In 1960, Felices, a Cuban canned food brand, printed a collectible souvenir album that encouraged customers to acquire a series of cards chronicling the seven bloody years it took Fidel Castro and his army of guerrilla revolutionaries to win their jungle and urban war against the Batista government. The cards tell the detailed story of the life and death struggle. Yet it’s somewhat ironic that a capitalist firm would sponsor this bit of ephemera.
Castro had come to power with the support of most middle classes on the basis of his promises to restore the 1940 constitution, create a democratic regime, reinstate full civil and political liberties, and undertake moderate reforms. But once established as Cuba’s leader he began to pursue more radical policies: Cuba’s private commerce and industry were nationalized; sweeping land reforms were instituted; and American businesses and agricultural estates were expropriated. The United States was alienated by these policies and offended by Castro’s fiery new anti-American rhetoric. His trade agreement with the Soviet Union in February 1960 further deepened American distrust. In 1960 most economic ties between Cuba and the United States were severed, and the United States broke diplomatic relations with the island country in January 1961.