Fidel Castro died yesterday at the age of 90.
The fact is barely mentioned in the New York Times obituary, but America at first welcomed as a hero the man who overthrew Batista. In our great lack of wisdom, however, we soon decided that Cuba — Cuba! — posed an existential threat to the United States. John F. Kennedy would have blown up the world to save it if the grownups in Moscow hadn’t stopped him.
To remind us of our brief pre-paranoia honeymoon with Fidel, though, here’s Sam Smith at Undernews:
One night in April 1959 Allison was conducting his program as usual – sometime between ten thirty and one am – at Cores Restaurant, 1305 E St NW, when the recently victorious Fidel Castro and his aides came into the restaurant looking for something to eat without any idea a radio program was underway. Castro had come to Washington to speak at the National Press Club, right around the corner from the restaurant.
Here is the tape of what happened next as reported on the program that followed. It is extraordinary:
“The most noteworthy figure to appear at Harvard during my tenure was the newly victorious Fidel Castro, who spoke to 8,000 enthusiastic faculty and students (including one from Brandeis named Abbie Hoffman) at Dillon Field House. Castro was still considered a hero by many Americans for having overthrown the egregious Batista. While those of us who had taken Soc Sci 2 knew that not all revolutions were for the better, there was about this one a romance that took my thoughts far from Harvard Square as a top Castro lieutenant, sitting in front of my little recorder in the Bick, told me of his days with Fidel in the mountains. Castro was booed only once according to my broadcast report later that evening, when he “attempted to defend the execution of Cuban war criminals after the revolution.”