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Castro's past puts city on the map

China Daily | Updated: 2017-12-08 10:26

SANTIAGO DE CUBA, Cuba - If the central Cuban city of Villa Clara is inextricably linked to Che Guevara, the iconic Argentine guerrilla leader, then Santiago de Cuba can be considered Fidel Castro's city.

People carry images of late Cuban president Fidel Castro during a march to Santa Ifigenia cemetery during commemorations to mark the first anniversary of the former leader's death, in Santiago, Cuba, on Monday.Alexandre Meneghina / Reuters

The remains of the legendary revolutionary and longtime Cuban leader rest at the Santa Ifigenia cemetery on the outskirts of the city of nearly half a million people, contained inside a large rock brought from the Sierra Maestra Mountains, where Castro led the guerrilla movement that toppled dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959.

Today, the monolith is visited by about 2,000 people every day and has become a place of pilgrimage for Castro's admirers from around the world.

But it is Castro's past that makes the city his.

Castro arrived in Santiago de Cuba as a young boy, after leaving the family homestead in Biran, in nearby Holguin province, accompanied by his elder brother Ramon. They were later joined by younger brother Raul, who would come to succeed Fidel.

In this hot city, Castro turned a military defeat into a moral victory, when at his trial he eloquently spoke in his own defense, and at the same time laid out his revolutionary ideals, uttering the words that would become famous: "History will absolve me".

The neighborhood of Boniato is home to the jail where Castro was held after his failed assault on the Moncada military barracks on July 26, 1953.

His first public speech following Batista's defeat was delivered from the balcony of Santiago de Cuba's City Hall, located to one side of central Cespedes Park.

He later served as a legislative representative of the area at the National Assembly.

"Fidel is everywhere in Santiago," said Elizabeth Bongo, a graduate from the local Universidad de Oriente.

From a high vantage point overlooking the city, the historian said Castro lives on "in the hearts of all Santiago residents because he is our most eternal young man and our idol".

Images of the leader appear in unexpected corners of the city.

To one side of the city's Revolution Square is a photo of the "comandante" in his traditional olive green uniform, accompanied by the phrase "Santiago de Cuba: Rebellious yesterday, hospitable today, and heroic always."

On Garzon Avenue, large images show Castro, Raul and the late revolutionary commander Juan Almeida, who fought alongside them.

Along the long and bustling pedestrian street Enramada, images of Castro appear on every corner, marking highlights from his six decades of leadership.


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