July 26, 1953
70th Anniversary of Assault on the Moncada and
Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Barracks
Fidel Castro: “Moncada Taught Us to Turn Setbacks into Victories”
The following article was provided by the editorial team of the website Fidel Soldado de las Ideas and originally published by Cubadebate on July 20, 2020.
[On July 26] the beginning of a struggle will be commemorated. “It was not the end, but the beginning,” Fidel Castro once said. July 26 is and will remain one of the most important pages in Cuban history. Under Fidel’s leadership, the assault on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes barracks removed the foundations of Batista’s dictatorship.
That day, when everyone was ready, the “Moncada Manifesto,” written by the young poet Raúl Gómez García under the guidance of Fidel, was read out. Gómez García read his poem “We Are Already in Combat” and Fidel directed this brief appeal to everyone:
“Comrades: In a few hours you will be victorious or defeated, but regardless of the outcome — listen well, comrades — this movement will triumph. If we win tomorrow, what Martí aspired to will be fulfilled sooner. If the opposite happens, our action will nevertheless set an example for the Cuban people, to take up the banner and press on.”
Victory would come a few years later with the Bearded Ones, when, led by Fidel, they descended victoriously from the Sierra Maestra on January 1, 1959.
Cubadebate and the website Fidel Soldado de las Ideas are proposing that you walk the path of this historical date today, through the speeches that the Commander in Chief gave on several occasions on July 26.
Just when the Revolution triumphed, Fidel expressed at a peasant gathering, on July 26, 1959:
“On seeing it today, on seeing how high we have raised our flag, I felt so happy that I saw at that moment all the sacrifices we have made, and all the sacrifices we will have to make in the future, rewarded.”
A year later, remembering this same day, in the Mercedes foothills of the Sierra Maestra, he recalled:
“[…] July 26 and Sierra Maestra; they are two names that must weigh very deeply in the hearts of each of us.”
“And so, that 26th of July was for us a moment that when a struggle seemed to end, when an effort to begin the battle for the liberation of our people seemed to end, it was not the end but the beginning.”
“But it was not always like that, and by contrast, the memories of that first 26th came to our minds, that afternoon when everything was bitter and painful, when the pain of our comrades who had died and the pain of the defeat that forced the country to wait weighed on our spirits, its limits impossible to imagine at that moment.
“And our people is one of those peoples that has never trembled in front of sacrifice, one of those peoples that has never trembled at the price it was forced to pay for its dignity and its freedom; a people that has never trembled nor will it ever tremble before the price it has to pay for its happiness.”
On the 30th anniversary, in Santiago de Cuba, on July 26, 1983, the Commander said:
“One thing remains the same as on July 26, 1953: we have the same faith in the destiny of the country, the same confidence in the virtues of our people, the same certainty of victory, the same capacity to dream of all that will be tomorrow’s reality, on top of the already realized dreams of yesterday.”
On July 26, 1987 he would also speak about the new times, the revolution and the decision to rectify:
“To rectify meant on July 26, 1953, to fight to erase the old, to open a channel, to make a revolution, to create a new life; it means that today as well. Rectify has a really broad meaning, and I am actually satisfied, stimulated by what I see, the results that I see, even though we know that we are still far from all our possibilities, that there are many more possibilities ahead.”
In more recent times, after several years of the revolution being in power, in 1998, in the central event for the 45th anniversary of the assault on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes barracks, carried out in Santiago de Cuba, he acknowledged:
“We believe that we have fulfilled our duty, a whole generation, having fought without pause nor rest for 45 years since that July 26, 1953, standing firm in our trenches, in our principles, with the same ideas that inspired us that day.”
On the significance of the date, in the celebration of its 49th anniversary, in 2002, in Ciego de Ávila, he recognized:
“[…] what are they this July 26th? An indestructible path that unites the thought, the heroism and the will to fight of the inextinguishable bastion, whose independence Martí wanted so as to prevent and that did prevent the powerful and expansionist neighbour to the north from expanding into the Antilles and falling with that added strength on our lands in America.”
He recalled on the 50th anniversary of the assaults the validity of revolutionary ideas and their effect on the people:
“The Moncada Program was fulfilled and overfulfilled. For a long time now we have been pursuing much higher and more unimaginable dreams. Today, great battles are being fought on the field of ideas and we are facing problems associated with the world situation, perhaps the most critical that humanity has ever experienced.”
“I wish to assure you of something similar to what I said before the spurious court that judged and condemned me for the struggle we began five decades ago today, but this time I will not be the one to say it; it is something affirmed and foreseen by a people that carried out a profound, transcendent and historic Revolution, and knew how to defend it: Condemn me, it doesn’t matter! The peoples will have the last word!“
(Cubadebate, July 20, 2020. Translated from original Spanish by TML. Photos: Estudios Revolución/Fidel Soldado de las Ideas, L. Lockwood)