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Cubans mark 56 anniversary of the triumph of the Revolution
January 6, 2015, 3:57 pm

Cuba celebrated the 56th anniversary of the triumph of the revolution on Thursday but this year for the first time in 53 years, there was a novelty: renewed diplomatic relations with the United States are on the horizon. Cubans celebrated the New Year and 56th anniversary of the triumph of the Revolution with great emotions given the return of the last three heroes to Cuba, and the culmination of a struggle for the freedom of the Cuban Five, carried out by many people around the world.

A 21-gun salute from the San Carlos de La Cabaña fort in Havana marked the dawning of 2015 and in Santiago de Cuba, where the traditional Festival of the Flag also was celebrated, the festivities kicked off with the national anthem and the raising of a huge Cuban flag over historic Cespedes Park. But instead of the fiery revolutionary rhetoric that has often been an anniversary staple, this year no political events were scheduled and the emphasis was on celebrating Cuban culture.

Cubans across the country rang in the New Year at provincial plazas and around the capital with dances and live music. Cinema, art shows, cultural discussions, and performances have been taking place all this week. In Santiago, the Cuban flag was hoisted at the old city hall where revolutionary leader Fidel Castro stepped to a balcony and proclaimed victory on Jan. 1, 1959. In the early morning hours 56 years ago, Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista fled the country and revolutionary forces also took control of Havana.

On January 1, 1959, the revolution triumphed and from the city of Palma Soriano, Santiago de Cuba province in the east of the island, Fidel launched the slogan "no military coup, revolution itself". Commanders Camilo Cienfuegos and Ernesto Che Guevara occupied the Columbia military Center and the La Cabaña fortress on January 2 and 3, respectively.

The triumph of the popular insurrection on January 1, 1959 paved the way to the complete exercise of sovereignty and independence by the people of Cuba. In this struggle the Cuban nation was forged. A nation with its very own stamp emerged from the mixture of European, African, Asian and Latino American roots; with a culture of peace and human projection, very proud of its own existence and very sensitive in defending its singularity.For the important occasion was developed a program of cultural activities that included concerts, exhibitions, theater, book fairs etc.

On January 8, 1959, a week after the popular victory, Fidel Castro was received in a cataclysmic event in Havana on January 8, to start a new era of national history. He characterized that historic moment: “I think this is the time of our history. Tyranny has been overthrown. The joy is immense. Yet much remains to be done. Let us not deceive in thinking that everything will be easy, maybe, from now on, everything will be more difficult.”

In half of a century on independent history, Cuba has been able to raise its people to his own stature. Its achievements in education, health system, social security, cultural, sport and scientific development and other are recognized all over the world. Faithful of its historic tradition and the path marked by its founding fathers, Cuba has put at the disposition of the humankind its modest advancements. Health professionals from Cuba collaborate in many countries, including in Africa in the fight against Ebola.

In 2015, Cuba will continue together with the national economic development, the consolidation of the process of updating his economic model. During last year’s anniversary, Cuban leader Raúl Castro was in Santiago, considered the cradle of the Cuban revolution, and spoke about the difficulties of forging the revolution in the face of constant aggression from the United States.

“It has been 55 years of incessant struggle in the face of the designs of 11 U.S. administrations that, with greater or less hostility, have not ceased in their determination to change the economic and social system that has been the fruit of the revolution, in order to eliminate its example and to reinstate imperial domination over our country,” Castro said on January 1, 2014.

But on December 17, Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama announced that Havana and Washington planned to renew diplomatic relations. That same day, the United States swapped three Cuban spies for a CIA agent serving a lengthy prison term in Cuba and Havana also released Alan Gross, a USAID subcontractor serving a 15-year sentence, in a humanitarian gesture.

Both leaders have said repeatedly they are committed to making the new relationship work, and in late January, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson is scheduled to head to Havana for migration talks and to discuss the process of restoring diplomatic ties.  In mid-2013, Havana and Washington had already embarked on secret talks that would lead to the prisoner releases and pave the way for the new relationship.

The recent announcement to begin a process of normalization of relations between the US and Cuba also arouses great interest among Americans wishing to visit the Caribbean island, according to tourism professionals in the country. Several US tour operators have commented on the market reaction to a possible relaxation of authorizations to travel to Cuba, according to recent announcements by President Barack Obama.

"The response has been overwhelming our office," said Tom Popper, president of Insight Cuba, an organization that has been processing  trips to the island since 2000 despite restrictions, for limited visits for exchanges academic and cultural small groups. "We are inundated with requests. We have never seen anything like it," Popper said in statements in the Washington Post.

Under the new measures relating to Cuba made by Obama, is the plan to create a general license covering several coded categories, which, according to tour operators, will allow more Americans to visit the island. Some American tour operators expressed their concern over the Cuban tourism infrastructure and the facilities capability to handle the avalanche of American tourists. According to the reports, Cuba annually receives about three million visitors, a figure which may be increased considerably to a possible opening of US tourism.

'I think everything portends an incredible future with regard to travel to Cuba and new opportunities for Americans to enjoy a place that has been banned for 51 years,” said Tom Popper.

Anniversary greetings arrived from around the world, including messages from Russian President Vladimir Putin and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who praised the recently released Cuban prisoners for defending the revolution “at the cost of their own freedom” and emphasized the tight ties between Venezuela and Cuba.

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