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Conversations with Fidel Castro

CUBA | Thursday, 5 December 2002 | Views [1201]

Fidel notes:

So we’re off to see Fidel!  Lloyd told us that he sometimes speaks for around 6 hours!

Prompt! He apologized for being 3 minutes late!

Lloyd introduced President Castro

Barbara Walters once said “Castro spoke fondly of Semester at Sea”

He remembered our itinerary and about the last trip!

Emphasized Elian – the boy the family wanted to keep in the States when the father lives in Cuba.  I’ve heard this mentioned 3 times this trip.  The Cubans really respect the fact that over 80% of the US population supported the return of the boy to Cuba.  “It is not enough to simply have the child back. We have to wonder why such things continue to happen.”

Talking about religions, but I don’t really understand what he’s trying to say.  He has expanded on the question now for 15 minutes.  He disagrees with the punishment of Eve. “I believe one of the best things ever created is women.”  Makes me wonder if there were any underlying messages in that one...

In regards to assassination attempts on him and other leaders of other countries: “A political system, a government, cannot be eliminated by eliminating a man.”  Elimination of political leaders would only make them a martyr and heros in the eyes of the people, and thus make the system stronger. 

The well-known photos of a young Fidel dressed in the legendary beret and green military uniform cannot mask what we see on stage: the graying beard, arthritic/bony hands, pale skin and husky voice of an aging man.  However, he speaks with passionate knowledge and more sophistication than any US congressman or president I have known.  He may tell us a lot of Communist propaganda, but we students, in Lloyd’s words, are “old enough to recognize this and make our own judgments, and young enough not to care.”

He says it is true that not all Cubans are given access to some hotels, restaurants, etc.  He may have blamed that repression on the blockade/embargo and on the collapse of the USSR, but I couldn’t be completely sure.

He sure knows how to skirt a subject. 

Spoke for 3 and a half hours.  Thankfully not 6!  We only got 4 questions in because he spoke so long on each one, even if he wasn’t talking about the question presented.

Afterwards, we were taken to another place where they served us a buffet meal and an open bar, all courtesy of Castro (ie: the Cuban governement).  Fidel Castro gave us free food and alcohol, which didn’t seem fair when the rest of his country is hungry.  The Cuban students who attended the talk also came, and they ate most of the food which we had no problem with - they were hungry.

To end the night, we went to a bar that claimed to be the one Ernest Hemingway frequented when he lived in Havana, so of course I had to have a drink there.  We wandered past the grand piano and sat down on the bug cushy couches surrounding the glass coffee table.  The whole place was very sophisticated with its soft ceilings and dark wood finishings and the Christmas tree in the middle of the place.  We ordered a few mohitos and chatted with the two Cuban students who’d come with us until 3am.

Tags: cuba, fidel castro, once in a lifetime

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