August 15, 2016

My moment with Fidel Castro

Sam Smith - This is Fidel Castro's 90th birthday. Back when he was in his thirties I met him as this story describes:

The most noteworthy figure to appear at Harvard during my tenure as news director of the college radio station was the newly victorious Fidel Castro, who spoke to 8,000 enthusiastic faculty and students (including one from Brandeis named Abbie Hoffman) at Dillon Field House. Castro was still considered a hero by many Americans for having overthrown the egregious Batista. While those of us who had taken Soc Sci 2 knew that not all revolutions were for the better, there was about this one a romance that took my thoughts far from Harvard Square as a top Castro lieutenant, sitting in front of my little recorder in the Bick cafe, told me of his days with Fidel in the mountains. Castro was booed only once according to my broadcast report later that evening, when he "attempted to defend the execution of Cuban war criminals after the revolution. Castro asked his listeners, 'you want something else?' and proceed to give them a fifteen minute further explanation."
My story continued:
Some of Castro's aides expressed a feeling of relaxation during the Harvard tour in comparison with the formal diplomatic visit to Washington. Leaving the faculty club, Castro's air attaché was cheered for his snappy uniform by the students who surrounded the area. . . WHRB will rebroadcast Dr. Castro's speech on Monday at midnight. WHRB's recording of the event will also be broadcast by the Voice of America and Station CMQ in Havana.
The WHRB engineer for this event was Ben Dawson, who saved his press pass:

 When Castro was in Washington earlier, he stumbled into a radio interview with Steve Allison of WWDC, where I would shortly go to work as a journalist:
One night in April 1959 Allison was conducting his program as usual – sometime between ten thirty and one am – at Cores Restaurant, 1305 E St NW, when the recently victorious Fidel Castro and his aides came into the restaurant looking for something to eat without any idea a radio program was underway. Castro had come to Washington to speak at the National Press Club, right around the corner from the restaurant.

Here is the tape of what happened next as reported on the program that followed. It is extraordinary:

Fidel Castro interview

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