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  • Founded by Ernesto

    Founded by Ernesto 'Che' Guevara at Altos de Conrado, the station's on-air signature became a screeching howl of "Aqui, Radio Rebelde!"  | Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Published 24 February 2018

Radio Rebelde, the voice of the Cuban Revolution, began as a clandestine pirate radio station nestled in the Sierra Maestra Mountains in the eastern part of the island. 

It was 60 years ago today that the now-famous Cuban radio station founded by iconic guerrilla leader Che Guevara finally crackled into life over the Caribbean airwaves.

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Radio Rebelde, the voice of the Cuban Revolution, began as a clandestine pirate radio station nestled in the Sierra Maestra Mountains in the eastern part of the island. 

Founded by Ernesto 'Che' Guevara at Altos de Conrado, the station's on-air signature became a screeching howl of "Aqui, Radio Rebelde!" 

Its February 24, 1958 maiden broadcast, which lasted 20 minutes, came at a time when almost all of Cuba's media was controlled by loathed dictator Fulgencio Batista

The broadcast began with the rebels' anthem, followed by a report on the battle of Pino del Agua and other news from Che's guerrillas.

"Here is Radio Rebelde, the voice of the Sierra Maestra, transmitting for all Cuba on the 20 meter band at 5 and 9p.m. daily... I'm Station Director Captain Luis Orlando Rodriguez."

Rebelde's first director, Rodriguez then read an editorial on the founding of the station and notable events from that day in Cuban history – of which its own initiation is now one.

As the battle continued to rage between capitalist, U.S.-backed President Batista and the Communist guerrillas led by Fidel Castro, Radio Rebelde broadcast firsthand reports of the rebels' progress almost round the clock. 

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As a tribute on pateplumaradio.com notes: "Castro had always seen the importance of broadcasting, but Che Guevara was the main rebel proponent of a clandestine station. Guevara knew that a radio station was the only way to speak directly to the Cuban people.

"Guevara rounded up a technician, a former newspaper reporter and two ex-announcers from Havana's popular Radio Mambi from among supporters. An old ham transmitter would do the broadcasting."

By the time Castro told listeners he had seized the capital, Havana, on January 1, 1959, every one of the guerrilla columns had its own radio equipment, and a total of 32 small rebel stations had joined forces to create the Cadena de la Libertad, or Liberty Network.

Castro himself, during Rebelde's 15th anniversary celebrations in 1973, recalled: "Radio Rebelde truly became our means of mass communication, to talk to the people, and it became a much-listened-to station. It was crucial for disseminating military information and played a key role throughout the war."

Today, Radio Rebelde is a 24-hour operation employing more than 270 people, with an emphasis on news programs, sports and and live talk shows, and outposts in every Cuban province. 

As co-founder Ricardo Martinez is quoted as saying in the station's official history: "A guiding principle of our effort was to always communicate the truth, which gave us credibility." 
 


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