Fidel Castro’s Road to Power,
On March 13, 1952, three days ­after Fulgencio Batista seized power in a
military coup, a young Fidel Castro denounced that coup as “a brutal
snatching of power!” and called on his Cuban compatriots to “sacrifice and
fight back!”1 On July 26, 1953, Castro took up arms against the dictator.
Five and a half years ­ later, ­ after many twists and turns, Castro drove Batista
off the island and launched the Cuban Revolution—­a revolution that rad-
ically changed not only Cuba but also Latin Amer­ i ­ ca and U.S.–­Latin Amer-
ican relations for three de­cades. ­ These three de­cades constitute the era of
the Cuban Revolution.
Background to Revolution: The Condition of Cuba
Most observers of Latin Amer­ i ­ ca ­were surprised that the most radical
revolution in the Western Hemi­sphere should have taken place in Cuba. By
most of the standard indicators, Cuba was near the upper end of the scale in
development and modernization. In per capita gross national product, Cuba
in the 1950s was fourth in Latin Amer­ i ­ ca; its literacy rate was within the
top quarter. Cuba ranked third in medical doctors and hospital beds per
capita, and it had Latin Amer­ i ­ ca’s lowest infant mortality rate. Union mem-
was among the strongest in Latin Amer­ i ­ ca—­approximately half the ­bership
labor force—­and Cuba ranked second in the proportion of the working
population covered by social security. In two indices of consumerism, tele­
vi­sion sets and radios per capita, Cuba ranked first and second, respec-
tively. Although not particularly dynamic, Cuba’s economy in the early
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