This article examines how Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar emerged as the ‘strong man’ of Cuba. Historians have pointed out that from 1934 to 1940 Batista's primary support came from the army and the police. We also know that, like many other Latin American leaders at the time, Batista went through a ‘populist phase’. Populists acknowledged the reality that ‘the masses’ were a new force in society and that ‘the people’ were at the centre of the nation and the state. Populist discourse functioned to construct a ‘people’ out of fragmented and scattered populations. Batista was very aware that in order to rule Cuba he had to appeal to ‘the people’ and to the revolutionary sentiments of 1933. But we need more information about exactly what Batista's political ideas were and how he put them into practice. This article shows how Batista became, in his own words, the ‘architect’ of the post-revolutionary state between 1937 and 1940. Batista supervised Cuba's transition from a military dictatorship in 1934 to a nominal constitutional democracy in 1940. The aim is to shed some light on how this remarkable transition took place.