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It is the principal purpose of this paper to assess the origins of Fidel Castro’s rise to power in Cuba, and evaluate the role his ideology had in establishing a single party state in the country. This paper will also provide an understanding of the circumstances leading up to the 1959 Cuban Revolution, and evaluate the role the prior dictatorship had on Castro’s takeover. To effectively achieve our conclusion, an insight on Fidel Castro’s upbringing will be observed to determine the development of his ideology. A chronological analysis of Castro’s life will also be made. By observing Castro’s origins, an assessment will be made addressing how large a role they had in the Cuban Revolution of 1959. We will also assess the state of Cuba prior to Castro’s takeover, including the rule of Castro’s predecessor, Fulgencio Batista. The resources used for this investigation will consist of first hand accounts of Cuban citizens who knew Fidel Castro on a personal level, as well as scholarly articles detailing the events of Castro’s life and his revolution. Through analysis of our evidence, we will conclude that Castro’s ideology had a very significant role in the Cuban Revolution, as did the circumstances of the nation leading to the revolution.
On August 13th, 1926, Fidel Castro, the illegitimate son of a successful Cuban farmer was born in Birán, Cuba (Bosch & Chistofalo, 2005). His mother and father, adamant about Fidel’s education, gave him, as well as his brother Raul, an elite Cuban education in a prestigious Cuban boarding school. Although ambitious, he would be known to act out against the status quo. Often displaying violent tendencies, Castro became a frustrated young man who demonstrated enormous intellect (Bosch & Chistofalo, 2005). This would prove to be true as he continued to grow, and set his sights on changing the course of history. As he read more communist literature, and explored Marxist ideology, he began resenting the administration of Cuba, which was ruled by dictator Fulgencio Batista. He would participate in displays against the regime, including an attack on the Moncada Barracks, which would result in his imprisonment, with his brother Raul (Pettina, 2011). After being freed, he would leave Cuba to go to Mexico, where he began planning for a skilled takedown of Battista. After years of training, Castro with the help of other rebels would stage a guerilla attack against Battista and effectively take control of Cuba. After an in-depth chronological analysis of Fidel Castro’s life, we find the conditions that created the single party state of Cuba was Castro’s ideology which he formed over several years, as well as the condition of the country prior to Castro’s revolution.
Fidel Alejandro Castro was born to a wealthy Cuban farmer and his mistress on the 13th of August, 1926. Castro showed from an early age that he was a smart child, as his siblings recall, however would often throw many tantrums (President of Cuba, 2003). These two descriptors would foreshadow the life’s work of Castro. Because of his natural intellect, he was sent to Cuba’s premier boarding school, where he would excel in all of his classes (Bosch & Christofalo, 2005). However, due to several displays of violence, Castro, along with his brother, were removed indefinitely from the school. Fidel insisted on returning to further his education, going as far as threatening to “…burn down the house if you do not put me back.” according to CIA analyst Brian Latell (Bosch & Chistofalo, 2005). This evidences Castro’s determination even from a young age. It also demonstrates his devotion to learning, and willingness to use violence to get his way; something that could eerily foreshadow the Cuban Revolution of 1959.
Castro would finish his schooling, and continue to study law at the University of Havana, the finest college in Cuba. His rural upbringing clashed with that of his schoolmates, however, he adapted well with many of his peers and excelled in academics. He was singled out and described as a man who would “With no doubt, fill the book of his life with brilliant pages.” (Bosch & Chistofalo, 2005). It was during his time in university where Castro began to form his own worldviews and ideologies. He studied Cuban history adamantly, and saw many grave injustices within the political system. From the Cuban War for Independence of 1898, many Cuban leaders became corrupt (President of Cuba, 2003). Due to the 1901 Platt amendment, the United States government was able to take control over Cuban issues with little to no oversight (Fidel Castro, 2002). Castro, who was influenced greatly by Cuban nationalist professors, took issue with all these things (Bosch & Chistofalo, 2005). Following his graduation from the University of Havana in 1945, Castro was determined to change the structure of government to a less corrupted system, which the United States would have no control of.
Fidel Castro began a small law practice in Havana, Cuba while maintaining political aspirations (Bosch & Chistofalo, 2005). The free elections of 1952 in Cuba gave Fidel a momentary glimpse of a political future, and he chose to run for a congressional seat, and calling for responsible government and an end to corruption (Fidel Castro, 2002). But, by March of 1952, Castro’s political dream came to an abrupt end following a military coup of Cuba led by former president Fulgencio Battista (Bosch & Chistofalo, 2005). After the military coup on Cuba, and Batista enrolling himself as the Cuban dictator, Castro, in 1953, makes a life altering decision: to attack the Moncada Barracks.
A year of planning commences, and Fidel leads a small group of 129 men and 2 women, all of whom Cuban revolutionaries, to attack the military barracks on July 26th, a date which Castro would use to describe the revolutionary movement. (Bosch & Chistofalo, 2005). Castro commented on the attacks by saying, “Even if it fails, it will be heroic and have symbolic value…” (President of Cuba, 2003). Castro was correct in both facts, the attack did fail and it had significant symbolic value to the Cuban people. As a result of the attack, “…8 revolutionaries were killed, 12 were wounded, and 60 were captured, imprisoned and then executed…” (Bosch & Chistofalo, 2005). But Fidel would be seen as a hero amongst the nation, as a leader of a revolt against a corrupt and seemingly evil government. Fidel would be captured seven days following the assault, and would serve as his own lawyer during his trial. In his trail, Fidel spoke the words that would become legendary, “Condemn me! It does not matter, history will absolve me.” Words that only furthered his image as a hero to the Cuban people.
Fidel and his brother Raul would be sentenced to 15 years of prison. It was in his early months of imprisonment that Castro would begin reading Marxist literature (Bosch & Chistofalo, 2005). Castro even wrote in a personal letter to his wife, “…what a fantastic school this prison is! Here, I can shape my view of the world and perfect the meaning of my life.” (Bosch & Chistofalo, 2005). Along with reading, Castro also began writing his own sort of manifesto for Cuba, which his wife would have published while Fidel was in prison. The title of the manifesto was the famous words he spoke during his trial—History Will Absolve Me (Fidel Castro, 2002). In it, he calls for an overthrow of Battista, and embraces democratic elections. Ricardo Bofill, a Latino human rights activist even commented on the book, saying, “It had a profound impact. It touched on many social problems […] it had a profound message of social justice.” (Bosch & Chistofalo, 2005).
Castro and his brother would be released only after 22 months of confinement “…under a general amnesty declared by Battista” (Bosch & Chistofalo, 2005). Castro would leave Cuba almost immediately after his release, and travel to Mexico with Raul. While in Mexico, he would meet like-minded people who sought to shape Latin revolution, such as an Argentinian doctor named Ernesto “Che” Guevara (Fidel Castro, 2002). These individuals would begin planning the Cuban takeover of Battista, through guerilla warfare.
On November 25th, 1956, a 65-foot yacht was fast approaching the shores of Cuba, with 81 revolutionaries who were ready to topple Battista’s Cuba (President of Cuba, 2003). However, before the boat could dock, it had already been spotted by soldiers of Battista’s army, who sparred no time getting ready to massacre Castro’s men. An unreported number of men were killed, and several others fled. But Castro, still alive with his ambition for revolution intact, continued onward on foot to Havana with 18 men. Castro and his men settled in the Sierra Maestra, and continued planning and training for their takeover. During this time, they gained much publicity, with The New York Times covering them in February of 1957, giving them publicity as the face of the revolt against Battista (Bosch & Chistofalo, 2005).
While Castro and his men were in the Sierra Maestra, Battista’s popularity became increasingly unpopular, and people began having a distain for the regime by 1957. Attempts on Battista’s life demonstrated how unpopular the dictator had became, and the state of Cuba was a perfect illustration for that. By spring of 1958, the United States, embarrassed by Battista’s cruelty, suspended all aide to the nation. Battista’s Cuba became increasingly impoverished, and as a result, Castro’s guerilla army in the Sierra Maestra grew exponentially. In August of 1958, the rebels left Sierra Maestra, following Castro all throughout Cuba, and began taking control of certain cities. They continued taking control of cities, defeating Battista’s army at every stop they made for months. Concluding the journey on January 2nd, 1959, Fidel Castro and many of his soldiers arrived in Havana, Cuba to officially take control of Cuba. Battista’s rule had crumbled, and Castro was now, officially, the leader of Cuba (Bosch & Chistofalo, 2005).
Using the chronological display of events presented, two ultimate conclusions can be drawn. The conditions of Cuba by the mid-to-late 1950’s created a hostile country, and set the environment for revolution. Fulgencio Battista’s government had grown more and more corrupt, after his 1952 military coup, and this resulted in a strong dislike amongst the citizens of Cuba. The dictator had lost his popularity, and Cubans wanted new leadership. The second conclusion that can be drawn from the evidence is that Fidel Castro was the new leader that Cuba had been searching for. Even observed from his early years, Castro had the intellect to rule, as well as the ambition and dedication. Castro began to build his ideology from his early years of university, and centered a majority of his post-education life to reform the country. Castro was driven to become the new ruler, and the result of Castro as a leader and the circumstances that created a Cuba ready for revolution complemented each other perfectly. By chronologically analysing our evidence, we can successfully see the emergence of Fidel Castro, and decisively say the most significant, if not sole factors for the revolution was Castro’s ideology and the conditions of Cuba prior to the revolution.
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