On November 25, 1956, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and 80 other revolutionaries boarded a yacht in Mexico. They began a journey which led them to the conquest of Cuba in 1959 and the creation of a socialist republic which still survives.
The journey from Mexico to Cuba must have been horrible – at least in the eyes of Argentinean doctor and iconic figure Che Guevara who noted in his diary: „We had been through seven days of constant hunger and sickness during the sea crossing.” Guevara did not write about the overcrowding on board; the yacht had been built for 12 people. Castro and his band landed in Cuba on December 2 and made their way to the Sierra Maestra. The diary of Che noted: “We reached solid ground, lost, stumbling along like so many shadows or ghosts marching in response to some obscure psychic impulse.” Under constant attacks from Cuba’s dictator Batista, Fidel and the others launched a guerrilla warfare from the Sierra Maestra which saw them establishing a Socialist republic on January 8, 1959.
Today, this socialist republic is still around – despite the strict US embargo enacted in 1963 which is still in force. As the only fully socialist country in the world, this state has now turned into an archaic museum of the 1950s with cars from that period cruising through the streets of Havana and the government preserving the cottage Ernest Hemingway once lived in.
In fact, modernity and personal freedom only make slow progress in Cuba. For instance, only 30 per cent of the people have access to the internet in Cuba and censorship is still enforced by the government. Yet, the country has not abandoned key achievements of the revolution such as a free health care system and a free education system including going to a university free of charge. As the country is currently making an effort to open up to the western world and the United States, it remains to be seen for how much longer the socialist Cuba from 60 years ago will exist outside the walls of a museum – especially in light of Fidel Castro’s recent death on November 25, 2016.
guest author:Jan Freytag