José Martí (photo 1)
Martí was born in Havana January 28, 1953. He was a political philosopher as well as a gifted writer. His essays on Cuban independence were a key turning point in Cuban history. Because of these writings, he became a key figure in the Cuban revolution and many believed that he would have been the first president had he not died in military action on May 19, 1895. When we were in Havana, we visited the José Martí Center, which is located in his old home. The home was repurposed to be a center of learning where people can come to study and earn certificates in many various fields. They accept a fair number of foreign students and give them room and board. The Cubans believe, and I agree, that this is a perfect way to honor their national hero because of the high regard that Martí had for education. Now his name can be associated with the search for knowledge as well as the revolution. Martí is to the Cubans as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are to Americans. He has been referred to as the “Apostle of Cuban independence” and is held in extremely high regards, even today.
Fulgencio Batista (photo 2)
Born in Banes, Cuba on January 16, 1901 and died August 6, 1973 at age 72 in Guadalmina, Spain. Batista was a Sergeant in the military and rose to power by revolt. In 1933 he overthrew the rule of Gerardo Machado and appointed himself chief of the armed forces with the rank of colonel. In 1940 he was elected president and served until 1944. Afterwards he lived in the United States but then returned in 1952 where he ran a losing campaign for the presidency and then staged a military coup and took the Presidency. Batista’s second run as president was marred with corruption and exploitation. He had lucrative relationships with the American mafia, censored the media, and secret police to carry out wide-scale violence, torture, and public executions. Up until 1959, the Batista government received financial, military, and logistical support from the United States. On New Year’s Day, 1959, Batista fled Cuba with a huge personal fortune amassed from governmental embezzlement. This support from the US had a negative impact on the Cuba general public’s view of US-Cuban relations and further made it difficult for the US to have good relations with the victorious revolutionaries. The tension of the Batista backings, coupled with the CIA operations to invade and overthrow Fidel, spiraled the two countries towards a negative outcome. It is believed that these events were instrumental in the US putting the embargo in place.
The Revolutionaries (Photo 3)
Fidel Castro was born August 13, 1926 on father’s farm in the Cuban countryside. Raul Castro was born on June 3, 1931. And Che Guevara was born June 14, 1928 in Rosario, Argentina. He was executed October 9, 1967 in Bolivia.
These three men were pivotal to overthrowing Batista. They formed the 26th of July Movement and attacked Batista’s forces using extremely successful gorilla tactics beginning in 1956. On January 1, 1959, they overthrew the Batista regime and began to rebuild the government themselves.
Fidel was essentially in power from 1959 until he stepped down and handed the reins to Raul in 2008. Raul was his brother’s right hand man until he himself was given the position of president. Che stuck around to help build the Cuban government but after a few year, he left to continue his dream of unifying South America from United States and European influence and control.
The revolutionaries are held in incredibly high esteem. Fidel is not much talked about these days, and Raul is praised for the positive changes his administration has been making but Che. Che is praised as all that a Cuban should be. In elementary school, children are taught to “be like Che.” That is, to be selfless and put the good of the country and its citizens before personal attainment. Che has been immortalized in artwork all over the country. His image can be seen on buildings, such as the tower in revolutionary square, or t-shirts, and his famous beret has been reproduced and is a tourist shop favorite to sell from Havana to Trinidad and beyond. Che is revered for his humble attitude and simplistic lifestyle. The people believe that while the Castros had nice furnishings and the like, Che led by example, calling for the people to be happy with simplistic ways of life and living; at the same time, keeping his personal space very Spartan. It was the gestures such as this, ensure that Che, as well as the revolution, will not be forgotten by the Cuban people.
Revolutionaries: http://briefandtothepoint.blogspot.com/2008/02/fidel-castro-retires-resigns-timeline.html; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fidel_Castro#Rebellion_and_Marxism:_1947.E2.80.931950;http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raúl_Castro; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Che_Guevara
I used Wiki for pictures and to reconfirm dates. I used one other website for the revolutionaries picture.