Despite its cutesy red and white decor, this unassuming farmhouse, around 13.5 km (8 miles) from Santiago, is in fact a major monument to the Revolution. If you have been in Santiago de Cuba for more than half a day, chances are you'll have heard about the attack on the Moncada Barracks in central Santiago. It is from this very house that Fidel Castro left in the early hours of 26 July 1953 in a convoy of 26 cars to launch the attack. The attack itself was hardly a resounding success for the rebels - several of them fell at the scene or were killed subsequently by government troops. Many are buried in the Santa Ifigenia cemetery. However, the events of that morning are widely credited as the start of the Cuban Revolution and Castro's supporters adopted the date as the moniker for their movement, M 26-7.
Preparations for a revolution
Castro leased the house from its owner under the pretence of farming chickens. In keeping with the veneration of the revolution, the house was opened as a museum 1965 and declared a National Monument on the 1979 anniversary of the barracks attack. Many of the original features of the house have been carefully preserved, alongside exhibitions related to the Moncada events such as weapons, uniforms, documents, photos and the personal belongings of the revolutionaries.
Outside in the garden are wells dug to hide weapons. The carefully preserved bullet holes, for example around the front door of the house, were allegedly shot by soldiers of the Batista government to indicate a shoot-out that never actually happened. By the time the house was discovered, a handful of surviving revolutionaries had regrouped and escaped to the hills. They - including Castro - were later captured and served prison sentences.
Women of the Revolution
The room at the Siboney farmhouse used by the two female revolutionaries, or compañeras, involved in Moncada can also be visited. Both Haydee Santamaría and Melba Hernández were arrested at Moncada, but were given reduced prison sentences of only 7 months as it was not proven they used weapons. Santamaría was later responsible for smuggling Castro's famous speech, History Will Absolve Me, out of prison page by page.
The Granjita Siboney is a popular excursion out of Santiago de Cuba and can be combined with other attractions in the surroundings. Guides are available. For further information on the Moncada attack, visit the 26 of July Historical Museum in the former barracks themselves.
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Visitors to the Plaza de San Francisco de Asis in Old Havana, Cuba will be delighted by the history, artwork, and acoustics of the Basilica de San Francisco de Asis, which is home to the Museo de Arte Religioso and Camerata Romeu (an exclusive female orchestra). Catch one of the amazing musical performances or tour the convent to see memorials of notable people of the past and truly appreciate the grand columns and stone flooring in this Catholic Franciscan place of worship.
At the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and at the end of a short hike from Gran Piedra (Santiago de Cuba), Cafetal La Isabelica is an open air museum dedicated to Cuba's important coffee production. Learn how French farmers fleeting Haiti turned Cuba's south-eastern provinces into the main coffee growing region of the island.
The mystery hidden within its walls, secrets left untold until modern times, and its title as one of the oldest star forts in the Americas make Castillo de la Real Fuerza a must-see stop on your tour of Havana, Cuba. You'll love making your way through the paths to the centre of the fortress, which was originally built for keeping watch for invaders. At more than 400 years old, you'll have plenty to talk about when you return home after visiting this astonishing site and its impressive layout.
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