It was October 16, 1953, when it was time to open case 37 against those accused of taking part in the attack on military barracks, on July 26, 1953. On this occasion the trial corresponded to Fidel Castro Ruz, accused of leading the assaults on the Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes in Bayamo.
Fidel was taken to a small place in the civilian hospital in Santiago, where his trial took place. There the accused assumed his own defense for two hours. He had gone from accused to accuser, when he energetically revealed the crimes of the Batista soldier against the assailants, some of whom were assassinated after being taken prisoner. He also crudely recounted the evils suffered by Cuba at the time.
Convinced of what would come at the end of the process, he bravely said: “I know that prison will be as hard as it has never been for anyone, pregnant with threats, ruin and cowardly viciousness, but I do not fear, as I do not fear the fury of the vile tyrant who took the lives of 70 of my brothers and sisters.
Despite the clear arguments used in self-defense, Fidel was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Fidel managed to reconstruct the plea, which was able to extract it in pieces and sent to Haydée Santamaría, Lidia Castro and Melba Hernández, who were in charge of unveiling and reproducing the document underground. It was finally ready in June 1954, with the title La historia me absolverá (History will absolve me).
In 1955, when Fidel and his companions were freed as a result of popular pressure, History will absolve me was published in the American city of New York. That edition was followed by many others in different countries and languages. Eventually, the text became a rational and indispensable document of Cuban history in the 20th century.
In addition to its values as an oratorical piece of excellence, Fidel’s plea in the trial for the attack on the Moncada exposed the main problems afflicting the Cuba of the time: land, industrialization, housing, unemployment, education and health.
In La historia me absolverá (History will absolve me), Fidel offered solutions to all that tragedy, based on social programs that the Revolution would develop when it came to power:
“A revolutionary government with the support of the people and the respect of the nation, after cleaning up the institutions of venal and corrupt officials, would immediately proceed to industrialize the country,” he said in his famous plea.
“A revolutionary government, after settling the 100,000 small farmers who today pay rents on their plots of land as owners, would proceed to definitively conclude the land problem.
“A revolutionary government would solve the housing problem by reducing 50 percent of the rents, exempting all contributions to houses inhabited by their own owners (…), demolishing the infernal quarries to build modern buildings (…) and financing the construction of houses throughout the Island on a scale never seen before (…) There is enough stone and arms left over to give each Cuban family a decent home.
“A revolutionary government would proceed to the integral reform of our education (…) to prepare the generations that are called to live in a happier homeland. Don’t forget the words of the Apostle: “In Latin America a very serious mistake is being made: in towns that live almost completely from the products of the countryside, they are educated exclusively for urban life and they are not prepared for the peasant” (…) “An educated people will always be strong and free”.
That historical plea constitutes the social program that its author dreamed of and that was widely fulfilled in Cuba since 1959. The final words with which he ended his self-defense speech were premonitory: “Condemn me, no matter, history will absolve me. And, indeed, history absolved him.