Homeland or Death, the Cuban Revolution’s Key Dilemma

By Elio Delgado Legon

HAVANA TIMES – Freedom or death was the slogan that was adopted at the beginning of the Cuban Revolution on October 10th 1868, as well as the dilemma put forward on February 24th 1895, to continue the independence struggle. Just as it was on July 26, 1953, when the attack on the Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba, and Carlos Manuel de Cespedes in Bayamo, kicked off the last stage of the Revolution that finally won freedom for the Cuban people on January 1, 1959.

In the face of foreseeable attacks from enemies of the Revolution, the slogan continued to be Freedom or Death, as Cuban revolutionaries have always preferred death before losing their freedom.

As Fidel Castro would say, in a speech that he gave in what is today known as Plaza de la Revolution, on July 26, 1959: “Our Revolution is strong, because our Revolution is invincible. Because we have a people willing to die to defend it!”

This hasn’t changed all the way up to today.

I believe we need to remind the forgetful that on March 5, 1960, in the speech given during the funeral honors ceremony for victims of the La Coubre freighter ship explosion, a terrorist act by the US against Cuba, Fidel said the following:

“Because Cubans have acquired real meaning in life, which begins with considering it undignified to not live in freedom, when one does not live with decorum, when one does not live with justice, when one does not live for something, and for something great like Cubans are living at this moment….

“And it is best to say so without boasting, as those who are truly determined to do what is promised. 

“May those who, lacking the most elementary common sense, dare to consider as possible any kind of invasion of our soil, understand the monstrosity of their mistake, because we could save ourselves many sacrifices. But, should this happen, unfortunately, above all given the misfortune of those who might attack us, let there be no doubt that here, in this land called Cuba, here in the midst of this people called Cuban, they will be obliged to fight us as long as we have a drop of blood left, they will be obliged to fight us as long as we have an atom of life left. 

“We will never attack anyone, no one will ever have any reason to fear us, but whoever cares to attack us must know, without fear of being mistaken, that Cubans of today are not in the year 1898 or 1899, we are not at the beginning of the century, that we are not in the decade of 1910 or 1920 or 1930, with Cubans of this decade, with Cubans of this generation, with Cubans of this era – not because we are better, but because we have had the good fortune to see more clearly, because we have had the good fortune to receive the example and the lessons of history; the lessons that cost so much sacrifice to our ancestors, the lessons that cost so much humiliation and so much pain to past generations, because we have been fortunate enough to receive that lesson – with this generation they will have to fight, if they attack us, until the last drop of blood….”

“And unintimidated by the threats, unintimidated by the maneuvers, remembering that one day we were only 12 men and that, comparing our strength with the strength of the dictatorship, our strength was so minute and so insignificant that no one would have believed it possible to resist; but, we believed that we could resist then, as we believe today that we resist any aggression.  And not only that we will be able to resist any aggression, but that we will be able to defeat any aggression, and that once again we have no other choice than the one with which we began the revolutionary struggle: that of freedom or death.  Only now freedom means more: freedom means homeland.  And our dilemma is homeland or death”.

Homeland or death was the dilemma that the Revolution’s historic leader proposed to the Cuban people in 1960, and it will continue to be our slogan for as long as the threat from Imperialism exists, which wants to destroy our Revolution in any way it can, which would be to destroy our Homeland. So, we will never get tired of repeating: Homeland or death, We will prevail!

Read more from the diary of Elio Delgado Legon here.

Elio Delgado Legon

Elio Delgado-Legon: I am a Cuban who has lived for 80 years, therefore I know full well how life was before the revolution, having experienced it directly and indirectly. As a result, it hurts me to read so many aspersions cast upon a government that fights tooth and nail to provide us a better life. If it hasn’t fully been able to do so, this is because of the many obstacles that have been put in its way.


3 thoughts on “Homeland or Death, the Cuban Revolution’s Key Dilemma

  • March 2, 2021 at 7:16 pm
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    Elio writes as if the enemies of Cuba are plotting an invasion any day now. As I have commented here many times, when Elio writes about his childhood and Cuba in the olden’ days, his trip down nostalgia lane is interesting. But when he writes about current events? The guy is out of touch with reality!

  • February 24, 2021 at 10:37 am
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    As Elio writes, two Revolutionaries way back prior to the 21st century kicked off “. . . the last stage of the Revolution that finally won freedom for the Cuban people on January 1, 1959.” The operative word in this sentence and in Elio’s article that he wants the readers to be convinced that all Cubans fought and died for and that they now have is: “freedom”.

    Obviously from his writings freedom means different things to different people at different times. The word can be used to fit any political ideology one wants and can be used to try and convince people of its positive attributes where no such positivism exists.

    What exactly does “freedom” mean? According to my Random House dictionary, freedom refers: “(1) the state of being free, (2) personal or political independence, (3) exemption or immunity from controls, duties, etc., (4) ease or facility of movement or action, (5) frankness of manner or speech . . . .”

    And, what exactly does being “free” mean. My Random House dictionary refers: (1) enjoying personal rights and liberty, (2) able to do something at will, (3) exempt or released from something that controls, restrains, burdens, etc. . . . .”

    With those very specific and concrete definitions as a preamble, let’s put Fidel Castro’s words in context. “Fidel said the following:

    “Because Cubans have acquired real meaning in life, which begins with considering it undignified to not live in freedom, when one does not live with decorum, when one does not live with justice, when one does not live for something, and for something great like Cubans are living at this moment….”

    We can all agree that prior to 1959 when Cuba was under the thumb of imperialistic Batista’s government Cubans were not living in freedom. They were being exploited; they were purposely uneducated; they had unavailable health care and the list goes on. At that moment Cubans were not living in what most people define as freedom.

    Now, enter the year 2021, and where exactly are Cubans today regarding their freedom that Elio says all Cubans have and will die to retain? Today, as the majority of HT contributors evidently write the majority of Cubans do not have personal or political freedom to choose a government of their own liking; Cubans do not have exemptions from state controls; Cubans do not have ease and facility of movement; Cubans do not have freedom of self expression; Cubans do not have personal rights and liberties.

    In summary, in this 21st century, year 2021, the majority of Cubans, those outside the communist elites in power, do not have the freedom nor the dignity to live in the decorum that Fidel Castro’s historical Revolution and his followers, like Elio, had in mind.

  • February 23, 2021 at 7:29 pm
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    Oh Elio. If people could choose in Cuba, the dictatorship you support would not be in power.

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