Nixon's threat and warning hurled at Fidel mostly impacted the mindset of Celia Sanchez, whose decision-making exceeded Fidel's, with his approval, from 1957 till her death from cancer at age 59 in 1980. The photo on the right is copyrighted by Yale University and it shows Celia exiting a New York hotel room after a post-Nixon session with Fidel. Marta Rojas, the still-living legendary journalist/author who worked closely with Celia and Fidel during and after the revolution, had intimate discussions with Celia, both as a journalist and as an idol. That's how we know Celia's reaction to Nixon's threat, and hers was the reaction that counted: "Dammit to blazes, Fidel, we tried. Thank you for agreeing, finally, to come. If we discover that a man like Nixon has the power to represent the United States in its dealings with revolutionary Cuba, this trip was my mistake. We'll go home now. And just like in the Sierra Maestra, we have two choices -- surrender or die fighting. And for us, surrender will never be an option. We fought a guerrilla war that is now an upfront war."
When Celia Sanchez led Fidel Castro back to Cuba after 12 days in the U. S. in April of 1959, she was, with his full blessing, the prime decision-maker in Revolutionary Cuba. Her first choice was to be friends with the United States. Nixon convinced her that was not possible. She knew, at the time, there were two competing world nuclear super-powers -- the U. S. and the Soviet Union. She decided to take advantage of that competition. If the nearby superpower was intent on recapturing Cuba, maybe the other superpower would believe it was in its interest to prevent it. The rest is history -- multiple assassination attempts against Fidel beginning in 1959, the Bay of Pigs attack in 1961; the closing of embassies in Havana and Washington in 1961; the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the embargo from 1962 till this very day, etc. All the while, somehow, Revolutionary Cuba survived.
If you disagree with this synopsis that sets the stage for today's U.S.-Cuban relations, I believe it's because the Cuban narrative in the U. S. since 1959 has mostly been dictated by two generations of the Cubans and Mafiosi who fled the Cuban Revolution. They, for example, wouldn't want you to know of Celia Sanchez's significance...or Marta Rojas's...because they were female pillars of the revolution. That's Marta in the above photo introducing Fidel in December of 1959 for his very first televised address to the nation. As a top journalist in Batista's dictatorship, Marta worked in the urban underground on behalf of the rebellious Celia and Fidel. After the revolutionary triumph in 1959, Marta remained intimate with both Celia and Fidel. She also emerged as a brilliant, internationally renowned journalist, author, and historian.
Marta Rojas today knows more about Celia Sanchez and Fidel Castro than any living soul. Moreover, her encyclopedic revolutionary knowledge is internationally respected from a journalistic and historic standpoint. Her documented views and experiences collide majestically with the images of the Cuban Revolution and Revolutionary Cuba as portrayed in the United States by the remnants of the Batista-Mafia dictatorship that fled the victorious revolution in January of 1959. But for the non-propagandized and un-intimidated, Marta Rojas's historic and insightful remembrances have stood the test of time.
In case you have trouble reading the exact quotation above by Celia Sanchez, here is precisely how she summed up the struggles of the Cuban Revolution and Revolutionary Cuba against supposedly overwhelming odds: "We rebels...get far too much credit for winning the revolution. Our enemies deserve most of the credit, for being greedy cowards and idiots." Rather strong words, but she would know.
In 1973, in the 14th year of Revolutionary Cuba's survival, the famously gregarious Fidel Castro also uttered a pertinent and prescient quote related to the antagonistic David vs. Goliath relations between the U. S. and Cuba. As you can see above, in 1973 Fidel said: "The US will come to talk to us when they have a black president and the world has a Latin American Pope." Wow!! He said that in 1973!!
Lo 'n behold!! In March of 2015, America's FIRST black President, Barack Obama, met at the Vatican in Rome with the world's FIRST Latin American Pope, Pope Francis from Argentina. And...lo 'n behold!!!!...the Latin American Pope and the black President discussed normalizing relations with Cuba as a top priority for both men.
Pope Francis in 2015 visited the 89-year-old Fidel in his Havana home.
In April of 2015 President Obama actually shook hands with President Raul Castro.
After that ground-breaking, earth-shaking handshake in Panama, Presidents Castro and Obama have continued talking, both in person and on the phone. Of the last eleven U. S. presidents, Mr. Obama is the only one to display such guts. And most Cubans, most Americans, and most citizens of the world genuinely appreciate his courage, WHICH WILL BE ENGRAVED FOR ETERNITY ON HIS PRESIDENTIAL LEGACY.
Celia in Revolutionary Cuba and Celia in the Cuban Revolution.
Because of her, the revolution lives on in Cuba.
Of course, in these closing days of 2015, U.S.-Cuban relations are not nearly as rosy as the cheeks of this little Cuban girl. The embargo remains, as do other nefarious aspects mandated by a Batistiano-dictated U. S. Congress. But, thanks to Obama, little Cuban girls on the island have a brighter future. That would please Celia Sanchez. She detested Richard Nixon. She would like Barack Obama. She fought a revolution to brighten the futures of little Cuban girls on the island...like this one.
Or this one. Famed Cuban photographer Alberto Korda took this photo of the little Cuban girl lovingly clutching a block of wood, pretending it was a doll. Alberto Korda and millions of other caring people believed this little girl deserved a real doll.
Penny Pritzker is a caring person. An American billionaire, she is President Obama's Secretary of Commerce. This photo is courtesy of Ramon Espinosa/AP. It shows Secretary Pritzker, in the left-front, in Cuba back in October. She went out of her way to show Cuban children that, as an American, she cared about them.
Celia Sanchez, the child-loving doctor's daughter.
These Cuban schoolgirls were on hand to celebrate Celia Sanchez's birthday, which was May 9th. Celia's revolutionary fervor was based on a simple belief that Cuban children were more important than dictators, politicians, or greedy business moguls. Of course, there were many who disagreed with her, then and now.
As the pivotal year of 2015 dwindles down to a few days, Cubans who have lived under the yoke of the U. S. embargo since 1962 have hope thanks to good people like President Barack Obama and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker resisting dictates of a recalcitrant U. S. Congress. This photo, courtesy of Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty Images, perhaps serves as a metaphor for the upcoming year of 2016. From a balcony that shows side-by-side U. S. and Cuban flags, this Cuban offers a thumbs up to the New Year.
Yesterday -- Monday-Dec. 28 -- Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel continued his extended 10-day family vacation to Cuba even as demonstrators back home called for his ouster after even more controversial police murders in his city. It's a reminder that all major cities...Chicago, Havana, etc....have problems.
Monday, Mayor Emanuel's spokeswoman, Kelley Quinn, said that he will return to Chicago Tuesday, Dec. 29th, and cut short his family vacation in Cuba. She said, "He will continue the ongoing work of restoring accountability and trust in the Chicago Police Department." He had planned a ten-day stay in Cuba.