The Granma yacht played a most important role in the history of the revolution in Cuba that spanned some 91 years and included the Ten Years War from 1868 to 1878, the Little War from 1879 to 1880, and the Cuban War of Independence from 1895 to 1898. The final Cuban Revolution was sparked by former president Batista, supported by the military, seizing power in 1952. Fidel Castro led revolutionaries against the Batista government beginning in 1953. The revolutionaries, who now included Ernesto "Che" Guevara, gathered in Mexico where they formulated the plan to invade Cuba by sea. The aging small yacht Granma was secured for the invasion.
The landing occurred on December 2, 1956. The Granma yacht is a 60-foot boat built to accommodate only twelve passengers. While seaworthy, she was leaky, couldn't achieve speed, and the radio could only receive transmissions, not make them. 82 soldiers piled aboard this vessel in Mexico, which was also overloaded with weapons, ammunition, and 2,000 gallons of fuel. She set sail on November 25 and was forced to beach in a swampy area near Niquero on the island's southeastern coast. Betrayed by their guide and pursued by Batista's army, only 12 (including the Castro brothers and an injured Guevara) made it to their final destination of the Sierra Maestra Mountains. Castro was quoted as saying: "We will win this war. We're just beginning to fight!" These were prophetic words, as this landing was a catalyst, adding fuel to the revolution in Cuba that finally ended in victory in 1959, when the decisive battle was fought in Santa Clara.
The ship is preserved as an icon of the revolution and since 1976 it has been permanently docked next to the Museum of the Revolution in Havana, and December 2 is celebrated as one of the important Cuban events each year. The province where the boat was beached is now called Granma Province, and it is a wonderful place to explore the Cuban countryside. The Granma is housed in a glass enclosure, called the Granma Memorial, and not open for tours, but it is still an amazing sight to see.