Western Cuba Sights

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Presidio Modelo (Model Prison)

Presidio Modelo (Model Prison) Review

Five km (3 mi) east of Nueva Gerona is the area's most popular sight, the Presidio Modelo, built in 1926–31 by the dictator Gerardo Machado. Modeled on the famous penitentiary in Joliet, Illinois, the presidio facilitated constant surveillance of up to 6,000 prisoners. The doorless cells in the four circular, five-tier buildings were crammed with inmates and overseen from central watchtowers. The fifth block, where prisoners weren't allowed to speak, housed el comedor de tres mil silencios (the dining hall of 3,000 silences). German and Japanese prisoners of war were held here during World War II, and, most famously, Fidel Castro, his brother Raúl, and 24 fellow rebels were jailed here from October 1953 to May 1955 after the attack on the Moncada Barracks. Celebrity inmates, Castro and company were housed in the prison infirmary; their bunks are still in place, with photographs of each prisoner on the wall over the bed. Castro penned his now famous "La Historia me absolverá" ("History Will Absolve Me")—the defense speech for his trial for the Moncada attack and a manifesto of the cause against the dictator Fulgencio Batista—at the Presidio Modelo, which has been a museum since 1967.

    Contact Information

  • Address: Carretera Playa Bibijagua (Calle 32 leaving Nueva Gerona), Km 5, Nueva Gerona
  • Phone: 46/32–5112
  • Cost: 2 cuc
  • Hours: Tues.–Sat. 9–5, Sun. 9–1
  • Location: Isla de la Juventud

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