Written by Suman Basuroy | Updated: September 24, 2017 —
“Look at the bullet holes in the marble wall,” says Ana Elena as we make our way to the second floor of the Presidential Palace in Havana. Elena, our official tour guide, is trying to draw our attention to the great white marble wall facing the staircase that has, what seems to be, over two dozen small, perfectly round bullet holes. I touch a few of them and my finger goes in about an inch inside one. I have been to many museums around the world but have never seen bullet holes sprayed on the main entrance wall that are perfectly preserved and on display. As I gaze at these bullet holes, the recent frightening television images from Charleston, Mumbai, Istanbul, Paris, Lahore, Kabul, London, Denver and so many places cross my mind — you feel rather eerie and uncomfortable at the sight.
But this is totally different; this is the Museo de la Revolución (Museum of the Revolution) in Havana, Cuba, and the historic bullet holes on the wall comes with an explanation: “The holes in the wall were made during the attack to the Presidential Palace on March 13, 1957. Members of the Revolutionary Directory, armed organisation of the University Students Federation, whose purpose was to execute the dictator Fulgencio Batista, carried out the attack.” The students arrived in two cars and a delivery truck (now on display outside the museum) and opened fire at the guards at the entrance, went up the same stairs that we took, and stormed Batista’s office on the second floor. Batista had escaped to the third floor through a hidden door next to his office. After a few hours of gun battle, almost 40 students were dead, along with several palace guards. You witness the chilling remnants of that bloody day on the walls. In the 2015 movie, Papa: Hemingway in Cuba, directed by Bob Yari, there is a scene of this attack on the Presidential Palace with Hemingway witnessing the gunfire, ducking behind a truck with the young journalist, Ed Myers, played by Giovanni Ribisi.