs and sixty or more poems.

See also International Relations of the Anglophone Caribbean; Politics and Politicians in the Caribbean

Bibliography

Franqui, Carlos. Diario de la revolución Cubana. Barcelona, Spain: R. Torres, 1976. Translated as Diary of the Cuban Revolution. New York: Viking, 1980.

Matthews, Herbert L. Revolution in Cuba: An Essay in Understanding. New York: Scribner, 1975.

Moore, Carlos. Castro, the Blacks, and Africa. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1988.

philip a. howard (2005)

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