Landing of the Granma

Coordinates: 23°8′27″N 82°21′25″W / 23.14083°N 82.35694°W / 23.14083; -82.35694
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Voyage of the Granma
Part of the Cuban Revolution
Fighters disembarking from the boat Granma onto the Cuban coast.
DateNovember 26 - December 2, 1956
  • Landing delayed 2 days due to bad weather
  • Rebels ambushed by Batistiano forces 3 days later
26th of July Movement  Cuba
Commanders and leaders
Fidel Castro Fulgencio Batista
Casualties and losses
67 (killed in ambush 3 days later )[1]
The route of Granma from Tuxpan to Playa Las Coloradas

Granma is a yacht that was used to transport 82 fighters of the Cuban Revolution from Mexico to Cuba in November 1956 to overthrow the regime of Fulgencio Batista. The 60-foot (18 m) diesel-powered cabin cruiser was built in 1943 by Wheeler Shipbuilding of Brooklyn, New York, as a light armored target practice boat, US Navy C-1994, and modified postwar to accommodate 12 people. "Granma", in English, is an affectionate term for a grandmother; the yacht is said to have been named for the previous owner's grandmother.[2][3][4]


Exile of Moncada attackers[edit]

In 1953, beginning their first attack against the Batista government, Fidel and Raúl Castro gathered 70 fighters and planned a multi-pronged attack on several military installations.[5] On 26 July 1953, the rebels attacked the Moncada Barracks in Santiago and the barracks in Bayamo, only to be defeated decisively by the far more numerous government soldiers.[6] It was hoped that the staged attack would initiate a nationwide revolt against Batista's government. After an hour of fighting most of the rebels and their commander fled to the mountains.[7] The exact number of rebels killed in the battle is debatable; however, in his autobiography, Fidel Castro wrote that nine were killed during the fighting, and an additional 56 were executed after being captured by the Batista government.[8] Due to the government's large number of men, Hunt revised the number to about 60 members taking the opportunity to flee to the mountains along with Castro.[9] Among the dead was Abel Santamaría, Castro's second-in-command, who was imprisoned, tortured, and executed on the same day as the attack.[10]

Numerous important revolutionaries, including the Castro brothers, were captured soon afterwards. During a political trial, Fidel spoke for nearly four hours in his defense, ending with the words "Condemn me, it does not matter. History will absolve me." Castro's defense was based on nationalism, representation and beneficial programs for the non-elite Cubans, justice for the Cuban community, and his patriotism.[11] Fidel was sentenced to 15 years in the prison Presidio Modelo, located on Isla de Pinos, while Raúl was sentenced to 13 years.[12] However, in 1955, yielding to political considerations, the Batista government freed all political prisoners in Cuba, including the Moncada attackers. Fidel's Jesuit childhood teachers succeeded in persuading Batista to include Fidel and Raúl in the release. Fidel Castro left Cuba for exile in Mexico.[13]


In Mexico, Fidel Castro soon met with Spanish Civil War veteran Alberto Bayo. Castro informed Bayo he had a plan to invade Cuba but had no money for weapons or a single volunteered soldier. Despite the lack of resources Bayo decided to assist Castro's plan because giving military advice would not cost him anything. With time Fidel would be joined by his brother Raul Castro, and his old comrade Antonio "Ñico" López. Lopez would bring Raul Castro to a nearby hospital where an exiled Che Guevara was working as a doctor. Guevara, who had met Lopez previously in Guatemala was invited to meet with Fidel Castro by Lopez. The Castro brothers, Lopez, and Guevara were to be the first volunteers for the expedition. On the evening of July 8, 1954 Guevara and Fidel Castro met in the home of Maria Antonia Gonzalez. The apartment later became a headquarters for the rebels. Castro realised he had little money for his plans and in October travelled to New Jersey and Miami to raise money from Cuban exiles for his invasion.[14]


The yacht was purchased on October 10, 1956, for MX$50,000 (US$15,000) from the United States-based Schuylkill Products Company, Inc., by a Mexican citizen—said to be Mexico City gun dealer Antonio "The Friend" del Conde[15]—secretly representing Fidel Castro. The builder, Wheeler Shipbuiding, then of Brooklyn, New York, now of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, also built Ernest Hemmingway's boat Pilar.[16] It is still unknown who removed the light armor and expanded the cabin postwar to convert the navy training boat into a civilian yacht. Castro's 26th of July Movement had attempted to purchase a Catalina flying boat maritime aircraft, or a US naval crash rescue boat for the purpose of crossing the Gulf of Mexico to Cuba, but their efforts had been thwarted by lack of funds. The money to purchase Granma had been raised in the US state of Florida by former President of Cuba Carlos Prío Socarrás[17] and Teresa Casuso Morín.[18]

Soon after midnight on November 25, 1956, in the Mexican port of Tuxpan, Veracruz, Granma was boarded surreptitiously by 82 members of the 26th of July Movement including their commander, Fidel Castro, his brother, Raúl Castro, Che Guevara, and Camilo Cienfuegos. The group—who later came to be known collectively as los expedicionarios del yate Granma (the Granma yacht expeditioners)—then set out from Tuxpan at 2 a.m.[19] After a series of vicissitudes and misadventures, including diminishing supplies, sea-sickness, and the near-foundering of their heavily laden and leaking craft, they disembarked on December 2 on the Playa Las Coloradas, in the municipality of Niquero, in modern Granma Province (named for the vessel), formerly part of the larger Oriente Province. Granma was piloted by Norberto Collado Abreu, a World War II Cuban Navy veteran and ally of Castro.[20] The location was chosen to emulate the voyage of national hero José Martí, who had landed in the same region 61 years earlier during the wars of independence from Spanish colonial rule.


Santiago de Cuba uprising[edit]

A rebellion organized by the 26th of July movement and planned by Haydée Santamaría, Celia Sánchez, and Frank País occurred in Santiago de Cuba. It was planned in occurrence with the landing of the Granma. The rebellion happened on November 30 but was destroyed quickly by police. The Granma itself wouldn't arrive in Cuba until days later on December 2. It was made two days late due to bad weather during the voyage to Cuba.[21]

Granma landing[edit]

We reached solid ground, lost, stumbling along like so many shadows or ghosts marching in response to some obscure psychic impulse. We had been through seven days of constant hunger and sickness during the sea crossing, topped by three still more terrible days on land. Exactly 10 days after our departure from Mexico, during the early morning hours of December 5, following a night-long march interrupted by fainting and frequent rest periods, we reached a spot paradoxically known as Alegría de Pío (Rejoicing of the Pious). –Che Guevara[22]

Batista predicted correctly that the landing would occur, and his troops were ready. Consequentially, the landing party was bombarded by helicopters and airplanes soon after landing. Since the terrain on the coastline provided little cover, the party was an easy target.[23] Many casualties ensued, most of them during battle at Alegría de Pío [es] further inland. The survivors continued to the foot of Pico Turquino in the Sierra Maestra to perform guerilla war.[24]

Initially, Batista did not know who exactly were among the casualties, and international media widely reported that Fidel had died.[25] This was, however, not the case. Of the 82, about 21 had survived. According to the most credible version, the survivors were Fidel, Raúl, Guevara, Armando Rodríguez, Faustino Pérez [es], Ramiro Valdés, Universo Sánchez, Efigenio Ameijeiras, René Rodríguez, Camilo Cienfuegos, Juan Almeida Bosque, Calixto García, Calixto Morales, Reinaldo Benítez, Julio Díaz, Luis Crespo Cabrera,[26] Rafael Chao, Ciro Redondo [es], José Morán, Carlos Bermúdez, and Fransisco González. All others had been either killed, captured, or left behind.[27]

Granma yacht expeditioners[edit]

The 82 expeditioners were:[28]


Granma Memorial in Havana

Soon after the revolutionary forces triumphed on January 1, 1959, the cabin cruiser was transferred to Havana Bay. Norberto Collado Abreu, who had served as main helmsman for the 1956 voyage,[20] received the job of guarding and preserving the yacht.[citation needed]

Since 1976, the yacht has been displayed permanently in a glass enclosure at the Memorial Granma adjacent to the Museum of the Revolution in Havana. A portion of old Oriente Province, where the expedition made landfall, was renamed Granma Province in honor of the vessel. UNESCO has declared the Landing of the Granma National Park—established at the location (Playa Las Coloradas)—a World Heritage Site for its natural habitat.[29]

The Cuban government celebrates December 2 as the Day of the Cuban Armed Forces,[30] and a replica has also been paraded at state functions to commemorate the original voyage. In further tribute, the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party has been named Granma. The name of the vessel became a symbol for Cuban communism.[31]


  1. ^ The Che Guevara Reader Writings on Politics & Revolution. Seven Stories Press. 2022. ISBN 9781644211137.
  2. ^ Daniel, Frank Jack (November 25, 2006). "Fifty years on, Mexico town recalls young Castro". Reuters. Archived from the original on November 28, 2006.
  3. ^ Arrington, Vanessa (July 2006). "Roots of Cuban Revolution lie in the east". Fox News. Associated Press. Retrieved January 14, 2007.
  4. ^ "Down with Imperialism* 12,000 Miles Away". Time. December 2, 2008. Archived from the original on December 2, 2008. Retrieved December 3, 2006.
  5. ^ "Historical sites: Moncada Army Barracks and". CubaTravelInfo. Archived from the original on 10 July 2013. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  6. ^ Faria, Miguel A. Jr. (27 July 2004). "Fidel Castro and the 26th of July Movement". Newsmax Media. Archived from the original on 22 August 2015. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
  7. ^ Hunt, Michael H. (2004). The World Transformed: 1945 to the present. New York, New York: Oxford University Press. p. 257. ISBN 9780199371020.
  8. ^ Castro (2007), p. 133
  9. ^ Hunt, Michael (2014). The World Transformed: 1945 to the Present. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 257.
  10. ^ Castro (2007), p. 672
  11. ^ Hunt, Michael (2014). The World Transformed: 1945 to the Present. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 258.
  12. ^ "Chronicle of an Unforgettable Agony: Cuba's Political Prisons". Contacto Magazine. September 1996. Archived from the original on 28 January 2013. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  13. ^ Castro (2007), p. 174
  14. ^ Skierka, Volker (2014). Fidel Castro A Biography. Polity Press. ISBN 9780745693040.
  15. ^ Frank Jack Daniel (November 27, 2006). "Fifty years on, Mexico town recalls young Castro". Caribbean Net News. Archived from the original on November 23, 2007. Retrieved December 2, 2007.
  16. ^ "History - Wheeler Yacht Company". Archived from the original on March 23, 2019. Retrieved August 12, 2019.
  17. ^ Thomas, Hugh (March 21, 1998). Cuba: The Pursuit of Freedom. pp. 584–585. ISBN 0306808277.
  18. ^ "Humanismo. Mexico City: January-February 1958, No. 4". Sotherbys. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
  19. ^ Guevara, Ernesto. Pasajes de la guerra revolucionaria. "Una revolución que comienza" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on June 12, 2010.
  20. ^ a b "Cuban Revolutionary Collado Abreu Dies". Associated Press. April 3, 2008. Archived from the original on April 7, 2008. Retrieved April 3, 2008.
  21. ^ Santamaria, Haydee (2003). Haydée Santamaría Woman Guerilla Leader in Cuba Whose Passion for Art and Revolution Inspired Latin America's Cultural Renaissance. Ocean Press. p. x. ISBN 9781876175597.
  22. ^ Kellner, Douglas (1989). Ernesto "Che" Guevara. World Leaders Past & Present. Chelsea House Publishers. p. 40. ISBN 1-55546-835-7.
  23. ^ Cuba Libre 2016, 24:00.
  24. ^ Cuba Libre 2016, 25:00.
  25. ^ Cuba Libre 2016, 26:00.
  26. ^ "Luis Crespo". (in Spanish). Retrieved August 22, 2022.
  27. ^ Bonachea, Ramon L.; Martin, Marta San (2011). Cuban Insurrection 1952-1959. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers. p. 107n49. ISBN 978-1-4128-2090-5.
  28. ^ "Lo que brilla con luz propia, nada lo puede apagar". Granma Cuba Si (in Spanish). Retrieved September 3, 2018.
  29. ^ "Desembarco del Granma National Park". Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  30. ^ Expedición del Granma. Cuban Ministry of the Armed Forces. Retrieved November 19, 2006.
  31. ^ Enrique Oltuski (November 29, 2002). Vida Clandestina: My Life in the Cuban Revolution. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 292–. ISBN 978-0-7879-6658-4.

Works cited[edit]

External links[edit]

23°8′27″N 82°21′25″W / 23.14083°N 82.35694°W / 23.14083; -82.35694