Cuba's Favorite Castro Sibling

          Dr. Antonio Castro Soto del Valle lives modestly and avoids the spotlight as much as possible, but he is easily the most popular of Fidel Castro's eight (yes, 8) sons and he is deeply admired on the island of Cuba.
           If it were not for his passionate love of baseball, Antonio would be a virtual unknown off the islalnd. However, his role as the trainer for Cuban teams in the Olympics, World Cup, and Pan-Am Games conspicuously caught the attention of reporters, photographers, and television cameras. Antonio is very active on international committees and forums that promote and officiate baseball. Like seven other Fidel sons on the island, Antonio has no political ambitions whatsoever. But he champions better relations with the U. S. and he longs for the day when "our two countries can work and play together in all areas, including but not limited to baseball."
          Baseball this week returned Antonio to the spotlight. On Tuesday (March 20) he signed an agreement with Paul Seiler, executive director of the U. S. Baseball Federation, for U. S. college players to take on Cuban players in a five-game series that will be played July 5-9 in Havana's Estadio Latino. It will be a warmup for the Haarlem Baseball Week tournament that will be played in the Netherlands later that month. This week's agreement, strongly championed by Antonio, re-establishes -- at least for one year -- an annual U. S. - Cuba series that was held every year from 1987 through 1996 when Antonio himself was both a fan and a player.
         Besides baseball, Antonio admits to two other habits that also once commanded avid attention from his father -- cigars and pretty girls. (His date above is the gorgeous Patricia Nunez).
         Antonio often takes his mother, Dalia Soto del Valle, to baseball games. "My father loved and played baseball," he says, "but my mother is the one who taught me to cherish the game."
         The baseball-loving Dalia had five devoted sons after she married Fidel in 1980 shortly after the death of his idol Celia Sanchez, who also had been Dalia's dear friend. Her five sons with Fidel are Antonio, Alejandro, Alex, Alexis, and Angel.
         On January 8th, 1980 -- three days before she died of cancer -- Celia Sanchez asked Fidel Castro to marry Dalia Soto del Valle. Both women well knew it was a request Fidel would not refuse. A month earlier, Celia had asked Dalia for permission to make that death-bed request of Fidel.
          As with his other seven sons, Fidel dotes on Dr. Antonio Castro del Valle but none of them enjoy special privileges on the island (apart from bodyguards) and he has not groomed any of them as politicians or revolutionaries. Other than baseball and his work as a physician, Antonio is almost always noncommittal (evasivo in Spanish) about anything related to his last name. However, the Jamaica Observer reported that on a flight to Japan for a baseball tournament, Antonio, when asked about his father's illness, merely said, "He knows the perils of old age. As he looks back, he knows the two best things in his life have been Celia Sanchez and my mother. Let's just leave it at that. Too much will be said about all the rest."


Brian Latell & His Cuban Money Machine

Brian Latell (Courtesy: Orlando Sun-Sentinel)
         Former CIA agent Brian Latell years ago joined a very crowded field of Cuban profiteers in the United States. The effervescent and immutable anti-Fidel cottage industry -- spawned shortly after the overthrown Batista dictatorship in Cuba immediately, calamitously, and eternally reconstituted itself in South Florida in January of 1959 -- has produced literally thousands of economic and political fortune-seekers in the U. S., such as Mr. Latell. In dictatorial and Banana Republic fashion, most have been successful.
            Latell's book After Fidel was quite slanted and inaccurate from a standpoint of both history and prognostication but that didn't matter because Latell's CIA/University of Miami/anti-Fidel credentials were all that was/is necessary for it to find a ready-made audience that insouciantly becomes a phalanx of enablers. As in the past and the present, a future avalanche of anti-Fidel, money-making, fact-deficient, and mindless rhetoric looms on the horizon to ingratiate a well-defined core. Unheeded and unneeded are such pillars as truth, transparency, and accountability because fairness or balance were vanquished decades ago within the bowels of the U. S. - Cuban diaspora.  Any caricature of Cuba is considered malleable to manipulation as it evolves into a mutually beneficial symbiosis between money and politics.
           Now Latell's gravy train continues with a new sybaritic book entitled Castro's Secrets in which his latest cheap (but quite commercial) shot rather nebulously claims that Fidel Castro "knew" of President John Kennedy's impending assassination in Dallas. Of course, Latell's conclusion is laughable considering that at least half the planet's population "knew" that a bevy of killing machines -- the CIA, the Mafia, the Cuban-exile extremists, etc. -- were targeting JFK who was, among other things, being blamed for Fidel's victory at the Bay of Pigs, which translated to a CIA/Mafia/Cuban-exile debacle. Latell writes in Castro's Secrets, "Fidel knew of Oswald's intentions and did nothing to deter the act." Such a sentence is liable to create a metamorphosis of facts and fiction vacillating uncontrollably for decades to come, like an irrepressible but slow-moving tsunami that is more didactic than rapacious.
        Linking Fidel Castro adversely to historic events, even those digested and regurgitated endlessly for decades, is equivalent to a greedy preacher supplying fodder to a choir of rich, gullible followers/acolytes before he passes around the collection plate. It's worked every time since January of 1959 so...why stop now? A visceral malaise of Fidelism, after this latest peccadillo of a book, must still be marinating in Brian Latell's CIA-spun and pecuniary-inspired depiction of a Cuban Revolution that he still wants to shape and conform, for topical/economic and historical/propaganda purposes, to the manner in which the CIA designed it. It works for Latell in uncontested books but not in a contentious world beset with whimsical vagaries, vacuous opinions, and a testy compendium of capricious counter-points. Latell's third Castro book should be upcoming soon, probably blaming Fidel for 1929's Saint Valentine's Day Massacre in Chicago because surely the then two-year-old Fidel "knew" about the slaughter in advance and, by golly, he still didn't warn Bugs Moran about what Al Capone was up to! But...hey, Brian!...don't let little nagging facts stand in the way of book sales when the uncontested topic is Cuba.  
        The convalescing, 85-year-old Fidel won't be around forever but, especially while he still lives and before his legacy begins to take hold, Brian Latell and the anti-Fidel cottage industry in the U. S. will continue to flourish. The melding of Cuba's Fidel or Fidel's Cuba with U. S. fortunes, both political and economic, might well constitute the old revolutionary's most lasting mark on such things as history, politics, capitalism, etc. For sure, his footprints on U. S. soil will be as deep as those he will leave behind in Cuban sand. The island, particularly the revolution that bears Fidel's stamp, remains as idiosyncratic as ever, especially when self-serving and one-sided commercial and chimerical gigs from old anti-Castro CIA agents rule the day, if not the roost.
         Certainly the Castro-Kennedy saga (1960-1963) deserves a truthful telling in the pantheon of Cuban, American, and world history. But the chroniclers of that history should be neither former CIA agents nor worshippers of either Castro or Kennedy.
         Georgie Anne Geyer's Guerrilla Prince, first published in 1991, remains the best and fairest account of Fidel Castro's life from his boyhood in Cuba till the 1990s.
       Georgie Anne Geyer, the great conservative nationally syndicated columnist, was born on April 2, 1935, and she is neither a former CIA agent nor a worshipper of Fidel Castro or John Kennedy. She is merely a great journalist and historian with dozens of honorary degrees, including three from journalistic powerhouse Northwestern.
         Since the 1990s Ann Louise Bardach has been the best, fairest, and most unbiased chronicler of Fidel Castro. Her classic books are must reads, especially if you have been influenced to the contrary by ex-CIA agents, spoiled daughters, or many others involved in the lucrative anti-Fidel cottage industries. If you are interested in unbiased facts about the fascinating and important U.S.-Cuban conundrum, dismiss the Brian Latell tales and focus on Ann Louise Bardach's books:
"Cuba: A Travelers Literary Companion" -- 2002 
"Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana" -- 2002
"Cuba Confidential: The Extraordinary Tragedy of Cuba, Its Revolution and Its Exiles -- 2004
"Killed: Great Journalism Too Hot to Print" -- 2004
"The Prison Letters of Fidel Castro: Cartas del Presidio" -- 2004
"Without Fidel: Death Foretold in Miami, Havana and Washington" -- 2009
       Bardach's publishers have been the major houses -- Random House, Scribner, Penguin, Avalon, etc. -- so they are still readily available and easily attainable at Amazon.com.
        In addition to her seminal books, Bardach has written voluminously and brilliantly about U. S. - Cuban relations in articles and essays published by the New York Times, the Washington Post, Vanity Fair, The Guardian, The London Times, and many more of the world's top newspapers and magazines. If you seek the truth, visit the works of Geyer and Bardach; if you want commercial slants, buy Brian Latell's books or attend one of his University of Miami lectures or Miami Herald interviews.


Who Invented Fidel Castro?

Anthony DePalma
        Anthony DePalma, now a professor at Seton Hall University after a notable career as a foreign correspondent at the New York Times (and the only one to serve as bureau chief in both Mexico and Canada), added to the history, myths, truths, and distortions of the Cuban Revolution with a best-selling 2006 book.
        Anthony DePalma's The Man Who Invented Fidel: Castro, Cuba, and Herbert L. Mathews of the New York Times featured a trove of illuminating insight thanks to his access to the NYT's archives but his title primarily exudes eye-catching hyperbole.
        Herbert Lionel Mathews was born in New York City on January 10, 1900 and he died on July 30, 1977. He gained fame and notoriety as a reporter and editorialist for the New York Times. In his peak years, Mathews was the favorite reporter of both Times' publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger and the novelist Ernest Hemingway.
         The above photo depicts the absolute zenith in the life of Herbert L. Mathews and one of the milestones in the career of Fidel Castro. It was taken on February 17, 1957 in the Sierra Maestra Mountains of eastern Cuba. The historical significance of the iconic photo has been both overwhelming and over-stated but the man Mathews is interviewing above was supposed to be dead according to the Batista dictatorship in Cuba and the U. S. government in Washington, with both dominant sources claiming Fidel had been killed along with most of the other 81 rebels  as they arrived on the Cuban shoreline from Mexico in December of 1956 with the goal of overthrowing the U. S. - backed Batista dictatorship. But three front-page articles under the Herbert L. Mathews byline in the very influential New York Times, complete with the photo, proved to the world that Fidel Castro was very much alive and, in fact, leading a serious revolution against Batista. Till then, especially with the widespread reports of Fidel's death, the rebel activities in the Sierra Maestra and its foothills were routinely depicted as a nuisance but dismissed as a threat to the powerful Batista.  
         Fidel's life after his arrival from Mexico on the ill-fated old yacht Granma had been saved by a rebel unit led by Celia Sanchez and Haydee Santamaria, history's two greatest female guerrilla fighters.
            Both before and after Fidel's arrival in the Sierra Maestra, the rebel leader and prime recruiter, organizer, and decision-maker in the July 26th Revolution was Celia Sanchez. At first, she relished the mistaken reports about Fidel's supposed death. But she knew that he was the hero to the island's majority peasants who longed for an end to the brutal-thieving Batista dictatorship and that had been so since Fidel's disastrous July 26-1953 attack on Batista's Moncada Army Garrison on the edge of Santiago de Cuba. When the peasants believed Fidel was dead, Celia knew it was adversely affecting her vital recruitment of rebels and supplies. Thus, she made the decision to prove to the world that Fidel was alive and was leading the uprising in the Sierra. She got word to a female contact at the New York Times bureau in Havana and they arranged the parameters for Herbert L. Mathews, known to be very sympathetic to the rebels and fiercely anti-Batista, to interview Fidel in the Sierra. As directed, Mathews waited at a rail head in the Sierra foothills. Celia and Haydee on a daring mission met Mathews and led him to the rebel camp high up in the treacherous mountains. It was not easy. In his late fifties, Mathews was not in good physical shape and the two females had to ably assist him over the rocky, marshy, steep, and dense terrain. But, as with other major Celia Sanchez stratagems, the mission was successful. The Herbert L. Mathews revelations greatly boosted Celia's recruitment of rebels and supplies, reinvigorating the revolution.
        Fidel himself always appreciated the impact of the Herbert L. Mathews interview in the Sierra Maestra mountains, as well as Mathews' continued support of the revolution and Revolutionary Cuba. In the above photo, Fidel, as the leader of Cuba, pins a medal on Mathews' lapel.
          Herbert L. Mathews, when he died in 1977, was still Fidel's friend although by then he had taken much heat for his support of the Cuban Revolution and Revolutionary Cuba. To this day, many historians believe that the timing and the sensationalistic aspects of the three Mathews articles on  the front page of the New York Times provided the impetus for the improbable success of the Cuban Revolution.
          In New York seated beside Herbert L. Mathews in 1960 Fidel inadvertently mocked the renowned journalist when he joked that at the time of the famous interview in the Sierra he had only "18 soldiers" and he fooled Mathews by having them repeatedly march around him, giving the impression he had many more rebels than he actually had.
         Anthony DePalma, in his book about the man who invented Fidel, used that "18 soldiers" comment by Fidel to demean Mathews for being fooled into believing and reporting that there were many more rebels in the Sierra than that. Many other journalists and historians have done the same thing, some self-servingly. DePalma, in fact, credited Celia Sanchez for orchestrating the ruse about having the "18" rebels march around in a manner that would convince Mathews there were hundreds of men with Fidel. But Mathews was neither stupid nor blind, as Celia well knew, so such a ruse never happened although much ink has been devoted to saying it did.
         Years later (1972) when Celia Sanchez was the key decision-maker in Cuba (with Fidel's blessing), she happened to mention in a letter to her American friend Nora Peters that she had "312" very capable rebels in the Sierra Maestra by the time Fidel, Che, Camilo, and the other macho men arrived from Mexico. Indeed, she waited for the arrival of the Granma at a specific spot with a rebel unit capable of fighting off a strong Batista army known to be in the area. Celia, not self-serving or non-diligent journalists and historians, chronicled the revolution accurately. She, for example, had the definitive quote regarding the landing of the Granma, explaining that the 82 rebels from Mexico would have had a "walk-away" if the old yacht had not begun sinking miles from where she waited with a rebel unit that could have protected all of them and not just the 17 she managed to save.
          Beyond question, Celia Sanchez saved Fidel Castro's life after his debarkation from the Granma. Prior to hooking up with Celia Sanchez in the Sierra Maestra, Fidel's anti-Batista efforts had all been failures. After joining Celia Sanchez, Fidel went undefeated. Celia Sanchez not only arranged Herbert L. Mathews' fortuitous interview with Fidel in the Sierra, she was the one that bravely went and fetched him. Conclusion: Anthony DePalma should write another book, this time with the title Celia Sanchez: The Lady Who Invented BOTH Fidel Castro And Herbert L. Mathews.
          And then Anthony DePalma could write another book entitled The Cuban Women Who Invented Fidel Castro, honoring those who were the first to take to the streets and very courageously denounce the brutality of the Batista dictatorship, spawning the revolution that created Fidel Castro as opposed to Fidel Castro creating it.

cubaninsider: "The Country That Raped Me" (A True Story)

cubaninsider: "The Country That Raped Me" (A True Story) : Note : This particular essay on  Ana Margarita Martinez  was first ...