When July 26 turned out to be an ugly day

Growing up in a Cuban-American home acquainted me with a lot of the island of Cuba’s history.  

I guess that’s normal in immigrant homes, but my parents were the type committed to teaching us how communism destroyed what they lovingly called “la patria” or homeland.   

Conversations at our family dinners were always about Cuba.  My parents would often warn us about leftists by saying “cuidado” or “be careful” because they always tell you what you want to hear.    

Every time a Third World politician came on TV preaching “injustice,” my parents would say one of their favorite lines about the movie that they saw already and didn’t end well.

Once a year, the topic would be about what they would refer to as Moncada.  On this day, July 26, 1953, Fidel Castro and his followers attacked the Moncada Barracks in eastern Cuba.

The attack was a disaster since more than 60 of the 185 “rebels” involved were killed. Castro and the survivors escaped and were eventually discovered and captured.   Castro was tried a few months later and sentenced to fifteen years in prison.  He defended himself and turned it into a book.

While imprisoned on Isla de Pinos, he wrote letters and continued to plot the Batista regime’s overthrow.  

He also enjoyed prison benefits later denied to the men and women that he executed or locked up.    

After having served less than two years, he was released in May 1955 due to a general amnesty. After that, he carried on with his “revolution.” 

My guess is that Batista regretted that amnesty to the end of his life.

Castro left Cuba and went to Mexico, met Che Guevara from Argentina, and the rest is the history that we are all too familiar with.

Our family conversations about Moncada would often try to answer one question: Why did Batista release him?  

My parents felt that it was a PR move and a bit naive.  At the same time, my father said that no one thought that Castro would harm anyone.  

I guess that most people thought that the talk of revolution was finished and the Cuban economy was booming with prosperity.    

A few years later, my father said that it would have been better if Batista had left, too, and the country could have been put back on a democratic track.

Today, Cuba is a dictatorship: Thousands of executions, millions have taken flight and no one knows for sure how many died leaving the country in leaky rafts, while many are still sitting in political prisons. 

The Castro regime never allowed fair trials, free elections or had a general amnesty to empty the prisons.

In short, Castro devastated a beautiful country and a prosperous island.

What are Cuba’s political prisons like?  Read Armando Valladares “Against all Hope”.  You will learn all you need to know about the legacy of July 26.  

By the way, you will read that Armando spent years in Villa Maristas, or the name of the political prison that used to be the Catholic school that my brother and I went to.   

Turning a Catholic school into a political prison to torture political prisoners?  What else do you need to know about that regime?

In retrospect, July 26 turned out to be a very bad day for Cuba.

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