Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel remembered Saturday the key revolutionary victory of Santa Clara when rebel forces led by then commander Ernesto “Che” Guevara derailed an armored train carrying dictator Fulgencio Batista’s troops.
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Sixty years ago, on Dec. 29, 1958, Cuban revolutionary forces dealt a decisive blow to Batista’s army, paving the way for their advance to the capital city of Havana only three days later, on the first day of 1959.
“On Dec. 29, with the help of the people, the roads were full of barricades. To face the rebel’s advance airstrikes targeted the city but they could not prevent the derailment, attack, and surrender of the armored train,” Diaz-Canel said via Twitter.
Santa Clara, the fourth largest city in Cuba, was the only government stronghold left between the rebel July 26 movement, led by Fidel Castro, and Havana.
The government of Batista deployed a total of 3,500 soldiers to stop 350 guerrilla fighters under Guevara’s command. The battle started on Dec. 28 and in the afternoon of Dec. 29 they had taken over the armored train sent from Havana.
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Batista fled the country shortly after learning of his defeat.
The iconic battle of Santa Clara is referred to throughout Cuban pop culture, including a popular song composed by Carlos Puebla in 1965 when Guevara decided to leave Cuba and join national liberations struggles in Congo and Bolivia.
“Your hand, glorious and strong / shoots towards history / when all Santa Clara / awakens to see you,” the song goes.
“For his brilliant leadership of the Battle of Santa Clara, #FidelCastro said Che was a ‘master of the war… an artist of guerrilla warfare.’ These days our beloved city celebrates that victory that inspires us. Happy 60th anniversary. #WeAreCuba,” Diaz-Canel tweeted.
On Tuesday Cubans will celebrate the revolutionary victory that forced dictator Fulgencio Batista to surrender power and paved the way for socialist economic and social reforms.