January 1 Fidel enters Santiago de Cuba as Batista’s military regime collapses and the revolution takes power

May 17 First Agrarian Reform Law is proclaimed, placing a limit on the maximum land holding allowed
October President Eisenhower approves of a CIA covert action programme against Cuba

December 11 Col. J.C. King, head of the CIA’s Western Hemisphere division, sends a memo to CIA chief Allen Dulles about the possibilities of elimination Fidel Castro

December The CIA proposes to recruit Cuban exiles and train them for paramilitary attacks against Cuba

February Soviet Foreign Minister Anastas Mikoyan visits Cuba and the first major trade agreements are signed

March 17 President Eisenhower approves of the CIA’s plans for a ‘Programme of Covert Action against Castro’ – a comprehensive plan of military action and propaganda to overthrow the Cuban revolutionary government

May 17 First broadcasts by the CIA-run radio station on the Swan Islands, off the coast of Honduras
June 28 – July 1 The revolutionary government nationalises foreign oil companies that refuse to refine Soviet oil, including Shell, Texaco and Esso

July 6 President Eisenhower suspends Cuba’s US sugar quota. The Soviet Union agrees to but Cuban sugar.

August 6 Cuba nationalises other US businesses, including oil refineries, sugar mills and US electricity and telephone companies

August 28 The US imposes an embargo on trade with Cuba

September 2 Mass rally in Havana adopts the Declaration of Havana, calling for an end to the exploitation of the underdeveloped world by imperialist finance capital

September 17 Cuba nationalises all US banks

September 26 Fidel Castro addresses the United Nations General Assembly for four and a half hours

October 19 President Eisenhower prohibits all US exports to Cuba except food and medicines

November CIA broadcasts from the Swan Islands off Honduras warn Cubans of imminent plan by the revolutionary government to remove parents’ rights over their children

November 9 John F. Kennedy defeats Richard Nixon in the US presidential election

December 16 President Eisenhower cancels Cuba’s sugar quota for the first quarter of 1961


January 3 Washington breaks diplomatic relations with Havana

January 5 Volunteer teacher Conrado Benitez is murdered by a band of counterrevolutionaries

January 11 Cuba’s National Literacy Campaign begins

January 20 John F. Kennedy is sworn is as president of the United States

March 12 As part of a counterrevolutionary terrorist bombing campaign, an oil refinery in Santiago de Cuba is attacked

March 13 President Kennedy proposed the ‘Alliance for Progress’ to counter the influence of the Cuban revolution in Latin America

April 15 Bombing raids are simultaneously launched on three Cuban air fields by planes with fake Cuban insignia

April 17 The invasion of 1,500 mercenaries (Brigade 2506), trained and armed by the CIA, begins at Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs) on the southern coast of Cuba

At 1.30am, the advance guard of the landing force took up positions at Larga and Giron beaches, in the southern most point of the Zapata Peninsula. There was a clash of small detachments of militia that were on patrol, and the first shots were exchanged.

In spite of the invaders’ momentary advantage, the Revolutionary Air Force, which had managed to preserve a few old planes, hit the enemy and its ships hard.

April 19 After around 65 hours of continuous battle, the revolutionary forces took Playa Girón, the last point held by Brigade 2506.

With more than 1,200 mercenaries captured, the Playa Girón invasion is defeated. More than 200 of the invaders were killed during the fighting. The revolutionary forces suffered 156 deaths and 800 wounded.

May 1 At an enormous May Day rally in Havana, Fidel sums up the lessons of the Playa Girón invasion. The US continues for the next 50 years to try and topple the revolution, without success.

Timeline information adapted from Cuban Revolution Reader: A documentary history of Fidel Castro's revolution, by Julio Garcia Luis. (Oceanbooks, 1998, 2nd ed) which is available to buy here