Hello and welcome to my Draw my Revolution. Today I will be discussing the Cuban Revolution where Fidel Castro took control of Cuba from Fulgencio Batista. Now my driving question is: Did the revolution improve or worsen the quality of life of Cuban people? To answer this question, I will need to discuss multiple parts of Cuban Revolution. I have split them into 4 groups: #1 Define “quality of life”. To me quality of life means that people have access to the basic services, like health care and education, the poverty levels are generally lower, and the one that is the most important is people are generally happy. #2 We will have to talk about what Cuba was like before the revolution. We go into detail about what life was like for the Cubans at the time. #3 What was life like after the revolution happened? Was the quality of life improving as time went on or did it have a small incline then a huge drop as time passed. #4 Comparing the two and finding out which one was better for the Cubans or were they around the same? To answer these parts of this I will need to give a brief description of the Cuban Revolution.
So the revolution began with a problem in the Cuban government. Fulgencio Batista was running for president and took the government by force to win the election in 1952. This created a lot of hate towards him right away and as well enraged Fidel Castro, who was running for congress as a member of a political party called El Partido Ortodoxo. Castro was so angry that he decided to attack the Moncada Barracks, the second largest military garrison in Cuba. Fidel persuaded friends that were university students and he had around 200 supporters. Their plan was to lead a group of around 150 revolutionaries and try to capture the Moncada Barracks, but basically, it was to their death. Fidel Castro and his brother Raul Castro were the leaders and they were all armed with .22 caliber hunting rifles. So on July 26th, 1953, the rebels attacked the Moncada Barracks and they failed miserably. Many of the rebels were killed and around 70 people were taken prisoner and tortured, including Fidel’s brother Raul Castro. Fidel Castro was lucky enough to escape and he fled to somewhere in the Sierra Maestra mountains. After they assured him that he would not be killed or tortured and would get a fair trial Fidel surrendered. Now the reason why he did this was because he wanted to spark the movement and “wake up” the Cuban people. No one was speaking out so Fidel wanted to do this so people can realize there is a problem. After Fidel surrendered he was sentenced to prison for 15 years. You would think this is the end of Fidel Castro. You would be WRONG. Fulgencio Batista released Fidel Castro and the rest of the rebels in 1955 to improve his image. After this they fled to Mexico, where they met Che Guevara, another person with a strong pursue of revolution. In a later interview with Fidel Castro, he explained that when he met Che, everything clicked together and they were like the perfect partners for one another. Over a few years they gathered their troops and decided to try to go back and take down Fulgencio Batista and they sailed on the yacht “Gramma” to the Eastern coast of Cuba to continue their attack. Unfortunately for Castro and his crew, the government was prepared and they were ambushed by the Cuban army on December 2nd. Most of the men were killed right there. Only 18 survivors including both Castro brothers and Che Guevara escaped to the Sierra Maestra Mountains in southeastern Cuba. Here they once again planned for their next attack.
They spent around 2 years there building up their men and supplies. The way they would do this would be by attacking guard patrols and taking their items. Over this 2 year span they attracted many recruits and Fidel Castro’s revolutionary army grew larger and larger. In 1958, Fulgencio Batista sent a majority of his army to fight the guerrillas and get them out of the mountains but the guerillas held their ground and won the battle. Many of the soldiers in Batista’s army either fled or switched sides. Later in 1958 Castro split his forces up and went down to Santa Clara, capturing towns and villages on the way. At Santa Clara was the final battle where 300 guerillas were able to defeat a very large army waiting for them. The Cuban people were extremely happy and went to celebrate the victory of the rebels and Castro and his men arrived in Havana on January 1st. He became prime minister of Cuba and assigned roles to his partners that helped him win.
Now that all the info is done, what does “quality of life” mean? Well, using a couple of standards that every person in the world should have, note that I say should, the quality of life is defined by the access to basic services, access to health care and education, able to have the freedom of one’s own speech, and finally, the most important one, how happy the people are. This is what quality of life means to me and this is how we will decide whether they quality of life of the Cuban people improved or not.
Before Castro took control, Cuba was actually one of the most advanced and successful countries in Latin America. Cuba was ranked 5th in the hemisphere in per capital income, third in life expectancy, second in per capital ownership of automobiles and telephones, and first in the number of television sets per inhabitants. The literacy rate was 76%, which was 4th in Latin America and Cuba ranked 11th in the world in the number of doctors per capital. Although I have just said many of these facts that show that Cuba was a very nice country to live in, this is not the case. There were many differences in the country. The poverty in Cuba was extremely low. There were the extremely rich, and the extremely poor. Although I had a fact that said that Cuban ranked 11th in the world in the numbers of doctors per capital, there was only 1 doctor per 2000 people in the rural areas and more than 1 third of the rural population had intestinal parasites. Many of these peasants had never attended school. Another huge problem in Cuba at the time was racism. The islands private clubs and beaches were segregated and even the president at the time, Fulgencio Batista was denied membership to going to one of the most exclusive clubs. Corruption in the country was alive and almost every person in Cuba hated there current life and they needed a change, which was Fidel Castro. During the end of the revolution, many of the people protested as well with Fidel.
After revolution, there was a huge content with what happened. Everyone was praising Fidel Castro and hoping this would be a new start to the country. This however was very short and people wanted to leave the country soon after. Many of the middle and upper class Cubans fled to other countries, mainly the United States. There were mainly 4 huge waves of Cubans going to United States. They were in 1959-1962, 1965-1974, 1980, 1993-1995. I will be discussing the 2nd and 4th wave because these are the most important.
The second wave was mainly because of economic hardship and virtual disappearance of political freedoms and many of the Cubans were not happy with this. This economic problem continued to grow and this was the main reason of why people left Cuba. In 1968, Fidel Castro closed down 55,000 small businesses which eliminated private property and this enraged many Cubans. Now because Castro was pressured by all these unhappy Cubans, he opened the port of Camarioca and people left Cuba. By 1974, 250,000 Cubans had left to the United States. Around the 1980’s, Cuba’s economy became ever weaker and many of the Cubans that could not make a living there wanted to leave the country.
The final wave was when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and they took a majority of Cuba’s economy as well and within 3 years the economy shrunk by 40%. Now many people were rioting and Fidel Castro declared once again that people that wanted to leave could do so. The US and Cuba have an agreement called the “Wet feet, dry feet policy” and this is basically prevents people from Cuba by travelling to the US by sea.
Although many of these people had left, Cuba was taking a different approach to this and helped make the country a lot better than it was at its current state.
Comparing Cuba before 1959 with Cuba right now, I would say they have done good enough to keep a sustainable life for regular people. Before the wealthiest 20% of the population received 58% of the country’s income and the poorest 20% received only 2%. Now the wealth is distributed evenly. Before 1959, only 35% of the Cuban people had running water and now 91% of the population can receive drinkable water. Cuba also ranks 17 in the world in the human poverty index, meaning low poverty levels. Another major improvement is the healthcare system in Cuba, which is free for everyone in the country. Before Cuban had around 1079 people per doctor but now, they have 165 people per doctor. Cuba’s health system is one recognized by the World Health Organization as being the best in the world of the existing and developing countries and being one of the best in the world by international standards. Education is as well free and before the revolution happened, secondary and higher education had to be paid for and this created many people to stop going to school after the age 14. Now school is free including the university level and everyone from the ages 6-18 are supposed to attend school.
Using the term “quality of life”, I would argue that Cuba had changed dramatically after the revolution and it was for the better of the people. Although many people had left, the common citizen in Cuba is living a very good life because of Cuba’s socialist government. Health care, education, and access to basic services are all provided now. Whether a person is happy or not is decided by the person himself but the common citizen in Cuba is relatively happy. The only major problem they have not figured out is the freedom of speech for the people. Right now it is very difficult for someone in Cuba to express him or herself.
In conclusion, the Cuban revolution did indeed do lots for Cuba as a country and if it had never happened, Cuba would be in a different state at the current moment. To answer the question, “Did the revolution improve or worsen the quality of life for the Cuban people”, I would answer yes it did improve the quality of life for the Cuban people and without it, the country could be in a horrible shape. Although the middle and upper class people do not like a socialist government, it has helped the country in general and did very well for the average Cuban citizen. Out of the 5 ways we define “quality of life”, the revolution helped improve 4 out of them and changed Cuba forever.
Shoutout to my sister for helping me with some drawings that were difficult to do. She has a very creative mind and without her, this draw my revolution would be a lot less drawings and more writings. Thank you for watching this Draw My Revolution!