The yellow barracks of the Spanish army, east of downtown, represent a pivotal episode in modern Cuban history. The ocher-colored exterior is still pockmarked with bullet holes, a reminder of the day in July 1953 when Fidel Castro and a band of ragtag, but idealistic rebels launched an assault on the barracks, with the intention of stealing arms and jump-starting a revolution. First built by the Spanish in 1859, the barracks were burned down and then rebuilt in the late 1930s. Today, the Art Deco-style barracks house a museum focused on that day and the revolutionary struggle. For anyone interested in Cuban history, regardless of ideology, a visit to the museum is a must.
Fidel and his poorly funded troops, including his brother Raúl and Abel Santamaría, arrived in the early hours of July 26 dressed like army soldiers (though the street shoes they wore, rather than military boots, would give them away). Some 120 men attacked the barracks, but the plan failed miserably and 61 were killed. The others escaped, but were soon captured; many were tortured to death by Batista's army. Batista announced to the press that 500 well-funded militiamen had attacked the barracks and been killed in a gun battle. A young journalist succeeded in getting photographs of the tortured and murdered young revolutionaries out of Santiago and to Havana, where the pictures were published, galvanizing many Cubans against the Batista regime.
The museum exhibits the rebels' small rifles and pistols, bloodstained uniforms, photographs, letters, and other documents that tell the amazing story of the subsequent exile of the surviving rebels and guerrilla warfare in the Sierra Maestra. Exhibits are labeled in Spanish only, so a guide might be a good idea.
- © Frommer's 2013
Ask a local about Cuartel de Moncada (Museo Histórico 26 de Julio)
Ask Santiago De Cuba Locals about Cuartel de Moncada (Museo Histórico 26 de Julio)
- Recommended 2010
- tel: 22/62-0157
- Calle Trinidad (corner of Moncada)
- Santiago de Cuba
- Tues-Sat 9:30am-5:15pm; Sun 9:15am-12:30pm
- No Sweat
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