The background and purposes of the armed popular uprising of September 5, 1957 in Cienfuegos were addressed by the Commander in Chief, during his speech on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the deed, in 1977.
Fidel reflected then: «The origin of the uprising in Cienfuegos dates back very far. Since the year 1956, a group of sailors, soldiers and corporals of the Cienfuegos Base had come in contact with the July 26 Movement. «The idea of producing the Cienfuegos uprising had existed since the early date of November 30, when the Granma yacht landing was near to happen, and when the Santiago uprising took place. But it was not possible on that occasion.»
«Later on, when we were in the Sierra Maestra, the idea of producing an uprising in Cienfuegos persisted, with the support of the group of revolutionary sailors, to later organize a front in the Escambray mountains.
That is to say, take the weapons of Cayo Loco and advance towards the Escambray to constitute a second guerrilla front «. In September 1957, the unit of the military apparatus of the Batista tyranny was fragmented, as part of the process of linking troops from the Navy to the M-26-7 (Movimiento 26 de Julio),(July 26 Movement), intensified since June of that year.
Other sectors of the tyrant’s army had also contacted this revolutionary structure. The objective was a joint uprising, through the creation of a plan of national inclusiveness of attacks on military points located in several cities; although the actions could not be carried out in accordance with the planned plan.
As a result of the non-completion of the proposed plans, the uprising of September 5 in Cienfuegos would be isolated, and that gives it a unique connotation, since it shows the supreme value of a people capable of facing, alone, with a few weapons, to the war machine guaranteed by Washington to the tyrant Batista.
The action was directed by Julio Camacho Aguilera, representing the M-26-7, central articulator axis in the conception and development of the feat. The young officers of the Navy designated the frigate ensign Dionisio San Roman as their leader.
After the quick capture of Cayo Loco (seat of the Southern Naval District of the Navy), the actions intensified and expanded to other places of the city, also taken, such as the Maritime Police, the adjacent National Police Station to the Town Hall and the electric subplant of 37th Street and 48th Avenue.
The detainees were transferred to Cayo Loco by the revolutionaries, who respected the lives of the prisoners. From very early hours of the 5, the town of Cienfuegos joined the uprising. Initially they were something less than 70 fighters of the M-26-7, but after they all joined here.
Men, women, youth and adolescents asked for weapons to fight against the dictator and a system of government that forgot the interests of the people and had Cienfuegos (like all Cuba) in misery, sinking its dignity in the mud.
Around ten o’clock in the morning, the first Batista aviation flights began as a prelude to the launching of bombs. Several pilots do not dare to throw them against the city and throw their bombs into the sea.
However, the projectiles of their ships caused dozens of deaths, injured and mutilated in the population. One of the dead was a girl who lived in the vicinity of the Cienfuegos´dock: Olimpia Medina.
At present, this roadstead bears her name. At 12 the first reinforcements arrive from the tyranny army, coming from Santa Clara St, which are repelled by the insurgents in areas of the San Lorenzo School, the Tomas Terry theater, the Cosmopolitan drugstore, the Town Hall and other squares. At three o’clock in the afternoon Batista´s aviation begins an inclement attack, which causes numerous civilian casualties.
The arrival of reinforcements of soldiers and military equipment is also intensified. Despite the manifest military superiority of the enemy, the resistance of the people is heroic and occurs to the ultimate consequences.
The skirmishes do not stop. The last outbreaks of the uprising reach around two o’clock in the morning on the 6th, at the San Lorenzo school and the coffee roaster building El Sol.
Never has there been so much waste of courage and decorum in a city that was free for 24 hours.
Although the actions could not be channeled as it was conceived -the failure of the initial plan developed for the uprising-, the deed of Cienfuegos made the pillars of tyranny rumble and constituted continuity of the great national epic that, very soon after, and from the heart of the Sierra Maestra, would destroy the dictatorship forever.
Because of the aforementioned, and the indelible lesson of dignity of a people, the September 5 would become a milestone in our history, a beam of light that was quickly projected on the nation´s battle course.
The heroes and martyrs of 1957 staged one of the most courageous feats of the 50s, which frightened a dictator who, immediately, suspended constitutional guarantees, decreed a state of siege throughout the country, introduced general press censorship and massivley awarded royalties and decorations to keep the army calm.
None of that was enough for Cuba to be definitively free, less than two years later, thanks to the dawn of January 1st, 1959. The Southern Naval District is located in Cayo Loco Key, in Cienfuegos.
Photo Archive The confrontation of Batista’s tyranny with the people of Cienfuegos led to numerous losses of human lives and severe damage to the infrastructure of the buildings. Photo Archive