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Cuba Celebrates July 26 Anniversary

By Ileana Gadea

On July 26, 2003, the Cuban people commemorated the 50th anniversary of the attack on the Moncada garrison in the city of Santiago de Cuba. This historic event marked the birth of the ‘26th of July Movement’ as well as the beginning of the last, insurrectional phase in the struggle to overthrow the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista.

Cuban President Fidel Castro presided over this year’s celebration in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba. The event took place at the historic plaza located in front of the former Moncada garrison and was broadcast to the entire island. 130 members of the Pastors for Peace Caravan from the U.S. were among the 10,000 guests wearing red t-shirts and waving Cuban flags.

“The excitement was electric all over Cuba”, says Carol Cross, a member of the delegation. In the streets, with small paper flags decorating the fronts of the houses, neighborhood parties were held with dancing and food. Cross continued, “Cuba is such an inspirational place, showing what a country can achieve when both government and people are committed to social change.”

Also present at the festival were Elian Gonzalez and his father, Juan Miguel, as well as the mothers and spouses of the five Cuban nationals imprisoned in the U.S. on charges of espionage. In fact, the five were working in the U.S. to prevent more terrorist attacks on Cuba. Since their arrest in 1998, the case of the five Cuban nationals has been widely covered by the foreign press, but has been surrounded by a wall of silence in the U.S. Their liberation is a top priority of the Cuban people.

The July 26 celebration commemorates Fidel Castro’s 1953 attack against the garrison. Joined by a highly disciplined organization of young people and inspired by the works of Jose Marti and Karl Marx, they were honest and determined people with patriotic and progressive ideas who were willing to give their lives to end the injustices which prevailed in Cuba at that time. Their struggle culminated with the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in January of 1959.

During the 1950’s, Cuba had 600,000 unemployed and 500,000 workers employed for only four months per year. 85% of small farmers paid rent to landowners and more than half of the best land for cultivation was in foreign hands. Half of school age children in rural areas did not attend school. From 1953 to 2002, the population doubled (from 5.5 up to 11.2 million people); now 85% of the people own their own homes, with the remaining 15% paying only symbolic rent. Cuba ranks number one in the world in student to teacher ratio, with a 20 to 1 ratio in its elementary schools.

In his memoirs, My Early Years, the Cuban President wrote that he “had worked out a revolutionary strategy for carrying out a deep social change,” in response to people’s suffering from poverty, injustice, humiliation and inequality. The victory of the 26th of July Movement represents a victory for the Cuban people, who have endured with dignity decades of hostilities and blockade from the U.S. without renouncing their revolutionary principles.

For more information about the Friendship Caravans to Cuba please contact the National Network on Cuba, PO Box 225303, San Francisco, CA 94122, (415) 566-8560, [email protected]

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