Today marks the 50th anniversary of the attack on the Cuban Presidential Palace. Those of you who have seen the movie The Lost City probably remember the scene in which several armed men came through the front gate of the presidential palace intent on finding and killing the then dictator Fulgencio Batista. When he was alerted to what was going on, Batista got into the building’s elevator and went to the top floor which could only be reached by that device and locked it.
About 40 of the attackers were killed in the gunfight and subsequent gunfights on that day. An American tourist, who was on his hotel balcony was also killed by a stray bullet. It should be noted that the attackers were not part of fidel castro’s 26th of July movement but instead part of the Revolutionary Directorate, a group made up primarily of University students. Among those involved in the plot was Jose Antonio Echevarria, pictured below, who was the president of the FEU (Federation of University Students).
Last night Echevarria’s sister was on local TV talking about her brother and recounting the story of his death. The interesting thing to note historically is that if the attack had succeeded, fidel castro would have been left in the mountains without an enemy to fight. Instead, the attack failed and Echevarria was made into martyr by the Revolutionaries. castro has co-opted the memory of Echevarria, just like he has co-opted the memory of Marti, Maceo and Cuba’s other patriots.
Echevarria’s sister claims that her brother never liked fidel and knew that someday his group would eventually have to fight castro. Even so, Echevarria went to Mexico to sign a cooperation pact with fidel and his followers, the occasion is pictured below.
A curious sidebar is that since the 13th of March is one of the important dates celebrated in Revolutionary Cuba, they named a tugboat the 13 de Marzo. It was that tugboat which was stolen by several Cubans trying to get to the US that was confronted by Cuban coast guard boats and engulfed by firehoses. 37 people died including several women and children as young as 5 months old.
The pictures in this post were taken from Professor de la Cova’s web site LatinAmericanStudies.org and you can read about the attack on the Presidential Palace by clicking here.
I know we have readers that can share their knowledge about this important date. I urge them to leave comments.