Fidel Castro: A Long Life Lived Large (Part One)

Part One
{1926 through 1962}
1926 was an important year for Fidel Castro. That's when he was born. He was an imposing baby. 
Fidel's parents were Lina and Angel Castro.
Angel owned 36,000 acres of Cuban land; he had originally hired Lina as his peasant maid.
Angel Castro was so rich he could take his children for rides on his own railroad.
Fidel idolized his mother but resented his father's wealth and his ties to U. S. businessmen.
Angel Castro had lucrative contracts with the Boston-based United Fruit Company.
Fidel's native home near Biran, Cuba.
All his life, Fidel sympathized with peasant women like his mother, not rich men like his father.
 At age 3 Fidel was already one of the most handsome and smartest schoolboys in Cuba.
Fidel posing with younger brother Raul and older brother Ramon at Dolores Primary School.
In 1938 the 12-year-old Fidel began his lifelong addiction to GIRLS!
Later, in the prime of his life, a plethora of women were addicted to Fidel.
And all his life, Fidel has felt comfortable around women and uncomfortable around men.
But even as a teenager Fidel admired strong men...like American President Franklin Roosevelt!
In 1940 the audacious Fidel wrote this letter in English to U. S. President Franklin Roosevelt.
Note that he told FDR that he was 12 but he was actually fourteen when he wrote the letter.
As you can see, he asked his "good friend" FDR to send him "a ten dollar bill."
In 1944 Fidel was Cuba's Athlete of the Year for his prowess in basketball, baseball, and track.
In 1948 at age 22 Fidel married 20-year-old Mirta Diaz-Balart.
Soon Fidel and Mirta were proud parents of a baby boy, Fidelito. {Photo taken: Sept. 11, 1949}
Fidel divorced Mirta and won a battle to gain custody of Fidelito.
While in a Batista prison in 1955 Fidel had learned that Mirta's brother Rafael worked for Batista!
In 2013 Mirta is 84-years-old living mostly in Spain but she regularly visits Fidelito and Fidel in Havana.
Rafael Diaz-Balart, Mirta's brother, had been Fidel's law school classmate.
But, indeed, Rafael Diaz-Balart became a key minister in Cuba's Batista dictatorship.
Above, in 1958, Rafael is flanked by the infamous Masferrer Brothers.
After the 1959 Cuban Revolution, Rafael Diaz-Balart was a rich and powerful man in the U. S.
His enormous wealth and anti-Castro fervor made him a power in Washington till he died in 2005.
Lincoln {on the right} and Mario Diaz-Balart, Rafael's sons, are now powerful anti-Castro zealots.
Lincoln resigned from the U. S. Congress in 2010 but vowed to expand his anti-Castro crusade.
Mario Diaz-Balart remains a powerful anti-Castro member of the U. S. Congress from Miami.
The Diaz-Balart brothers are among the ultra rich and powerful 2nd generation of anti-Castro zealots.
In the Newscom political cartoon above, Maria is depicted on the left and Lincoln on the right.
In 1952 Fidel was a young, politically motivated lawyer.
In 1952 Fulgencio Batista's Mafia-and-U.S.-backed dictatorship in Cuba irked Fidel.
Fidel was appalled that Batista allowed U.S. Mafia kingpins Luciano and Lansky to rob Cuba blind.
Batista meanwhile allowed Cuba's majority peasants {like the family above} to exist in abject poverty.
Meanwhile, Batista and his wife dined in absolute luxury!
And meanwhile, Batista had the economic and military support of U. S. President Dwight Eisenhower.
Courageous anti-Batista female marchers inspired Fidel to try to overthrow Batista.
This brave march protested the murders of Willie Soler and his three schoolmates.
In Cuba today a hospital and other memorials are named for the martyred Willie Soler. 
In July of 1953 Fidel was captured after he attacked Batista's Moncada Army Barracks in Santiago de Cuba.
Fidel on Aug. 1-1953 {far right} before being sentenced to fifteen years in a Batista prison.
Most of the captured rebels were tortured and then killed.
Fidel was spared only because of his support from the peasants and the NY Times.
On May 15, 1955, Fidel emerged from Batista's prison.
Rebel leader Celia Sanchez knew murder squads would be put on his trail immediately.
Fidel was moved from one safe-house to another before exiting the island.
One of the safe-houses was owned by Naty Revuelta, a rich Havana socialite married to a rich doctor.
At the safe-house Fidel impregnated Naty, who had helped finance his Moncada attack.
Naty named her daughter Alina. 
He accepted Alina as his daughter but she became the only one of his ten children to denounce him.
Alina defected to Madrid in 1993 and ended up in Miami. 
Alina today is a very rich lady as an author, speaker, and radio-tv celebrity in Miami.
Alina reportedly commands $7,000 plus expenses for her ubiquitous anti-Castro speeches. 
 Naty still loves Fidel and says Alina expected Fidel to lavish luxuries on her and her friends.
Journalist Linda Robinson interviewed Naty {abovefor U.S. News & World Report.
Linda Robinson asked Naty if she would say anything bad about Fidel. She replied:
"Not even with the petal of a rose!"  (Naty was quoting a famous Jose Marti poem}
The 28-year-old Fidel in New York City in July of 1955 after getting out of Batista's prison.
Fidel contemplated his anti-Batista plans as he strolled leisurely through New York's Central Park.
Fidel in 1956 biding his time in a Mexican prison with plans to return to Cuba to re-engage Batista.
1957, the year Fidel auspiciously joined Celia Sanchez in Cuba's Sierra Maestra Mountains.
Throughout 1957 and 1958 Fidel and Celia fought in the rugged Sierra and its foothills.
While he was in prison, news about Celia as a do-or-die guerrilla fighter had verily awed Fidel.
Fidel's union with Celia Sanchez would predicate both his life and Cuba's future.
In January of 1959 a jubilant Fidel and subdued Celia replaced Batista and the Mafia as leaders of Cuba!
Fidel, with younger brother Raul at his right, reminded Havana that it had a new leader!
Fidel and Camilo Cienfuegos led the takeover of La Habana, the capital known as Havana.
The ousted Batista-Mafia dictatorship quickly reconstituted its power in nearby Miami, Florida.
Beginning in 1959, paramilitary units in South Florida became determined to re-capture Cuba.
Cuban exile, CIA, and Mafia attempts to kill Fidel sometimes amused him.
{The Guinness Book of World Records says he has survived 638 assassination attempts}
Bombs and mayhem became commonplace for opponents of the rich, powerful government-in-exile.
Uncontested terrorism, like the bombing of Cubana Flight 455, became commonplace.
When Miami's top journalist excoriated Miami Congress members for supporting terrorists, he was fired.
They continued in power and in control of the U. S. Cuban policy.
On January 21-1959 Fidel made this 8-hour speech in front of the Presidential Palace in Havana.
Fidel introduced Manuel Urrutia as Cuba's President on February 16, 1959.
 Fidel in Washington during his 12-day visit to the United States in April of 1959.
American celebrities such as boxing idol Joe Louis deeply admired Fidel.
Top movie stars like Maureen O'Hara were in awe of Fidel, their rebel hero!
Fidel on April 16, 1959, in Washington with U. S. Acting Secretary of State Christian Herter.
Fidel being told in April-1959 by U. S. Vice President Richard Nixon he would be overthrown within days.
Back in Cuba at the end of April of 1959 Fidel and Celia made plans to prove Nixon wrong.
After the April-1959 trip to the U. S., Fidel let Celia be Cuba's prime decision-maker.
After a typical night at her modest 11th Street apartment, Fidel relaxed while Celia studied.
Whether or not he agreed with her decisions, he never failed to support them 100%.
Roberto Salas, the great photographer, was a true Cuban insider from 1959 till today. He wrote:
"Celia made all the decisions for Cuba, the big ones and the small ones."
Celia in 1959 established a do-or-die edict for Revolutionary Cuba:
"The Batistianos will never regain control of Cuba as long as I live or as long as Fidel lives."
Celia's friend Marta Rojas introduced Fidel for his first television address in December of 1959.
On September 27, 1960, Fidel spoke at the United Nations in New York.
New Yorkers still loved Fidel in 1960.
And Fidel, on his flight back to Cuba in 1960, still loved New York!
In April of 1961 Fidel stunned the world by leading the defense of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs.
By May of 1961 Life Magazine was explaining why the U. S. lost to little Cuba at the Bay of Pigs.
Soviet Deputy Premier Anastas Mikoyan had first visited Cuba on February 6, 1960.
Mikoyan was startled to discover that Celia Sanchez was the key decision-maker in Cuba!
Infatuated, he fawned over her and nicknamed her "Spanish Eyes."
At the airport when he departed, Mikoyan slipped Celia his private phone and cable numbers.
Mikoyan's infatuation would soon have consequences...
...in the form of a cable from Havana signed "Spanish Eyes."
AFTER THE BAY OF PIGS ATTACK, Celia instructed Fidel to declare Cuba a Marxist-Leninist state!
In 1961 Moscow Deputy Premier Mikoyan got Celia's Spanish Eyes cable requesting nuclear missiles.
Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev decided he could bluff President Kennedy with missiles in Cuba.
Celia convinced Fidel the Kennedy brothers were planning an all-out attack on Cuba.
Celia knew that Khrushchev and Kennedy led the world's only two nuclear superpowers.
Kennedy had plans to attack Cuba; Khrushchev wanted to trade with Cuba.
Celia convinced Fidel that Cuba had to join the Soviet orbit.
And once Fidel had nuclear missiles in Cuba, Celia was the one most anxious to use them.
The U. S. nuclear strength in 1962 vastly exceeded that of the Soviet Union.
But in October of 1962 there were enough active missiles in Cuba to devastate much of the U. S.
And this exchange would have prompted European and Asian exchanges.
This is Fidel at the height of the Missile Crisis in October of 1962.
 The major cities in the eastern U. S. were within range of the nuclear missiles in Cuba.
And both the U. S. and the Soviet Union had deadly nuclear-armed submarines in both oceans.
This activated cruise missile with a 15-kiloton nuclear warhead was 15 miles from Guantanamo, Cuba.
Fidel with top Soviet general Issa Pliyev at El Chico during the missile crisis.
The Russian in the middle of the photo above was an interpreter.
Gen. Thomas Power at Offult AFB in Omaha, Nebraska, during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
This is Gen. Power giving the only DEFCON2 {highest alert} in U. S. history on Oct. 24-1962.
Fidel and Soviet leader Khrushchev were friendly above but disagreed at the height of the crisis.
Khrushchev had been bluffing Kennedy; he ordered General Pliyev not to fire on U. S. spy planes.
But Fidel, shown inspecting an anti-aircraft battery during the crisis, was not bluffing.
On Oct. 27-1962 at the height of the crisis a U. S. U-2 spy plane was shot out of the Cuban sky.
Remnants of that plane {above} are still on display in Cuba.
Major Rudy Anderson, a 35-year-old South Carolinian, was the pilot of the downed spy plane.
After the death of Major Anderson, war-hawks besieged President Kennedy to annihilate Cuba.
Air Force General Curtis LeMay, in particular, urged a total nuclear attack on Cuba.
But Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara still urged restraint to avoid a worldwide nuclear holocaust.
At this session, McNamara barely talked Kennedy out of following LeMay's advice.
Meanwhile, U. S. planes like this Neptune PZU buzzed Soviet ships.
McNamara's sage advice prevailed and the U. S. maintained a naval blockade as negotiations continued.
Headlines like this frightened America and the entire world in October of 1962.
Billions of words have been written about the Cuban Missile Crisis.
And it is still written that October-1962 is the closest the world has come to a nuclear holocaust.
Before he died in 1979 Gen. Pliyev confirmed that the world was within two hours of a nuclear war.
In 2002 key participants in the Missile Crisis met for a 40th anniversary conference in Havana.
This is Fidel hosting Day One of that conference in Havana in 2002.
Declassified U.S., Cuban, and Russian documents revealed new data on the crisis during that conference.
Between sessions, Fidel and the bald-headed Robert McNamara talked face-to-face {above}!
During the next riveting session, McNamara {above} is shown asking Fidel these exact three questions:
       "What was your interpretation of the possible effect on Cuba? 
How did you think the U. S. would respond? 
And what might the implications have been for your nation and the world?"
This photo shows Fidel giving McNamara and the world this exact, riveting reply:
      "Now we started from the assumption that if there was an invasion of Cuba, nuclear war would erupt. We were certain of that. We would be forced to pay the price, that we would disappear. Would I have been ready to use nuclear weapons? Yes. If Mr. McNamara and Mr. Kennedy had been in our place, and had their country been invaded, or their country was going to be occupied, I believe they would have used nuclear weapons."
At that session in Havana in October of 2002 Dmitry Yazov {aboveheaded the Soviet contingent.
Yazov was the Soviet Union's Defense Minister at the time of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
Yazov took an audio tape with him to Havana in October of 2002.
Yazov stunned the session in Havana in 2002 with that audio tape and the photo above.
Captain V. G. Savitskii had his finger on the button ready to fire a nuclear warhead at a U. S. ship.
Yazov documented that Savitskii was "seconds away" from nuking that U. S. ship!
The U. S. response, McNanama agreed, would have been to destroy Cuba and then Russia.
This is Sergo Mikoyan at the 40th anniversary conference of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 2002.
Yes, Sergo's father was Anastas Mikoyan, the man who nicknamed Celia Sanchez "Spanish Eyes."
Sergo died at age 80 in 2010; he long ago confirmed the "Spanish Eyes" cable to his father.
For the rest of her life Celia was amazed that the downing of the spy plane didn't provoke a nuclear war.
Fidel to this day echoes that succinct appraisal by "Spanish Eyes."
{End of Part One: Fidel Castro: A Long Life Lived Large, 1926-1962}
(Part Two will cover the years 1963 through 1980)
(Part Three will cover the years 1981 through 2013)

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