Moncada Barracks

This is where it all began, the place where Fidel stormed Batista’s military barracks in Santiago de Cuba—this event set the course for the entire Revolution. Today, the Moncada Barracks is both a museum and a school.

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On July 26, 1953, a 26-year-old Fidel Castro set out with a band of 122 followers to attack the military barracks at Moncada in Santiago de Cuba. Once the men arrived at the barracks, gunfire erupted and the fight began. The fighting only lasted for 30 minutes. In the end, 8 rebels and 19 of Batista’s soldiers were killed. 60 rebels were also caught and tortured.

After the attack, Batista declared a state of emergency in Cuba and published propaganda aimed at turning popular opinion against the rebels. However, a photographer released grisly photos of Batista’s men torturing the rebels, and the nation revolted in disgust. Castro was later caught and jailed, but the seeds of the Revolution had been sewn.

Today, travelers can visit this historic site in Santiago de Cuba. Following the Revolution, the Moncada Barracks was turned into a school (just like all other former barracks in Cuba). It still looks just like a military barracks, however, with large castellated walls surrounding the whole thing. Bullet holes riddle a portion of the building; they’re not the original holes (Batista had them filled in), but they’re where the original holes once were.

A portion of the building is home to the Museo Histórico 26 de Julio. This museum has several rooms and displays relating to the attack. It’s very interesting, but it’s completely in Spanish. You can see weapons used in the fight (including Castro’s own rifle) and the clothing from fallen soldiers. There are also photos of each of the 61 men who died here.