Ten of thousands of Cubans celebrated the anniversary of the Moncada attack of July 26, 1953, a key moment that would later lead to the triumph of the revolution and the end of the U.S.-backed Batista dictatorship on the Caribbean nation.
The event, that took place Wednesday morning in Pinar del Rio, in the western part of the country, is the first anniversary to be celebrated since the revolutionary leader Fidel Castro died in November 2016 and was attended by Cuban President Raul Castro.
“Fidel has not stopped being present next to this people, to be consistent, in his daily walk, with the concept of the Revolution that he left us,” Second Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, said during the event.
According to authorities, ten thousand invitees were present at the event and were joined by hundreds of others in the streets of Pinar del Rio, where plazas, parks, and homes were decorated with Cuban flags.
Chants of “I am Fidel!” and “Raul, Raul, Raul!” were heard throughout the crowd who held July 26 Movement flags and pictures of Fidel. After the Cuban anthem played, authorities read a list of names of those who were murdered under the regime of Fulgencio Batista.
In 1953, Fidel Castro led an attack on the Guillermo Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Cespedes military barracks, an act that gave birth to the July 26 Movement and inspired the armed struggle that led to the definitive victory of the revolution in January 1959.
Machado said the date brings “a mixture of emotions, feelings, and ideas of commitment with Fidel and all those who offered their blood for the independence of our country.”
He demanded the respect of Venezuela’s sovereignty and stressed Cuban solidarity with the country’s people and its government. Machado also denounced the new measures that perpetuate the blockade against Cuba by the United States.
“We will never betray the glory and infinite pride of having served the homeland and the Revolution under the leadership of Fidel and Raul,” Machado said. “Any strategy of pressure will fail.”
This is the third time that Pinar del Rio has hosted the event, as the selection of the city depends on a friendly competition based on several agricultural, medical and education statistics, and this year, tobacco growers in the area reached one of the largest harvests in the past 10 years.
Before 1959, according to Machado, the province only had 248 doctors, but now has more than 600 clinics and hospitals with more than 5,000 nursing staff and 4,000 physicians.
In 1960, at that year’s celebration, Fidel said that July 26, 1953, “was the culmination of the effort of a group of young people full of ideals that were launched towards an unequal and difficult struggle.”
“For us, it was just a minute when the struggle and effort to begin the battle for the liberation of our people seemed to end, but it was not the end, but the beginning,” he explained.
“It is a painful and sad date for those generals who dominated our country, it’s a painful and sad date for politicians, it’s a painful and sad date for the great criminals; It is a painful and sad date for all the enemies of the people. And, of course, the Revolution is painful and sad for those who have seen their privileges disappear with the laws of the Revolution, those are the ones that worry about the July 26,” Fidel said in 1961.