In Cuba, 1 January is Liberation Day to commemorate the defeat of the Batista regime by the rebel Communist forces of Fidel Castro on 1 January, 1959. Although it was a little later that the total defeat of Batista’s forces took place, it was 1 January that Batista himself fled Cuba and went into exile.
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The background of Liberation Day goes back to the defeat of Spain by the United States in the Spanish-American War in 1898. This led to Cuba falling under U.S. control. Although Cuba was officially made “independent” in 1902, the U.S. really maintained a degree of control over Cuban affairs and also supported various Cuban governments against their opposition, even sometimes when a dictator was in charge.
In 1940, Fulgencio Batista was elected president of Cuba, but when he was set to lose re-election in 1952, he staged a coup and took over as dictator. A rebellion broke out against him in 1956, but that one failed. Then Castro led a small rebel group from exile in Mexico to Cuba’s Sierra Maestra Mountains and waged a war against Batista that finally succeeded by the beginning of 1959.
There are big Liberation Day celebrations in Havana and Santiago every year, and there are many places with free concerts. The celebrations continue into 2 January which is Victory Day, so it’s a two-day holiday really.
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