The Guardian newspaper has a great feature that pulls an article from its archive relating an important historical event. One can find, for instance, the account of Nelson Mandela’s famous speech and conviction at the Rivonia trial in 1964.
Today marks the day 56 years ago, The Guardian reported on the arrival of Fidel Castro to the US at the invitation of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. The rhetoric in the report is fascinating, as the battle lines were drawn very early and thus the arcs of the relationship cast.
Looking like a football player though he is really a baseball fan, wearing the fatigue dress of a soldier and carrying a book in his left hand, surrounded by security police but proclaiming his love of mankind, Fidel Castro arrived in Washington last night, more like a picturesque paradox that the hero of Cuba’s revolution.
Even before he stepped from his plane controversy broke over his head. A specialist in Latin American affairs, Senator Smathers of Florida, arose in the Senate to send a ponderous poisoned spear in Castro’s direction. With a strange lapse from the traditions of senatorial courtesy, the Senator told his colleagues that the Castro Government was giving its support to movements which were trying “to invade the shores of other Latin American countries.” Still another charge was flung by Raphael Del Pino who described himself as the head of an “anti-communist movement of the Americas.” He accused Castro of being the “new dictator” of a “Communist-controlled beach head within 90 miles of the United States mainland.”
These charges of communism do not really touch the American peoples’ concern about Castro. They do not think he is an agent of Moscow. But they are troubled about his ruthless executions and his known ambitions. Is this young man of 32 a dedicated hero of a peoples’ revolution or is he the creature of accident and the victim of forces he started but no longer can control? Will he try to nationalise the sugar industry of Cuba and confiscate American profits and investment? Is he a blood-stained tyrant driving men to their executions with patriotism and revolutionary tribunals? Or is he merely exacting delayed retribution, on Cuba’s behalf, for the catalogue of crimes and blunders committed by the Batista regime?
Ever unorthodox, Fidel Castro soaked up his time in the US by defying the security concerns of his handlers:
During his visit, Castro will be in Washington, Princetown, New York, Boston, and Montreal, and will also appear on “Meet the Press” on radio and television on Sunday night. His security guards are in for a hard task. Both at the airport and later at the Cuban Embassy he broke through all the official precautions for his safety. On his arrival he brushed aside the police, allowed himself to be surrounded by 1,500 excited and shouting Cuban admirers. Then at the Embassy, as he was getting ready for bed, he suddenly changed his mind, ran out of doors, and mingled informally with a group of some fifty people who had gathered on the side-walk opposite the Embassy.
Castro has brought his technical advisers with him. He is ready to talk to the American Government about the economic and political problems of his country, if the State Department is interested in them. Certainly the American people are eager to hear him in his defence of Cuba’s strange revolution.
Now that the relations are moving in a positive direction at the same time the Castros are nearing the ‘biological solution’ (a euphemism used on the island), it will be vital to strip this issue of the rhetoric of a bygone era.
Read the article here:
Fidel Castro visits Washington: from the archive, 17 April 1959 | World news | The Guardian