Cuba, Twenty-Sixth of July Movement

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Cuba, Twenty-Sixth of July Movement

The Twenty-Sixth of July Movement was the name given to the guerrilla campaign led by Fidel Castro, which overthrew the Batista government of Cuba on January 1, 1959. The name originates from a coup plot that involved attacking the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba on July 26, 1953. The attack failed, but had the effect of catapulting the young Fidel into the leadership role of the anti-Batista movement. During his trial he gave an impassioned speech in which he proclaimed, "History will absolve me!" After being released from jail Fidel, his brother Raul, and others, including Ernesto "Che" Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos, met in Mexico and renewed efforts to depose Batista. On December 2, 1956, Castro's 82 man army arrived in Cuba, a week after leaving Tuxpan, Veracruz on the yacht Granma. The invasion was botched; the forces landed during the day allowing the Cuban Air Force to have a devastating effect, and most of the force's supplies were left on the beach. Many men scrambled into the jungle only to be caught by the Cuban Army. By the time the army congregated in the Sierra Maestra mountains days later scarcely a dozen members remained. Still, the Twenty-Sixth of July Movement gained support, capitalizing on discontent among peasants and the increasingly brutal nature of Batista's repression. With armies under the command of Cienfuegos and Guevara the Twenty-Sixth of July revolutionaries waged a successful guerrilla war, first securing the Sierra Maestras, then over the next two years enjoying spectacular successes in Yaguajay and Santa Clara en route to Havana. In 1958, the guerrillas expanded their operations to include economic warfare, burning sugar cane fields, attacking tobacco factories, oil refineries, and railroads. Panicked and finding himself in an increasingly hostile city, Batista fled Havana for the Dominican Republic on New Year's Eve 1958. The Twenty-Sixth of July Movement overtook the capital on January 1, 1959.

Once in power, the Twenty-Sixth of July Movement transformed, assimilating several political parties, including the Cuban Communist Party and the Partido Socialista Popular. They officially merged to form the Communist Party of Cuba in 1965. It became clear that Castro envisioned the Twenty-Sixth of July as a revolutionary process, with the goal of realizing communist ideals, and not just a guerrilla movement. To this extent, the Twenty-Sixth of July Movement continues to symbolize the Cuban Revolution and remains a rallying cry for loyal communists on the island.

See alsoCastro Ruz, Fidel; Castro Ruz, Raúl; Cienfuegos, Camilo; Cuba, Political Parties: Communist Party; Guevara, Ernesto "Che."


Benjamin, Jules R. The United States and the Origins of the Cuban Revolution. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990.

Perez, Louis A. Cuba: Between Reform and Revolution. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

                                    Sean H. Goforth