The communist government, beset with economic woes, staged a belated, bicycle-powered commemoration Saturday of the start of the revolution that brought leader Fidel Castro to power in 1959.
The celebration, highlighted by a scheduled evening speech by Castro, traditionally is held July 26 but was put off because he was then at an Ibero-American summit meeting in Spain.The event finds Cuba in its worst shape since the revolution, struggling to wean itself from decades of dependence on Soviet bloc trade and aid, its state-controlled economy lurching and its people waiting in long lines for bread, milk and other necessities.
Despite the crisis, Castro has resisted increasing international pressure to move away from a rigid one-party system with strong state control and toward Western-style democracy, which he angrily rejects as "capitalist garbage."
Castro dates his revolution to a July 26, 1953, attack on an army barracks in the town of Moncada. The army of then-dictator Fulgencio Batista killed several rebels and captured the rest, including Castro, who later was freed and went to Mexico to rebuild his guerrilla force.
Warm-up activities began Thursday in Cienfuegos, a port city on the central southern coast, with state-promoted block parties throughout the town that stretched late into the evening. Crowds gathered at a central plaza to drink rum and beer and dance to amplified American and Latin pop music.
Streets were festooned with red-and-black party banners and the red, white and blue Cuban flag. Precious paint was used to freshen up faded slogans on walls and billboards calling on Cubans to remain dedicated to the Communist cause.