Santiago de Cuba.— The mutual love filled with glory and victories, which was sealed from the very first time he saw its sky, sea and mountains, met its men and women, faithful to a history of enduring struggles for the homeland, has just been confirmed for all time: Santiago de Cuba is Fidel’s city.
As the Comandante himself would say, along with his time spent at the La Salle Catholic school, the Colegio de Dolores Jesuit prep school and the Institute of Secondary Education, his excursions along the bay and in the mountains; it was the characteristics of rebellion, the human and solidary nature, the straightforwardness and courage present in Santiago and in him, which would see Fidel identify so strongly with this city.
Then came that page of glory written before the walls of the Moncada Garrison, on July 26, 1953, and as he well acknowledged in his defense “History will absolve me”, the bravery, civility, and boundless courage of the rebellious and patriotic people of Santiago. “If Moncada had fallen into our hands, even the women of Santiago de Cuba would have risen in arms.”
This would be confirmed later when, on November 30, 1956, following the pledge made by the unforgettable Frank País, in support of the landing of the Granma expedition, the city rose up in arms and became the secure rearguard of the guerrilla struggle in the Sierra Maestra.
This is why immediately after the tyrant fled, Fidel entrusted the preservation of the victory to this city, “Santiago de Cuba: You are not yet free. There remain on the streets those who have oppressed you for seven years... Santiago de Cuba, you will be free because you deserve it more than any other... Santiago de Cuba, we count on your support.”
The people took to the streets and awaited the proclamation of the triumph of the Revolution in the Parque Céspedes. Upon stepping onto the balcony of the City Hall, the leader of the Revolution expressed from the very depths of his heart, “We have finally arrived in Santiago de Cuba! The road has been long and difficult, but we have arrived.”
His huge obligations did not impede this beautiful mutual understanding. Again and again he would return to the Santa Ifigenia cemetery to pay tribute to the Apostle José Martí and his fallen brothers of the Moncada assault, the Granma expeditionaries, martyrs of the Rebel Army and the clandestine struggle, or simply to make necessary contact with this people.
On March 11, 1959, Fidel would confess as much to the crowds gathered along the Michelsen Avenue: “… my heart, my life, are connected to this city! ... A special feeling invades me when I am here, a special emotion invades me when I am here among the people of Santiago and here I make these confessions that come from the heart.
“Here I have to say what I feel for the people. Here I must express all the sadness that I feel when I can not do more, faced with my conviction that it is impossible for everything to go well and turn out perfect... I leave Oriente province taking with me what I have always taken from Oriente: the spirit of struggle, rebellion, energy, strength! “… I was born in this province, I fought in this province, I was beaten in this province, in this province I returned to the struggle, in this province I won, I will come to fight in this province as many times as necessary. And if it’s necessary to come and die, I will come to die in this province!”
It was no accident, that in one of the most difficult moments, such as was the fall of the socialist camp, Fidel returned to Parque Céspedes on January 1st to proclaim the rallying cry of “Socialism or Death” and, in October 1991, also chose the land with which he had decided to “cast his lot” to celebrate the crucial Fourth Party Congress.
Exactly ten years later, on inaugurating on October 14, 2001, the School of Social Workers honored with the name of Frank País, he would reiterate these sentiments, “Here I lived a good part of my life, here we fought, here we began the final struggle for liberation that today we defend heart and soul. From here we departed, but we never forgot (Santiago).”
Consequently, for this most beloved figure of Santiago, the Municipal Assembly of People’s Power reserved the replica of the machete of Antonio Maceo, the City Coat of Arms, and the Special Recognition for Heroism and Example; the latter awarded last year on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Santiago de Cuba.
Deserving of much more, an eternal commitment gathered strength in the men and women of what he called the ”Moral Capital of the Revolution”, when, on January 1st, 1984, the 25th anniversary of the triumph of the Revolution, Fidel awarded Santiago the Honorific Title of Heroine City of the Republic of Cuba and the Antonio Maceo Order:
“Santiago de Cuba!: You accompanied us in the most difficult days, here we had our Moncada, our November 30, our January 1st. Today, we especially honor you, and with you all our people, who tonight are symbolized by you.
“May your heroism, your patriotism, and your revolutionary spirit always be an example to all Cubans!
“May the heroic slogan of our people always be that which we learned here: Homeland or Death! May we always expect what we found here that glorious January 1st: Victory! Thank you, Santiago!”
It is said that Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz made more than 150 visits to this city. The last has just occurred, more than 80 years after that night of May or June 1933, when he arrived on a train from Birán. As part of his journey to immortality, he will definitely remain in his city.
Faithful to the premise of the Apostle José Martí, that all the glory in the world fits within a single kernel of corn, very close to him and his compañeros of struggle and victories, inside a hermetically sealed rock, where since Sunday, December 4, people have come to pay tribute, Fidel’s example and his ideas will endure eternally for Cuba and for the world.
From now on, together with the honorary title of Heroine City of the Republic of Cuba, Santiago de Cuba will have the honor of safeguarding Fidel’s remains and a new commitment on the part of its men and women, who will be faithful to the concept of Revolution that also stands here, in such a sacred site of the homeland.