I’ve been fascinated by historic letters and correspondence for some time; and I wrote a post covering some of this a while ago.
Letters, particularly communications never meant for public consumption, provide a fascinating insight into significant historic or cultural events, times or figures. They also can help to humanise certain figures – both historic or contemporary – who might otherwise seem like remote, distant characters or one-dimensional archetypes.
There are few world figures who have acquired the stature or aura of Cuba’s Fidel Castro, who surely ranks as one of the most famous, divisive and debated world figures of the twentieth century. People have analysed his speeches, his actions, his alliances, over and over again, and come to wildly differing conclusions or opinions. With someone like Castro – particularly if you don’t live in or have any connection to Cuba – the enduring, iconic image of the man is probably more powerful than the nitty-gritty details of the reality.
This is natural, of course: reality is complicated, messy, imprecise, whereas symbols and icons are neat and simple.
Sometimes, when someone becomes so powerful as a symbol of something, it can be difficult to get around the symbol and form a more down-to-earth view. Castro is the perfect example of that, because the symbol of the towering Anti-Imperialist figure who no one could kill has become so enduring and so powerful. It is also impossible to think of Castro without the signature beard and cigar: frankly, we can imagine that he came out of the womb in a cloud of cigar smoke and fully bearded.
But he wasn’t always a big, imposing figure puffing cigars and engaging in grand, anti-imperialist tirades. He was once just a poor, little boy in Cuba. And when he was 12 years old, Fidel Castro wrote a letter to then US President Franklin Roosevelt (source).
In it, the future Cuban dictator and figurehead asked Roosevelt for a $10 dollar bill, claiming he wanted one because he had never seen one before. In the handwritten letter, the young Castro also congratulated the president on his re-election. The letter, written in faltering English, is clearly in the language of a boy and, now preserved in US government archives, is a fascinating relic of the twentieth century. The letter was written in November 1940.
The most amusing part of the short letter is the young Castro offering the American President access to his country’s iron for use in constructing American ships. The child-like offer appears at the end of the letter, in a kind of ‘PS’; ‘If you want iron to make your ships,’ he wrote, ‘I will show to you the bigest (minas) of iron of the land. They are in Mayari Oriente Cuba.’
President Roosevelt apparently didn’t respond to the letter; and he may not have ever even seen it. And whoever did originally see that letter from the random Cuban boy obviously had no conception of who that boy would grow up to be and how it would, at one point, bring America to the brink of destruction in its conflict with the Soviet Union.
@ M Semet,
Laughing so hard that my ribs hurt. I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to steal your gem of a comment to share with others, as you did. Proper attribution will be made, of course . . .
This isn’t exactly on the same subject, but I had to add this. I picked up this hilarious story from a comment board on the Saker blog, and I almost did a spitake after reading it:
Of all the innumerable brilliant things Fidel did over the decades, perhaps my favourite was when then US President Jimmy Carter started mouthing off about all the prisoners in Cuba being “Political Prisoners”, and stated he would welcome them all to the glorious USA if only that horrible criminal Communist slavemaster Castro would free them.
BINGO! The light bulb goes off in Fidel’s head and he says, “Yes! You’re right! They’re all political prisoners!”
And Fidel heads to the nearest prison and says “Great news, Guys! You’re all going to Miami!” And the Cubans emptied out their prisons and drove them to the port of Mariel where they were loaded onto the waiting US ships and set free in Miama to rob, rape, kill, cheat, and carry on whatever criminal activities had originally landed them in prison.
Of course, the US Govt. soon realized they had shot themselves in the foot, and demanded that Cuba not send any more criminals to Miami. But Fidel just grinned from ear to ear and “We have no common criminals. Only political prisoners.” and kept shipping them, and the US was forced to keep accepting them.
It was wonderful. It saved the Cuban economy a fortune by getting rid of thousands of vicious criminals being fed, clothed, and housed at the expense of the Cuban people, and permanently dumped the criminals in the USA, which was much better pickings for them, so they had no desire to return. The Cuban jails were virtually empty for years afterward. I visited Cuba in 1986, a few years later, and just for the heck of it walked into the local jail in the town I was staying in. I asked to see the cells and the desk sergeant said “OK” and took me back there. Empty. I said “There’s nobody here.” and he said “They’re all in Miami.”
***********LOL. No wonder Fidel’s such a “dictator”. I do wish someone would collect all the funny stories about this guy and publish a book about it. I know I’d buy it just for the comedy relief. Honestly, this story really illustrates why he’s so hated by the usual suspects.
On another note, since disparaging Fidel as a dictator clearly isn’t working, some disinfo trolls are now trying to “prove” that Fidel was a CIA asset all along, because hey–the CIA has a 100% kill rate, they are always perfect, and they never make a mistake. Sarcasm aside, I do think the CIA is overwhelmingly successful in getting you dead, if that’s what they want. But no one is perfect, no matter how they stack the deck. Sometimes, luck just isn’t on your side, CIA or no. Apparently, he was controlled opposition all along, and maybe there will be files and incriminating pictures that show he was part of the shadow elite, participating in pedo orgies and satanic rituals, fully owned by the rothschilds or whatnot. LOL. God, I would love to see the photoshopped pictures of that! I don’t know what’s funnier, the true stories about Fidel’s wicked clever moves, or his detractors pathetic attempts to discredit him.
Yeah, well the problem with a lot of ‘alt-media’ is that it’s totally right-wing-dominated; so naturally they have a dilemma when it comes to dealing with a perceived ‘Left-wing’ figure like Castro. If they were ‘neutral’, so to speak, or at least objective, they wouldn’t have a problem: but many of them are so wholly ‘alt-right’ (rather than just ‘alt’) that all the bias comes through.
You can see it all the time too in, for example, how they excessively championed Trump, or Farage, as the ‘anti-establishment’ figures, but seem unwilling to say the same about Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn, for example.
In my rompings for Christ throughout Latin America… stayed in a small Mexican City named Tuxpam in the State of Vera Cruz. The city is near the gulf coast and set along a wide river. While I was there in the early 90’s i befriended the a woman clerk at the hotel where i was staying and in casual convesation she asked me where i was originally from. When she saw me the following day she told me she had mentioned to her mom that she had met a Cuban (Jesus Freak) and that her mother asked her to invite me over for dinner. I obliged and my wife and daughter and I went to their home that night.
We had dinner together and then the lady told me a fascinating story. She told me that in the late 1950’s Fidel Castro has resided in Tuxpam and that it had been one of his major recruiting grounds for the Cuban revolution. She said the barbudos were regularly seen around town and that Fidel Castro and his recruits were regular customers at the butcher shop her since deceased husband had owned.
She added that her husband had taken a liking to the passionate revolutionary lads and would frequently have them over for dinner and said to me… Fidel sat right there where you are sitting and the house was filled with him andnhis men whenever he was here for dinner.
She also said that they resided across the river and that the house where the revolutionaries disembarked from to Cuba on their ship the Granma. She also told me the house was now a museum of the Cuban Revolution… and my family and I visited it the following day. To get there we took a water taxi across the river to the opposite bank which was scarcely populated at the time and wentnto the museum.
The museum which was a single level masonry home of 1950’s US design. There were photos and documents on display and outside was an old boat on dry docks and it was of the type and size of the Granma (though not the original. When i told the museum care taker that I was a Cuban national exiled in the US… he said come here, i want to show you something; and he took me to framed document which was a copy of the propertie’s abstract that showed the ownership of the house.
I don’t recall the exact name he read out to me but he said to me that the owner of the house during Castro’s stay there was an American (as the name clearly reflected) and that it had been widely known in the small town that he was a US covert operative.
Thanks very much for that contribution; that’s all very, very interesting and paints a really interesting picture.