The dictator, Batista, was opposed by many, but none more effective than the young lawyer, Fidel Castro, the son of immigrants from Galicia and born in Cuba in 1926. He saw José Martí as his role model and aimed to continue the Revolution Martí had started in 1895, following his ideals. In 1953, the 100th anniversary of José Martí's birth, Castro and a committed band of about 160 revolutionaries attacked the Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba on 26 July. The attack failed and although Castro and his brother Raúl escaped, they were later captured and put on trial. Fidel used the occasion to make an impassioned speech, denouncing corruption in the ruling class and the need for political freedom and economic independence. The speech has gone down in history for its final phrase, “History will absolve me”, and a revised version, smuggled out of prison on the Isle of Pines, became the basis of a reform programme. In 1955, the Castros were given an amnesty and went to Mexico. There Fidel continued to work on his essentially Nationalist revolutionary programme, called the
26 July Movement
, which called for radical social and economic reforms and a return to the democracy of Cuba's 1940 constitution. He met another man of ideas, an Argentine doctor called Ernesto Guevara , who sailed with him and his brother Raúl and a band of 82 like-minded revolutionaries, back to Cuba on 2 December 1956. Their campaign began in the Sierra Maestra in the east of Cuba and after years of fierce fighting Batista fled to the Dominican Republic on 1 January 1959. Fidel Castro, to universal popular acclaim, entered Havana and assumed control of the island.

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