The 26th of July Movement (Movimiento 26, de Julio; M-26-7) was the revolutionary army organized and led by Fidel Castro which overthrew the Batista dictatorship in Cuba in 1959.
On July 26, 1953, Castro and a small band of men attacked the Moncada Barracks in the city of Santiago de Cuba and set in motion events which culminated in the first successful resistance to the United States' effort to impose its control over the two continents of the Americas. Subsequently, the revolutionary Army chose the day of their attack on the Moncada Barracks as the day their movement should celebrate its birthday.
Today is the 57th anniversary celebration of the 26th of July movement, and everyone who wishes Cuba well should drink a toast (a mojito preferably) to Cuba.*
The 26th of July Movement Flag (1998), by Lloyd Rowsey
As a footnote, regarding the revolutionary army's attire, Fidel Castro showed a touch of military humor in the attack on Moncada Barracks, having his troops dress up as sergeants to mock the Sergeants' Rebellion which had brought Batista to power.
Moncada Barracks in 1998, by Lloyd Rowsey
Although the attack failed, it proved Castro's leadership under fire and the courage and leadership abilities of his seconds-in-command, including Castro's younger brother Raul who single-handedly wrested the gun away from a captain of the Barracks to avoid capture during the initial fighting.
In the event, few of the revolutionaries were killed but most were captured and imprisoned. Still, the movement was born and never suffered defeat morally.
Castro was a trained lawyer, and he personally represented the captured at Moncada. He spoke so eloquently in their defense that out of more than 100 accused of the attack only twenty-six were incarcerated. Then in his own defense on the day of his sentencing, Castro gave a four-hour, impassioned speech explaining the Movement's reasons for open rebellion against the dictator Batista. This speech is known now as the "History Will Absolve Me" speech, and in 1953 it touched the hearts of millions of impoverished Cubans throughout the island and turned Fidel Castro into the long lost hero they had been waiting for.
The movement's first setback also proved to be a godsend as the soon-to-be-exiled Castro brothers, along with more than thirty of the Movement's soldiers, spent several years in Mexico City organizing and planning their next action in Cuba. And it was in Mexico City that Ernesto "Che" Guevara joined the Movement, and the bond between him and Castro lasted the rest of their lives.
Country Schoolyard Che (1998), by Lloyd Rowsey
In fact, Guevara was the proverbial diamond in the rough that everyone looks for, but almost no one finds. He was born into a modest, middle-class family in Argentina, and he spent two years after his formal education as a medical doctor was completed traveling in South and Central America, working with the poor and setting up treatment clinics.
And in 1953, Guevara witnessed first-hand the American-instigated right-wing coup in Guatemala, participating in the resistance to it and subsequently fleeing to Mexico where he met Fidel and Raul Castro for the first time.
El Doctor Che was first a freedom fighter and secondly a medic, but he always remembered his Hippocratic Oath. During the entire struggle to liberate Cuba, people witnessed Che's compassion for all humans, regardless of which side of the battle they were on. There were countless occasions where he placed his own life in jeopardy in order to attend to fallen Cuban soldiers' wounds, whether Fidelista soldiers or Batista soldiers.
Even more than Fidel, Che Guevara has become in world history the most famous member of the 26th of July Movement, despite having joined it in Mexico years after the attack on the Barracks at Moncada. (Presently, were Che alive and a capitalist, he would be the richest revolutionary the Earth has ever known; his "ferocious Che" T-shirt sells millions of copies every year worldwide.)
Like Fidel and millions of other Cubans, Che remained a revolutionary his entire life. But because he was not a Cuban, while contributing to the Revolution in Cuba as a high government official, Che became restless and impatient with domestic Cuban politics. So he searched out countries in the Americas which were ripest for revolution, and to which he believed he could make the best contribution. In 1966, Che decided he was needed in Bolivia.