Museo de la Revolución

'Glory to the heroes of the new homeland'
‘Glory to the heroes of the new homeland’

Cuba’s Museum of the Revolution is dedicated to preserving the history of Fidel Castro’s revolutionary movement from 1953 to 1959.

The building is located in Habana Vieja, and served as the Presidential Palace until Dec 31st, 1958. A massive marble staircase is the first sight to greet visitors, however upon closer inspection, you find some thing peculiar. There are dozens of small holes facing the entrance, and . In fact, they’re bullet holes, left intact from when Universidad de la Habana students stormed the palace in a failed attempt to kill President Fulgenico Batista in 1957. The second floor also contains many rooms, including the President’s office, furnished precisely as they were in 1959. This was incredible because in a way, it was like being inside the White House’s Oval Office, and being able to touch everything.

Former desk of Cuba's Presidents.
Former desk of Cuba’s Presidents.

Though informative, the rest of the museum is somehow less impressive than this. The exhibits to the revolution are all on the third floor. The recount the story of Fidel Castro’s 26 de Julio movement from it’s planning stages in 1953 to it’s victorious march into Habana in 1959. There are artifacts, maps, explanations, quotes, and many pictures; all of which give an overtly one-sided story of the Revolution. Which I expected, and did not mind. What slightly bothered me was the way the entire museum seemed to be thrown together. For a government that venerates it’s coming to power, I expected that the pictures, maps, and descriptions would be more than just printer paper hung up by pins and placed behind a pane of glass. But having been to the numerous fantastic (though occasionally overdone museums in Washington DC), I was probably expecting a little too much.

Even the exhibit dedicated to Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos, which I was looking forward to, seemed to underwhelm me. Maybe it was my misplaced expectations, but the belongings of Che and Camilo, the pictures, and their life-size recreations were somewhat ruined by the spelling mistakes (in English and Spanish) and the fact that it was in little more than a hallway. The reverence that the country seems to show these two heroes, whose faces are everywhere, simply doesn’t match their exhibit.

Camilo Cienfuegos & Che Guevara
Camilo Cienfuegos & Che Guevara

Besides the exhibits themselves, half of the former palace is undergoing construction (inside and out), and the vacant buildings in disrepair that can be seen in every direction from the museum take away a bit of the mystique.

However, in a country where the average government salary is $20/month, and its wealthiest emigrants are staunchly opposed to the Revolution, donations probably aren’t flowing in at the same rates as at the Smithsonians.

But, in the end, the museum serves its purpose. It showcases many important pieces of Cuba’s history, pays homage to its heroes, teaches the city’s visitors about the island’s revolutionary past. And at least for me, it makes sense for the Castros to prioritize a functioning economy over adding touchscreens and interactive features to their museums.

Exhibit on the final battle of the Revolution
Exhibit on the final battle of the Revolution
Mural depicting Fulgencio Batista's fall
Mural depicting Fulgencio Batista’s fall
'Corner of the Cretins'
‘Corner of the Cretins’
26 de Julio movement flag
26 de Julio movement flag
Another shot of the President's desk
Another shot of the President’s desk
Fidel's Words
Fidel’s Words
Camilo & Che's guns and hats.
Camilo & Che’s guns and hats.
Former desk of Cuba's Presidents.
Former desk of Cuba’s Presidents.
Flag of Cuba at the Museo de la Revolucion
Flag of Cuba at the Museo de la Revolucion

2 thoughts on “Museo de la Revolución”

  1. “Pays homage to its heroes” Yes, the revolutions heroes, not the heroes of my exiled ancestors. Please try to be more sensitive to these things. El gran che guevara is not the man you see plastered in pictures. He was a lover of the paredon, and hated anyone who went against the status quo. “Which I expected, and did not mind.” you should never say you do not mind oppression, it is at odds with your wonderful opinion piece on racism in cuba.

    1. I’m sorry that you found my phrasing offensive, but I assure you that it wasn’t due to a lack of sensitivity on my part.
      When I referred to ‘its heroes’, I did mean the revolutionary heroes, as I was referring the the revolution and the museum dedicated to it. I very well understand that the heroes of post-revolutionary Cuba are not all the same as those your exiled relatives celebrate.
      And I was not saying I don’t mind oppression, which I definitely do not. What I meant was that I didn’t mind the obvious one-sided portrayal of the events from ’52-’59 because I expected them to be presented how they are in the museum. It is frustrating that Cubans are fed such over the top propaganda, but after spending even a short amount of time in the country it’s anything but surprising.
      But I guess I should have written those sentences with a little more clarity so I do apologize for the lazy editing.

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