Sierra Maestra, the coastal mountain chain in Cuba's southeast Oriente Province. Coastal swampland gives way to an inaccessible, rugged spine dividing the island. The Sierra Maestra is the highest Cuban range, with such local branches as Sierra Norte and Sierra Trinidad. It was the refuge of Cuba's rebels: runaway slaves, independence leaders José Martí and Máximo Gómez y Báez, Fidel Castro, and finally anti-Castro guerrillas in the 1960s.
In the Sierras, during the Ten Years' War (1868–1878), Carlos Manuel de Céspedes and Máximo Gómez y Báez developed a guerrilla strategy later used by Castro: using guajiro (mountain peasant) guerrillas in hit-and-run tactics, burning cane fields, and courting dissatisfied planters. In the War for Independence (1895–1899), Cuban literary figure and patriot José Martí died in a Sierras ambush.
In December 1956, Fidel Castro, a native of Oriente, repeated Martí's return from exile to a Sierra-based campaign. The climax was the Batista offensive "Fin de Fidel," from May to August 1958. The decisive battles were for the Sierra ridge, at Santo Domingo; and for Castro's headquarters, at El Jigüe.
The Sierra Maestra Manifesto and the agrarian reform law (Revolutionary Law 1) were symbolic measures to win middle-class support. However, Castro reached a secret alliance with the Communist Party, and Sierra "liberated zones" foreshadowed social revolution. Anti-Castro guerrillas were effectively eliminated from the Sierras only in the late 1960s.
See alsoCastro Ruz, Fidel .
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