Out of the past: Remembering the Cuban revolution

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Left) Castro gives firing instructions to guerrilla fighters in the Sierra Maestra in 1958. Photo: Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images. (Centre) Photo: Grey Villet/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images. (Right) Women rebel forces. Photo: Joseph Scherschel/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Out of the past: Remembering the Cuban revolution

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1959: The first demonstration in support of the Revolution in Havana, in front of the old Presidential palace. Photo: Gilberto Ante/Roger Viollet/Getty Images

Out of the past: Remembering the Cuban revolution

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Cuban revolutionaries attacking a Nationalist army post at Camajuani during the Battle of Santa Clara, Cuba, December 1958. Photo: Pictorial Parade/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Out of the past: Remembering the Cuban revolution

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Cuban militiamen and members of the Revolutionary Army celebrating their victory over US mercenaries in what became known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Photo: Keystone/Getty Images

Out of the past: Remembering the Cuban revolution

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Former youth militia members of pro-Castro forces marching on first anniversary celebration of revolution. Photo: Lee Lockwood/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Out of the past: Remembering the Cuban revolution

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astro during an address in Cuba after Batista was forced to flee. Photo: Keystone/Getty Images

Out of the past: Remembering the Cuban revolution

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January 1961: Castro militia girls march to the American Embassy in Havana to take up guard positions as Washington severs relations and diplomats evacuate the building. Photo: Alan Oxley/Getty Images

Out of the past: Remembering the Cuban revolution

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The US embassy when diplomatic relations with Cuba were broken off. Photo: Paul Schutzer/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Out of the past: Remembering the Cuban revolution

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Cuban rebels freeing political prisoners. Photo: Grey Villet/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Out of the past: Remembering the Cuban revolution

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1959: One of the first parade of militiamen and women. Photo: Gilberto Ante/Roger Viollet/Getty Images

Out of the past: Remembering the Cuban revolution

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A group of captured Cubans are lined up by Castro's soldiers on the Playa de Giron, Cuba, mid-late April, 1961. Photo: Three Lions/Getty Images

Out of the past: Remembering the Cuban revolution

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1959: A group photo of Cuban citizen militia displaying weapons captured from Batista's army. Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Out of the past: Remembering the Cuban revolution

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21 January 1962: Che Guevara helps workers on a low cost housing project near Havana. At that time he was the head of the Cuban National Bank as well as Minister of Industries. Photo: Alan Oxley/Getty Images

Out of the past: Remembering the Cuban revolution

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1957: Manuel Urrutia stops to pray at the coffins of slain revolutionaries. Photo: Getty Images

Out of the past: Remembering the Cuban revolution

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Guevara, here next to a tank, participating in the Santa-Clara battle against Batista's troops. Photo: Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone /Getty Images

Out of the past: Remembering the Cuban revolution

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Castro and his associates cheer and raise their weapons on the CBS News Special Event 'Rebels of the Sierra Maestra' in 1957. Photo: CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Out of the past: Remembering the Cuban revolution

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January 1959: Fidel Castro enters Havana in triumph. Photo: Rolls Press/Popperfoto/Getty Images

Out of the past: Remembering the Cuban revolution

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Castro lights his cigar while Che Guevara looks on in the early days of their guerrilla campaign in the Sierra Maestra Mountains of Cuba. Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Out of the past: Remembering the Cuban revolution

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A huge crowd listening to speech by victorious revolutionary Fidel Castro. Photo: Lee Lockwood/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Out of the past: Remembering the Cuban revolution

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A huge crowd listening to speech by victorious revolutionary Fidel Castro. Photo: Lee Lockwood/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Out of the past: Remembering the Cuban revolution

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Havana celebrates Castro's victory. Photo: Lee Lockwood/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Out of the past: Remembering the Cuban revolution

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A woman rebel standing guard during one of Castro's victory speeches en route to Havana. Photo: Lee Lockwood/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Out of the past: Remembering the Cuban revolution

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1959: Trucks carry crowds celebrating the removal of dictator Fulgencio Batista. Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Out of the past: Remembering the Cuban revolution

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(Left) A poster supporting the Cuban revolution, Photo: MPI/Getty Images. (Right) New York Daily News front page dated 1/2/59. Photo: NY Daily News Archive/Getty Images

LIBERATION

Out of the past: Remembering the Cuban revolution

Catch Team @catchnews

The Cuban Revolution of 1959, a dramatic chapter in the Cold War, was one of the most spectacular political events of the 20th century.

In fact, the improbable overthrow of the dictator Fulgenico Batista by a ragtag band of young Communist guerrillas and intellectuals occurred just 90 miles from the United States.

The events kicked off around 62 years ago on 26 July 1953 when Fidel Castro united a rebel force with systematised plans to overthrow Batista.

Castro, then a young lawyer and activist, had joined the highest ranks of the reformist Cuban People's Party and was slated for candidacy as the party's delegate in the House of Representatives. He had long accused Batista of corruption and tyranny, and petitioned for his expulsion.

When legal means proved futile, Castro led 160 guerrilla fighters in laying siege to the Moncada military barracks in Santiago de Cuba. He failed to ignite a popular uprising. Instead, a majority of the rebels were killed and Castro arrested and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

When a 1955 political amnesty freed Castro and his brother Raul, the two fled to Mexico where, among other Cuban exiles, they organised the 26th of July Movement - marking the beginning of the campaign that would finally oust Batista.

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It was while he was an exile that Castro met the Argentine revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara, who joined his cause. (Guevara was the first member of the band to be promoted to the top rank of "comandante" by Castro, and after their victory he held the positions of Minister of Industries and president of the central bank. He was later captured by the Bolivian military and executed in 1967 at the age of 39.)

A year later, Castro, Raul, Guevara and a group of 82 rebels landed in Cuba and launched their armed struggle. After a few initial losses against the 35,000-strong Cuban army, Castro's 200 guerrilla fighters continuously forced it to retreat.

By March 1958, US-Cuban relations were also changing drastically, contributing significantly to the unrelenting defeat of Batista's forces.

On 14 March that year, US President Dwight D Eisenhower imposed an arms embargo on the island. American support was swiftly shifting away from Batista by then.

On 21 August, Castro's rebels launched an offensive, splitting off into columns of fighters lead by Castro, Ernesto Che Guevara and Camila Cienfuegos. The columns won ground in Yaguajay and Santa Clara, and Batista fled Cuba for the Dominican Republic on 1 January 1959.

The 26th of July movement had finally triumphed.

And then the rebel columns set out on a victory march to the island capital of Havana - where Fidel Castro finally arrived on 8 January 1959.

Text: Aleesha Matharu

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