On July 26, 1957, the red and black flag of Fidel Castro’s M-26-7 movement flew over the rooftops of Havana, marking the fourth anniversary of his failed attack on Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba in 1953. Castro adopted the name Movimiento 26, de Julio (M-26-7) for his organization, formed in 1955 by a group of 82 exiled revolutionaries including, among others, himself, his brother Raul, and Ernesto “Che” Guevara.
Castro threatened open revolt against President Fulgencio Batista and his army forces on this anniversary. R. Hart Phillips of the New York Times reported that Castro’s underground publications had predicted violence across the island of Cuba and that Castro and his followers would drink champagne in the Presidential Palace before the day was over. People were urged to stay indoors.
From the radio tower of the Pan American Airways building, to the top of the nearly completed Hilton Hotel, to the government’s Mercedes Hospital, and elsewhere in the heart of Havana, M-26-7 flags announced that Castro was a force to be reckoned with. Over the next few days, reports filtered in from the provinces of bombings, sabotage of power lines, and fires ignited by flaming bottles of gasoline. Batista’s days were numbered.
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