¡Cuba Libre!: Che, Fidel, and the Improbable Revolution That Changed World History

By Tony Perrottet

Blue Rider Press/Penguin (January 22, 2019)

¡Cuba Libre! Available at these Links:

Most people are familiar with the basics of the Cuban Revolution of 1956–1959: It was led by two of the twentieth century’s most charismatic figures, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara; it successfully overthrew the island nation’s US-backed dictator; and it quickly went awry under Fidel’s rule.

But less is remembered about the amateur nature of the movement, or the lives of its players. In this wildly entertaining and meticulously researched account, Tony Perrottet unravels the human drama behind history’s most improbable revolution: a scruffy handful of self-taught subversives—many of them kids just out of college, literature majors, and art students, and including a number of extraordinary women—defeated 40,000 professional soldiers. ¡Cuba Libre!’s deep dive into the revolution reveals fascinating details: How did Fidel’s highly organized lover Celia Sánchez whip the male guerrillas into shape? Who were the two dozen American volunteers who joined the Cuban rebels? How do you make land mines from condensed milk cans—or, for that matter, cook chorizo à la guerrilla (sausage guerrilla-style)?

¡Cuba Libre! is an absorbing look back at a liberation movement that captured the world’s imagination with its spectacular drama, foolhardy bravery, tragedy, and, sometimes, high comedy—and that set the stage for Cold War tension that pushed the world to the brink of nuclear war.

Guerrilla girls pose for Paris-Match magazine at the height of the revolutionary war

The victorious Fidel appears on the Ed Sullivan Show, January, 1959


"An excellent chronology of Cuba’s liberation—dramatic, human, and illuminating."

—Paul Theroux

"Perrottet's access to written and oral records provides for a rare achievement... If you read only one recent book on Cuba, have it be this delightful popular history."

—Library Review (starred)

"An excellent chronology of Cuba’s liberation—dramatic, human, and illuminating."

—Paul Theroux

"Wildly addictive"


"Fast-paced and highly entertaining."


"Sexy, humorous, fast-moving and deeply-researched... Should be banned by the Communist Party."

—Patrick Symmes, author of Chasing Che: A Motorcycle Journey in Search of the Che Legend and The Boys From Dolores: Fidel Castro's Schoolmates from Revolution to Exile

"Tony Perrottet sure knows how to tell a story — and what a story this is! With Cuba Libre!, Perrottet takes us far beyond the basic facts of the Cuban revolution to the juicy details that remind us that history is deeply human: Fidel's appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show was followed by a poodle fashion parade; the rebels loved to read Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls between operations in the mountains; breaded snake cutlets were a favorite snack.... Perrottet gained access to private letters, diaries, and other documents no other historian has seen, and he has written a fabulous account of one of the most unlikely, romantic, astounding events of the 20th century."

—Chris Ryan, New York Times-bestselling author of Sex at Dawn and Civilized to Death

"Cuba cracked open its treasure chest of historical archives for Tony Perrottet and he uncovered so many long-lost secrets about the Revolution that even those who think they know all about Fidel’s improbable victory will end up shaking their heads in disbelief. Commanders who act like a Caribbean Rat Pack. Military maneuvers that resemble an Oceans Eleven escapade. And a series of long, long shots that, incredibly, paid off for the Castros. Perrottet tells this familiar story in an unforgettable way that is as raucous as it is revealing."

—Anthony DePalma, author of The Man Who Invented Fidel

"Tony Perrottet breathes new life into the story of the Cuban Revolution. Perrottet takes you there not only from the POV of majordomos such as Castro and Che and Celia Sánchez but also through the stories of offbeat personalities like the 'gringo guerrillas' who fought on behalf of the cause and the loopy movie star Errol Flynn. This book is a rich smorgasbord and entertaining as hell."

—TJ English, author of The Corporation and Havana Nocturne