Rear Window: When Castro Took to Sea in a Two-Bit Boat
Nash, Elizabeth, The Independent (London, England)
"FREE land or death" was the slogan of Fidel Castro's Cuban revolution in the 1950s. Similar words were on the lips of the "rafters" who have been putting to sea in inner tubes for the shores of Yankee imperialism, and they knew that death rather than freedom was their likely fate.
Castro must have felt a pang as he watched these young idealists braving the seas. On 26 November 1956, a veteran of the dictator Batista's jails, he set sail from the Mexican port of Tuxpan in the yacht Granma - which was built to hold about 10 people - with 81 comrades bent upon liberating their country. "We will be free or we will be martyrs," he declared.
They ran into a storm, the engine acted up, they were seasick, had to jettison supplies, got lost and finally landed at the wrong place, two days late. Meanwhile in the Cuban town of Santiago sympathisers had fought police and the army for 30 hours, in an uprising designed to coincide with the invasion, and then gave up.
Castro and his exhausted band waded through a mangrove swamp to dry land on 2 December and the future president announced to the first peasant he met: "I am Fidel Castro and we have come to liberate Cuba." Four days later they were ambushed and soon only 16 of them remained. They crept into the hillsides of the Sierra Maestra, where peasants sheltered them.
Over the next two years, peasant sympathisers grew into a rebel army in a guerrilla war that shaped the revolution. The "liberated zones" were extended, Castro's guerrillas expropriated big landowners and passed laws that formed the basis of the revolution's land reform. "Radio Rebelde" broadcast Fidel's electrifying oratory to the masses.
The Sierra Maestra was the birthplace of the romantic image of the bearded revolutionary in olive-green fatigues that was to inspire young people across the world. Fidel's closest comrades were his brother Raul, Camilo Cienfuegos and the asthmatic Argentine medic, Ernesto "Che" Guevara. Che left Cuba in 1965 to fight and die in a doomed guerrilla war in Bolivia. He was, mourned Castro, "too brave, …
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Publication information: Article title: Rear Window: When Castro Took to Sea in a Two-Bit Boat. Contributors: Nash, Elizabeth - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: September 11, 1994. Page number: Not available. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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