Che Guevara

Images of revolution. From the Skrein Photo Collection

Cuban President Fulgencio Batista, who seized power in a military coup in 1952, ran a corrupt and dictatorial regime. This gave rise to the Cuban revolutionary movement that still continues today: In 1953 Fidel Castro and his loyal followers organized an armed attack on the Moncada Barracks, which was brutally quashed by the Batista regime.

M-26-7 is a reference to this failed attack which marks the beginning of the Cuban Revolution and became a symbol of the revolution for Castro‘s followers. On 26th of July 1953 the protagonists of the revolution were arrested, Fidel and Raul Castro were sentenced to many years in prison and numerous combatants were executed. In 1955 Batista released Castro from prison, who went into exile in Mexico, where Che Guevara, an Argentine-born physician, joined his movement. In 1956 they returned to Cuba from Mexico with 82 fighters; they landed in the Granma Province, south of Havana which also became a synonym of the revolution, like the Sierra Maestra Mountains.

This is where the Skrein Collection begins: the preparation of the guerilla war, the recruitment of new fighters, including Camilo Cienfuegos, who formed the triumvirate of the revolution with Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, or Celia Sánchez, one of the first women of the revolutionary movement. The activities of the revolutionists attracted many followers and enjoyed strong support among the population until victory was finally achieved with the Castro‘s triumphal entry in Havanna in 1959.

This was followed by a phase of consolidation, during which Castro, Guevara and other revolutionaries assumed political offices and were appointed as ministers. After the Bay of Pigs disaster in 1961, the USA imposed a total embargo on Cuba, thus contributing to the isolation of the Caribbean island and its political leadership.

The photographs from the Skrein Photo Collection cover the period from the end of the Batista-Regime to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Both Cuban and foreign photographers were involved into political events as reporters, sympathizers, journalists and adventurers and spread the revolutionary ideology.

Leading European photographers travelled into this troubled country in the midst of social upheavals and turned the leaders of the revolution into icons and symbols of a dissatisfied youth on the eve of the global 1968 movement world wide.

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