Are You Familiar with this Photo of Fidel Castro?

Isbel Diaz Torres

The composition in my memory, Fidel appears alone.

HAVANA TIMES, Jan 24 — Last week I came across a rare photo of Fidel, one that I found to be truly amazing. I’m providing it here for the readers of Havana Times so you can tell me if you think the same thing.

I was sitting in the lobby of the Padre Felix Varela Cultural Center waiting for the beginning of a conference on religious poetry in Cuba when I saw a huge and well-known image of the principal leader of the Cuban revolution hanging on one wall.

I was surprised with size of the photo (124 x 105 cm), so I decided to go up to it.

In fact, it was a snapshot by the famous photographer Alberto Korda, one that belonged to his series “Fidel Returns to the Sierra,” taken in 1962.

But the real surprise was that this shot of Fidel Castro — young, seemingly cheerful and wearing a well-worn uniform of the guerilla campaign — I had seen hundreds of times, or so I thought.

What was curious is that the photo of Fidel that I remembered was of him standing there alone, but here he was being shown alongside some other man, and between the two of them was the fairly large Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre figurine.

This photo shows Fidel with another man, and between the two of them is the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre figurine. Photo: Alberto Korda.

I can’t say for sure that “this Fidel” is the “same Fidel,” someone who I’ve seen thousands of time in documentaries, television commercials, magazines and newspapers, so I’m supplying a copy of the photo for you to tell me.

My overly active imagination immediately made me think of the manipulation committed by the Soviet Stalinists on the photo of Lenin together with Trotsky, where the Communist dissident miraculously disappeared. This gross manipulation of history was often copied through our tropical practice of erasing the names of certain baseball players from the records.

Could they have also censored the image of the Virgin from that snapshot for exactly fifty years? Are they now “declassifying” it since the government now expects a visit by the Pope? Has the institutional anti-clericalism that prevailed for decades finally relaxed to this point?

I can’t say so categorically. It’s likely that the full picture has popped up here and there over the years. What’s clear, though, is that it wasn’t promoted to the same extent as other snapshots of the former Cuban president.

The photo in question is currently on display in one of the long corridors of the Padre Felix Varela Cultural Center, the beautiful old building that for years was the seat of the San Carlos and San Ambrosio Seminary in Old Havana.

The new center lends its walls as an art gallery, and at this very moment they have mounted an evocative exhibition in which the central theme is the image of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre. Those people living in or visiting Cuba can find that exhibit there, which is made up of some truly interesting pieces.


Isbel Diaz

Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.

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2 thoughts on “Are You Familiar with this Photo of Fidel Castro?

  • Your story on the picture of Fidel reminded me that I first visited Cuba in 1979 and thought that a poster of Fidel would be a nice souvenir. After scouring all over Havana I had to realize that none were available!

    The following year I was in Baghdad and that there was no shortage of pictures of Saddam. In fact every store window had one prominently displayed. Their oil company office had an almost life-size full picture on an easel at one end of the conference room. And a portrait shot on the opposite wall !

    A good illustration of the divergent personalities.


  • You’re probably correct, Isbel, in sensing that the “institutional anti-clericalism that prevailed for decades” was probably at the root of cropping the religious figurine out of this photo original.

    What is most important for transformationary thinkers of today however is to understand that anti-clericalism was imported into the socialist movement tendentiously to discredit socialism, and especially to help split the small bourgeoisie from the working class politically. Anti-clericalism and the Marxian programmatic threat to nationalize all productive property, inc. small farms, restaurants, shops, etc. served to turn the small business class against socialism, and make of them the staunchest defenders of monopoly capitalism.

    Your point about the Stalinist photo-shopping of Trotsky out of the picture with Lenin is well taken. What is most noteworthy regarding this however is that Trotsky did the same sort of unethical fabrication of history when he plagiarized the 1928 Comintern transitional program and claimed it as the product of his genius. These state monopoly socialists, whether Stalin or Trotsky, have all done the same sort of Orwellian falsification.

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