Presidio Modelo in 2005

The Presidio Modelo was a "model prison" with panopticon design, built on Isla de Pinos (now the Isla de la Juventud) in Cuba. It is located in the suburban quarter of Chacón, Nueva Gerona.


Inside one of the buildings

The prison was built under the President-turned-dictator Gerardo Machado between 1926 and 1928.[1] The five circular blocks, with cells constructed in tiers around central observation posts, were built with the capacity to house up to 2,500 prisoners in humane conditions.

Most of the survivors of the rebel attacks on Moncada Barracks, including one attack leader, Fidel Castro, and his brother, Raul Castro, were imprisoned there, most from 1953 to 1955.[2] When Fidel Castro was imprisoned at Presidio Modelo, the four circulars were packed with 6,000 men, every floor was filled with trash, there was no running water, food rations were meagre, and the government supplied only the bare necessities of life.[3]

After Fidel Castro's revolutionary triumph in 1959, Presidio Modelo remained in operation. By 1961, due to the overcrowded conditions (up to 4000 prisoners at one time), it was the site of various riots and hunger strikes, especially just before the Bay of Pigs invasion, when orders were given to line the tunnels underneath the entire prison with several tons of TNT.[4]

Prominent Cuban political prisoners such as Armando Valladares,[5] Roberto Martín Pérez,[6] and Pedro Luis Boitel[7] were held there at one point or another during their respective incarcerations. It was permanently closed by the government in 1967.[1]

The prison now serves as a museum and is declared a national monument, and the old administration building now serves as a school and research center.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Presidio Modelo in Cuba and the panopticon idea « dpr-barcelona". April 18, 2012. Retrieved November 6, 2012.
  2. ^ "Cuba Solidarity Campaign : Cuba Si : Presidio Modelo, School of Revolutionaries". Archived from the original on November 4, 2012. Retrieved November 6, 2012.
  3. ^ Wallace, Robert; Melton, H. Keith; Schlesinger, Henry R. (2008). Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIA's Spytechs, from Communism to Al-Qaeda. Penguin. pp. 258–259. ISBN 9781440635304.
  4. ^ "Testimonios - Colchones de dinamita y TNT para prisioneros" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on June 16, 2011. Retrieved November 21, 2010.
  5. ^ "Armando Valladares: Human Rights Hero". December 5, 2003. Retrieved November 6, 2012.
  6. ^ "Emilio Ichikawa » Roberto Martín Pérez: "He hecho un libro polémico"". November 2, 2012. Archived from the original on March 11, 2012. Retrieved November 6, 2012.
  7. ^ "Pedro Luis Boitel and the Future of Freedom in Cuba | National Endowment for Democracy". Retrieved November 6, 2012.

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 21°52′40″N 82°45′59″W / 21.87778°N 82.76639°W / 21.87778; -82.76639