We spent a good couple of hours in this museum. It was from its balcony that Castro gave his successful inspirational speech to "his people" and, we’re told, from the block of flats opposite, that an assassination attempt was made on that very day. Allegedly one of over 400 unsuccessful attempts on his life. Admission was only 5 pesos and included the tour round the building and full photographic rights as we wandered. We climbed the double staircase of this slowly decaying building and, when we got to the first floor, were directed by one of the many attendants that "guided" our route through the museum, to a small door leading to another set of stairs and the top floor. We soon found out that although this was an unsupervised visit, the guides were always there to make sure, with a smile and a gentle wave of the hand, that we followed the correct route.
This is by no means an interactive museum, as there are lots of dry displays, but it does give a fascinating insight into life before and during the revolution. There are loads of photographs, almost as if the revolutionaries decided to keep a pictorial record of all the events, and some quite gory ones, too. Certainly some of the uniforms soaked in the blood of the combatant are not to be viewed by the squeamish and, whatever your political view, it underlines the passion and fervour that these revolutionaries felt. Their weaponry and uniforms are fully displayed and, of course, there are numerous photos and references to the iconic Che Guevara. The surprise was when we left the second floor and came onto the first floor we were greeted by life size models of Che and his revolutionary comrade, Camilo Cienfuegos, emerging from the undergrowth in full combat uniform. That kind of brought things to life in a bizarre way.
Ironically, the museum building was originally the presidential palace of Cuba’s dictator, General Batista, and it really is a grand affair. The hall of mirrors on the first floor, the room leading to the infamous balcony, should be looked down on from the upper museum and then gazed at from the vast floor area of the room itself. The views from here down to the sea are also pretty dramatic.
Outside, across a courtyard in the Granma Memorial are the vehicles, planes, and bombs used in the revolution. Of course, taking pride of place is the boat that Castro used when he and his followers travelled from Mexico to Cuba. It’s enshrined in a huge "glass display cabinet" and a couple of guards kept a vigilant eye over all visitors. Many of the adapted vehicles are crude and amateurish and include a flame thrower out of a tractor, an "armor"-plated grocer's van riddled with heavy bullet holes, and a Soviet tank which Fidel unsucceesfully used against counter-revolutionaries. But these were determined fighters who adapted what they had to achieve victory.