On August 1, 1953, Fidel Castro and his brother Raul—along with other communist militants—were arrested in the rugged Sierra Maestra mountains east of Santiago, Cuba. They were arrested in the aftermath of an attack on the Moncada Barracks, General Fulgencio Batista’s largest garrison outside Santiago de Cuba, on July 26th. The attack had proven to be a disaster, resulting in the death of more than sixty militants. Castro was tried for the attack in fall of 1953 and sentenced to 15 years in prison. During the trial, Castro delivered his famous “History will Absolve Me” speech, in which he defended his actions on the basis of his love for Cuba. He was 27 years old at the time, only three years removed from law school.


Only two years later, in May 1955, Castro was released under a general amnesty by General Batista. He and his brother lived in exile in Mexico, where they organized the 26th of July Movement (named after the date of the failed attack on Moncada Barracks), a revolutionary group whose goal was the overthrow of General Batista. By 1959, Castro had achieved his goal, as Batista fled Cuba for the Dominican Republic in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day. Castro was 32 at the time.