A Potpouri of Photos Defining Revolutionary Cuba

A Few 1955-2013 Snapshots of Cuba
{Updated Jan. 10-2013}
        Enrique Meneses died at age 83 in Madrid, Spain, on the first Sunday of this New Year 2013. He spent over a half century as one of the world's most famous photographers and he was famed as an adventurous journalist. He is most remembered for the four months he spent with Fidel Castro in the Sierra Maestra in 1957 when the odds were still prohibitive against a nascent rebel uprising surviving against the might of the U. S.-and-Mafia-backed Batista dictatorship in Cuba. His photos and captions were among the first to tell the world about Fidel Castro's "uphill but courageously ongoing fight." During his own four dangerous months in the Sierra, Enrique  shadowed both Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, later remarking that "I spotted greatness in one particular man." He was referring to Fidel Castro, whom he admired the rest of his life. On his deathbed, Enrique said, "Fidel is three years older than me and assassins haven't dogged my trail on a daily basis. I never thought Fidel would out-live me. He was lucky to survive each year since I met him in 1957."
      Above is one of the most famous Enrique Meneses photos, taken in the Sierra Maestra Mountains in 1957. The three rebels on the right are Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, and Camilo Cienfuegos -- the three leading male Commanders at the time. The three men on the left are updating Fidel on the movements of a Batista army in the foothills of the Sierra: "Just over the rise thirty yards up you can see the front elements." Enrique Meneses wrote a book entitled "Fidel Castro" and the two men spoke on the phone last December.
         In his book Enrique Meneses wrote, "I was attracted to the Cuban Revolution because it was the first revolution started by the mistreatment of women by a brutal dictatorship. When I got there and saw the fighting in the mountains and foothills in 1957, I did not think the rebels had a chance but I knew Batista and his backers had been stupid for rousing the female population on the island to such a fever pitch."
     Enrique Meneses continued: "But soon I realize that Fidel Castro's vastly superior intelligence in fully utilizing the totality of the fury of the female half of the population has over the years, beginning in the 1950s, defeated forces far superior in arms and manpower. He elevated women to a new worldly plateau."
      Jon Lee Anderson {above} is probably the world's quintessential adventure journalist today. His articles for The New Yorker and others shed glaring lights on some of the planet's most dangerous places and most egregious wrongs. He also, of course, wrote the definitive Che Guevara biography. Jon Lee Anderson has been a close friend and deep admirer of Enrique Meneses. Anderson coined this epitaph for Enrique: "He was the last of the great adventure journalist." The last, that is, except for Jon Lee Anderson.
    The beautiful young lady above is propitiously gracing an art exhibit in New York City, where she accompanied her boyfriend, the artist Arlis del Rio, back in Nov.-2012. Her name is Vilmita Rodriguez Castro. She is the grand-daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro and his late, legendary wife Vilma Espin.
     A few weeks earlier -- back in June-2012 -- Mariela Castro {above}, the feisty daughter of Raul Castro and Vilma Espin, relished her visits to San Franciso and New York City, and so did the U. S. media. She endorsed Barack Obama for a second presidential term. On her return flight to Cuba she joked, "Fox News is ecstatic over my endorsement of President Obama. They think I just handed the election to Romney!" Twice married and the mother of two children, Mariela has always been a fearless rebel, like her famed mother. In college, Mariela alarmed her father Raul and her uncle Fidel, but not her mother, when she appeared topless in a play. In recent years she very successfully defied both her father and her uncle by campaigning fearlessly and tirelessly for gay rights on the island. Also this past summer she engaged in a heated Twitter exchange with the famous anti-Castro blogger Yoani Sanchez. Because it was Mariela vs. Yoani, and because Twitter almost rules the world and has proven it can start wars and revolutions, the verbal cat-fight appeared for awhile to be the start of World War Three, or at least another Bay of Pigs!
       Castro women have always had an auspicious affinity for their neighbor, the United States of America. The photo above shows the Castro sisters Emma and Augustina in Miami in 1957 soliciting money to support the anti-Batista revolution their brothers Fidel and Raul were waging in the Sierra Maestra.
    Fidel Castro, after getting out of a Batista prison in 1955, began his recruitment of revolutionary funds in Miami, as depicted by the above photo. In those halcyon days, Miami Cubans hated Batista much more than they hated Fidel!
A Fidel Castro fact (not a factoid): His favorite American city has always been New York City!
That's a nattily dressed Fidel Castro strolling in New York City's Central Park. 
      Dr. Aleida Guevara {above}, the daughter of Che Guevara, is considered one of the most skilled and dedicated baby doctors on the island of Cuba. In 2012 Dr. Guevara made a triumphant tour of England, delivering sold-out speeches in six major cities. In the above photo a reporter for the London Daily Mirror has asked Dr. Guevara, "How much do you think your father, also a doctor, regretted ending up a rebel instead of practicing medicine?" Dr. Guevara replied, "Not at all, my dear. He had an early calling to medicine and a later calling to try to help poor people in another fashion. You might say...I am my father's daughter."
        Cubans admire pure feminine beauty combined with sheer physical and mental courage as well as a high degree of intelligence. So, it's no wonder Liaena Hernandez Martinez {above} is their favorite soldier. She hails from Guantanamo province and while still a top university student was also the most decorated soldier in Brigade de la Frontera. One superior wrote: "She guards the coastline as if Genghis Khan is coming to capture the island, but if he does touch Cuban soil Liaena will be there to nab him! I guarantee it!"
          As an 18-year-old in 2008 {above}Liaena was profiled by the BBC as she campaigned door-to-door to become the youngest person ever elected to the Cuban National Assembly. The BBC described her as "a polished, determined campaigner and one who kisses and sweet-talks babies like a polished politician in London." She won. And, yes, they do have elections in Cuba and it is not mandatory to belong to any party.
        Now a poised and elegant public speaker, Liaena is popular with many young Cubans who hope that one day she will be President of Cuba. Asked about it, she said modestly, "Probability, no; possibility, yes."
Liaena's idol is Dilma Rousseff {above}, the President of Brazil.
       Why does Ileana Hernandez Martinez idolize President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil: "She is a woman. She is the most powerful person, male or female, in Latin America. She is a fighter, a guerrilla fighter. At my age she had already been imprisoned and tortured for three years by a foreign-backed dictatorship. She is a socialist. She loves and admires Cuba. I idolize everything she has been and everything she stands for. I and all young Latin American women should aspire to be what President Rousseff is today."
Hey! The above photo courtesy of Susan and Richard Day reminds me that it's winter in Virginia.

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