The Magazine for Men on the Go
By: Andrew St. George
This is Fidel's room in Havana. But he takes more to
bed with him than
a tommy-gun. Here, a former friend reveals the
surprising story of
the Cuban leader's sex life.
I have, in my day, gone out on more than one double date
with my wild old
friend Fidel Castro. If I have so far refrained from
rendering a report
on these sorties, it was due to the fact that by the time it
to tell the truth about Fidel's women–that is, by the time I
no longer planned
to spend my vacations fishing in Cuba–popular notions about
the bearded strongman's
sex life had hardened into two solid molds, as difficult to
as a French wrench and a Cuban nut.
One version has it that Castro burns only with the urge to
jack up Cuban
farm production, that he sees women merely as potential
milkmaids or tractor
drivers. The wellspring of this version is
...Maritza Rosales, Castro's favorite TV actress,
leader yet found time for other playmates.
Harold H. Martin, the Saturday Evening Post's otherwise
who described a bedroom encounter between Castro and an
American female admirer
"Charmed by Mr. Castro's magnetic presence, his beard, his
large and limpid
eyes and his flow of hoarsely eloquent Spanish, an impulsive
young lady from
New York had, so they say, by some means made her way to his
bedroom at night.
‘Fidel,' she whispered, gently rousing the sleeping hero, ‘I
am eager to
serve the revolution. What is it you wish of me?' Mr.
Castro, the story
goes, sat up in bed, his whiskers bristling fiercely:
‘Tractors!' he bellowed.
‘Tractors, seeds and fertilizers!'
The second image, erected by confession magazines, is just
a portrait of the young rebel as grunt-and-grab
rapist. Calling on
all the world for her witness, as angry mothers often will,
a lady from Washington,
D.C., Alice J. Lorenz, has given us the classic version in
of a tussle between her teenage daughter Marita and a
"Castro stood up: ‘Marita...your clothes. Take them
no, Fidel, No!' she shouted. ‘Don't touch me–I am a
virgin!' She scratched
him, but he only laughed. ‘You must, Marita,' he said,
‘I am the law.'
He grabbed at her hungrily and proceeded to ravage her,
beating at her, scratching
her and painfully hurting her. Marita could not walk
for three days."
Castro, in whose mind food and fornication sometimes run
together, used to
compare such stories to andullas, the spicy sausages stuffed
but mere tripe. Fidel long ago learned to
..."Tete" Caruso, an old friend, finally denounced him in
live with overblown stories about his virility or lack of
in his early days as rebel chieftain, his own ebullient
followers in the
Havana underground once scattered thousands of
anti-government leaflets showing
Castro with his male parts enormously exaggerated–a mighty
about to demolish the entire government.
In Havana, where "Superman" is a common term of enviable
just about everyone enjoyed the cartoon. Everyone,
that is, except
Castro. "What porky junk!" Castro raged at
little Universo Amejeiras,
the underground propagandist who had thought up the
stunt. "Don't ever
let me see bawdy drawings or sexy slogans used by our
Universo had already been jailed and thoroughly tortured
three times by the
Batista government for such activities, but he had come
through it all an
unbowed Havana boulevardier. "Why, Fidel," he
protested, "you are taking
all the pleasure out of underground work!"
If Fidel did, it must have gone against his own
instincts. The fact
is he likes girls as well as any Cuban. He married
early–at 22, in
the fall of 1948–and eagerly carried off his bride, a slim,
little brunette called
to an ardent honeymoon on Miami Beach, where they overstayed
Castro had to pawn his watch and dress jewelry.
"Well, Mirtha wouldn't leave before she'd seen Miami," the
older Castro brother,
Ramon, once remarked admiringly. "And the first week,
let her out of the room."
But if the young law student's love-making was untiring, it
was not exactly
luxurious. Mirtha found that she had not merely gotten
had entered a distaff derby for Fidel's favors. At
times it was a match
race. (Once Fidel became very interested in a
University co-ed named Mapita Morales.) And at times
it expanded to
an all-out contest, with a Havana divorcee joining the
Of course, Fidel's real interest was politics, and Cuban
long enjoyed extraordinary privileges in attending their
The old Havana Senate gallery had a separate enclosure for
the mistresses of legislators, with a separate exit in case
any of the wives
But Fidel was not headed for Congress. He was headed
for the calabozo.
He was in prison by the fall of 1953, under a 15-year
sentence for a reckless
attempt to overthrow Batista by armed insurrection.
While in solitary,
Fidel became an enthusiastic letter-writer.
Regulations in the Presidio
Modelo allowed inmates only one letter per week. But
it easy to smuggle out additional love letters in bags of
laundry or other
packets; after all, the guards were men, too–and Cuban men
Fidel Castro Ruiz, however, who had reached for bullets in
place of ballots,
was a special case. Military intelligence plainclothesmen
kept checking his
prison mail with vindictive interest. When it was
discovered that his
concealed, tightly folded letters carried messages of
undying love to different
women–his wife Mirtha and a Havana divorcee, Maria-Louisa
decided to pull a switch. The wife's letters went on
to the mistress;
the passionate love-calls to the mistress were sent on to
Shortly before noon on May 15, 1955, Fidel Castro and his 21
released under a political amnesty. Sweethearts, wives
were waiting for all of them at the prison gate–for all
There was no sign of Mirtha Diaz [Balart] de Castro, or of
(Continued on page 74)
"There was a wild, empty look in Fidel's face," recalls
who later became his secretary. "But then the crowd
came up roaring,
waving the flag, and Fidel was swept off his feet. In
prison he had
become a national hero. The crowd raised him on its
shoulders and carried
him along. He was on his way, and I think that he
forgot about married
life right then and there."
Fidel quickly sensed that crowds are feminine, too.
They embrace their
idols as fervently as a female submits to a conquering
male. He also
discovered that crowds have hundreds of individual females
in them, females
who are wild to see their hero, to touch him, to rub up
"By the time he got to his Havana apartment that day,"
reported Jules Dubois
of the Chicago Tribune, "Fidel's shirt was smudged with
Still, many an old sweetheart eyed the returning heroes
"It was king of embarrassing," Raul Castro, Fidel's younger
me years later, "You see, when we were arrested after
attacking that army
fort (Moncada Barracks) on 26 July 1953, the soldiers who
it was true, we had killed some soldiers in the
attack. The guardia,
the soldiers, were crazy for revenge."
In a week long manhunt, more than a hundred of Castro's
rounded up. Most of the first 30-odd suspects caught
were killed by
castration. Raul told me of his friend Pepe Jurema;
two soldiers fell
on him with their machete in such frenzy that they nearly
One of Castro's rooftop snipers, Victor Torres, was taken
alive by the guardia
in downtown Santiago. Later in the day, they also
arrested a girl,
Haydee; she turned out to be his financee
[fiancee]. The frenzied
guardia troopers cut off Victor's testicles with a
pigsticker, and a sergeant
named Montes de Oca carried them over to the girl's cell in
his hand, brandishing
them while yelling insanely: "Look, look! You better ask the
to service you, because your fiancee will never do it for
Afterwards, there were rumors that the guardia had castrated
all the prisoners,
including both Castro brothers. The poor girls were
wondering if any
of the released men would ever do much for them again.
Their doubts were soon dissipated. Fidel himself was
seen around Havana
squiring Maria-Luisa–he had arranged a quiet divorce from
his wife–and other
politically minded women. None of them ever looked
anything but contented.
But Fidel was restless; by now he was a hardened, hot-eyed
When he decided to move from Havana–first to Miami, then New
York, and finally
Mexico City–only brother Raul went along. Some of the
were quietly told to follow him, but none of the girls.
In Mexico City, Fidel began to organize what eventually
became the greatest
political adventure of his generation–a guerrilla expedition
He was chindeep in conspiracy, weapons-smuggling,
recruitment and moonlight
training marches. But in the midst of it all, he fell
in love with
a green-eyed, golden-skinned 18-year-old girl named Lilia
The dated dined, walked hand-in-hand and became
engaged. Seized with
fits of bourgeois generosity, Fidel went out and bought her
There was to be a quick wedding before the expedition left.
And then Lilia made a decision: Fidel was, really, nothing
but a square.
He thought mud-colored double-breasted suits were the dress
for young bloods.
His shoes squeaked. He loped like a great, earnest
Doberman, and sometimes
even cocked his head in a faintly doggy way. He
scratched with abandon.
He talked a lot loudly, but never anything except Cuban
was careless about his fingernails. And worst of all,
Fidel did not
know to dance, possibly the sole voting-age Cuban male so
At her next date with Fidel, Lilia yanked off her engagement
She had decided to marry an old beau, a Mexican
dentist. They are still
happily married, but Lilia's married name will never
interest anyone except
Fidel was furious. The rejection cut him where he felt
it most–in his
sorely swollen vanity. He would never again expose
that to the whims
of a woman.
In the meantime, Lilia luckily had a friend who was her
Teresa "Tete" Casuso was older than Fidel. A dark,
divorcee, she had been a novelist and a movie actress, and
she knew what
she wanted. Fidel fascinated her. The young
obviously special talents; Tete felt that he would have been
as an actor or as salesman, for he had a marvelously genial
gift of gab.
THE sullen Fidel moved his guns into Tete's house, then
moved in himself.
Tete not only hid the hardware, but when Fidel went broke,
she helped him
land a $50,000 loan from a millionaire politician. The
money took care
of Fidel's most urgent need-an invasion ship, the famed
The expedition to Cuba was shaping up nicely in November,
1956, when the
Mexican police became curious. The Casuso residence
was searched and
some of Fidel's ammunition came to view in the upstairs
closets, behind Tete's
slip and undies. Tete was hauled in, mouthing
protests. She spent
a month in the pokey. Fidel vanished.
It was in the women's prison in Mexico City that Tete Casuso
the headline: "Castro Expedition Attempts Landing–Invaders
She knew then that the expedition had left Mexico in the
yacht she had helped
provide, and she wept wildly until she was transferred to
the prison hospital.
What she did not know was that half the news was false:
Fidel and Raul Castro
had landed in Cuba, but were anything but dead.
For two years and more, the Castro brothers fought their
of hardship and hunger. Romance was rare in the
bush. When the
men dreamed of a dish it was liable to be beans.
Recreation was limited
There are critics who explain the Castro guerrillas' high
moral tone by pointing
out that they had no beds, only rope hammocks. But the
fact is that
in the mountains, abstinence was a tactical necessity.
support of the peasant population, the bush fighters would
not have survived
a month. And farm folk are notoriously narrow-minded
about their ladies.
Castro ticked off a set of simple rules for his troops.
Never pass a countryman without a greeting.
Never try to take away his hunting weapons.
Never eat or drink in his home without paying.
Never, but never, trifle with women.
The wages of sin was shooting. For the first time in
lovers, not fighters, suffered the higher casualty
rate. Toward the
end, when Castro was in a hurry, he would give the man
accused of rape–and
the complaining woman–instant justice:
"What is your name, soldier?"
"What is your name, senorita?"
"Did you have her, Lorenzo?"
"Did you want him, Maria Dolores?"
Castro shook his head with heavy anger, waved, stepped
executions–and his hard-eyed brother Raul would have the
offender tied to
an execution tree and a tow of rifles pointed at his
face. The whole
trial and execution took less than a quarter-hour.
I spent more than six months in the mountains during 1957
and ‘58m covering
the revolution and the remarkable Castro brothers; we became
friends. During this time, I saw nearly 30 men blown
apart by firing
squads for a bit of rowdy romancing. Whatever else it
may have been,
it was utterly un-Cuban. Most of them died with
expressions of surprise
CASTRO himself, sad to say, was the first one to crack under
celibacy. In the summer of 1958, while his lieutenants
kept the guardia
at bay among the foothills, Castro set up a small
headquarters on a remote,
inaccessible peak called La Plata. Here he acquired,
in rapid succession:
(a) a woodburning range; (b) a set of frying pans; (c) a
hairy cook known
as Miguelito; (d) a small Diesel generator; (e) an electric
icebox; and (f)
the first meal of steak and eggs in 18 months.
All through the campaign, Fidel had slept under the open sky
like the rest
of us. His hammock had the only mosquito netting in
camp, but that
was his sole distinction. But now I found that Fidel
was living in
a log cabin built especially for him. It contained the
range, the icebox
and the goodies brought up in relay mule trains especially
And its windows were made of timber panes, lowered at night
to convert the
cabin into a soundproof box–especially for him and the girl
now hung under the roof.
She wasn't a new girl. She was Celia Sanchez, Fidel's
aide. Like Tete Casuso, she was older and wiser than
Tete, she had helped Fidel enormously. But there the
Tete was svelte and sophisticated; Celia was quiet, fanatic
and a slim as
a boy. She was also the most utterly fearless woman I
have even known.
During the shaky first year of the insurrection, when
Castro's destiny hung
on the thread of his lifeline to the outside world, Celia
served as the guerrillas'
most dependable courier. Carrying secrets and bulging
she slipped through the guardia's lines as effortlessly as a
The rebels called her La Paloma, the dove.
After the revolution's triumph, Celia showed even stronger
matter how Fidel carried on, she never allowed herself to be
of jealously. This was for a woman in love, a fabulous
feat of inner
force. Today, seven years later, Celia Sanchez alone
of all girls remains
near Fidel. She is still his trusted aide. Fidel
in her neat little Havana apartment–when no other girl
happens to have a
bed waiting for him.
Not even his followers claim that Fidel is the handsomest
head of state.
Nor is Castro the most amorously inclined. He is not
even in the same
class with the recently assassinated Dominican Dictator
Trujillo used to import aphrodisiacs from all over the world
and test them
on his elderly cabinet ministers, who were ordered to imbibe
a double dose
and report the results on the local equivalent of a
hotline. When Trujillo
grew older, he built the world's only aphrodisiac bottling
plant in Santo
Domingo and marketed the stuff under government monopoly,
Yet when Fidel arrived triumphantly in Havana in January,
1959, women went
weak and worshipful at the very sight of him. If
is any measure, Fidel is the sexiest newcomer in politics
When he emerged into the streets, hundreds of hit, tender
hands plucked at
him from every side. In the Havana Hilton, where
Castro had commandeered
a suite, bikini after broke out at poolside [pool
side] to tempt the
Errol Flynn, who had already met Castro, now popped up at
the Hilton to track
down a movie concession. To breast the opposing tides,
as it were,
he had brought along a bevy of underage, overdeveloped
Lolitas headed by
the blonde Beverly Aadland who was, at 18, the dean of the
Morning Errol would deploy his pony troop around the pool,
arrayed in skimpy
swimsuits recalling the payoff of a strip act. At
night, piercing squeals
and lusty noise from Flynn's suite revealed that Errol was
hard at work on
a revolutionary adaptation of his famed Hollywood suckling
Such tactics were wrong, of course. From Italy the
lush Italian actress
soon flew in to announce that she would star in a film about
the Cuban revolution–provided
il divino Fidel approved. To make sure of approval,
Cabana #1 and draped herself in front of it, her abundance
by a bikini that would have scorched the sand at
Cannes. Her agent,
a much more thorough man than Flynn, had discovered that
from his 18-floor
eyrie, Fidel had a direct view of Cabana #1.
Most of this witchery was wasted. At first Fidel
seemed mostly preoccupied
with bettering his country's lot. Lowell Birrell, who
ran the Havana
racetrack syndicate in those days, recalled it in Rio not
"First off, everyone who owned a piece of action in Havana
had to kick in
to Castro for his agrarian reform. The casino guys had
so much for tractors, the bolita guy so much for livestock,
got the word my bite would be five big ones for
fertilizer. Five thousand
bucks for manure! I already knew these bearded nuts
to lay up a sausage; you couldn't buy them off. I
figured maybe girls
might do the trick. I had a solid-gold chick down from
for me-socially so to speak. She was an ash-blonde
that could have
given Marilyn Monroe inches front and back, and I sent her
up to Castro's
suite. Told her to go in, smile, and say "Hi, Mr.
Birrell sent me up.'
I knew no Cuban guards would have the heart to stop
her. She did it,
and you know how Castro reacted? ‘Birrell sent
you? Ah, good,
you are the one with the fertilizer money!' "
There was, it seems, a streak of truth in the early tales of
Fidel, the rustic
rebel whose strength was his L'il Abnerish innocence.
or without that set of chin spinach, Fidel turned out
nothing like L'il Abner.
Behind all the headlines and heady oratory, Castro turned
out to like many
another talented and ambitious actor-type: very vain, hammy,
really in love with anyone but himself.
In time, however, there came stories with an uglier
punchline: Fidel, the
By March, 1959, if Mrs. Lorenz is to be wholly believed, the
customs were those of a moon-mad tomcat. The Lorenz
story is still
hard to assess. Neither has Castro ever come forward
to comment or
deny the story of how he raped an 18-year-old American girl
in his Hilton
suite–an then forced her to undergo and ugly abortion–nor
has another girl
come forward to substantiate it.
But there are some hard facts on view. Castro was
in Havana, perhaps by his own weaknesses, perhaps by his
lust for power.
The liberator changed into libertine. And in the
deeper sense that
cold-hearted lechery always involves a little rape, Castro,
once the nemesis
of rapist, became a rapist himself.
For a while he could be both bashful and bold with beautiful
women who caught
his attention. Beverly Gary, the lovely and talented
of the New York Post besieged the Havana Hilton for days in
search of an
interview, until Castro discovered that here was no unshaven
legman but a
tall, cool honey-blonde.
Instead of making an appointment, Castro suddenly stepped
hotel bedroom at one in the morning.
"He sat down beside the bed," Beverly recounted later.
talking Cuban politics, and one by one he began emptying the
pockets of his
fatigues on the nightstand–lots of big pockets with lots of
things in them.
Maybe he was looking for a cigar. Maybe something
else. At any
rate, he soon realized that he would have to make out with
Talking faster than ever, he started putting everything back
again into those
gaping pockets. We ended up chatting through most of
It was a good interview, and he seemed a nice enough guy."
A few weeks later, I happened to be covering a Castro rally
in the company
of another pretty correspondent–Ruth Lloyd, a dark, intense
from New York. That night, the phone rang in my
room. (Like everyone
else, I was living in the Hilton, almost directly under
Castro's own suite.)
Startled, I found myself making a date with Fidel for late
dinner the next
night. Castro wanted to meet Ruth.
Fidel said he would bring Lia–Aurelia Vasquez, a petite
had been Miss Havana Yacht Club and Pupo, his
bodyguard. There was
to be no one else; it would be just a small intimate supper.
Fidel was late, but he showed. At 2 in the morning, we
at the Kasalta Restaurant, his favorite place for
seafood. He began
by ordering three dozen Sagua oysters. "They're very
small," he explained
The waiters ran up and clustered excitedly around their
were joined by the other guests, who left their tables to
crowd around ours.
Soon a newsman was hanging on every pay phone in the
Fidel, who dashed around town fitfully and never kept his
become the top sport of public-minded people.
Within minutes, our quiet little supper was interrupted by
(a) the Minister
of Agriculture, who brought some papers to sign; (b) a
British Embassy type
with an urgent message; (c) a delega-
tion of 14 fishermen from Marianao, who had been waiting
since early morning
to present him with a record-sized kingfish, which, judged
by its smell,
must have been caught way before the revolution; (d) the
of bearded tommygunners who appeared on the scene whenever
Fidel was getting
It was not much later that we discovered Fidel had vanished
into the thickening
In spite of such pressures, Fidel seemed to steady himself
Ignoring La Pampanini and Flynn's nymphet circus, he picked
out a girl from
the Hilton poolside who happened to be both lovely and
blue-eyed lady psychiatrist from Buenos Aires who is not too
in this country to be known here as anything but Linda,
which is not her
LINDA was ideal. A practicing psychiatrist, she
considered wild talk
and couches a natural parlay. She fell for Fidel,
hard–but not hard
enough not to see through him.
"Oh, what a troubled man," she would murmur sadly while
sunning herself at
the pool. "Did you know Fidel was an illegitimate
parents got married long after he was born. No wonder
he is wild.
No wonder he is terrified of rejection, of any kind of
You know, such people stay part child all through their
kept running after the sense of belonging that was denied
them in childhood."
Whether because she had found him part child or part
bastard, Fidel and Linda
broke up quickly. For a while, Castro had a new
interest: Gloria, the
slight, passionate, dark-eyed daughter of his first
political idol, the late
But Castro was coming down fast. I sat with him
through a long baseball
game in midsummer of 1959, escorting Maritza Rosales, a
pouter pigeon who was Fidel's favorite TV actress.
Maritza was muy
Fidelista, and she harangued me about Fidel's many virtues
all the way to
the stadium. But when we were ushered into Fidel's box
by the faithful
Pupo, Maritza grew quiet and somehow smaller.
Gone was the dogged, likable square of Mexican days.
Gone the bearded
caballero of the cloud-hung mountains who could make any of
us warm to his
charm with smile. Fidel was paunchy, unkempt, fidgety
His eyes were darting and devious. Behind him sat a
girl in pink pedal-pushers
and pancake makeup. She was a minor café society
from New York at the revolution's expense. The girl
was too garish
to sit beside the Maximum Leader in public, and she knew
it. She stared
at his back with a sullen frown.
Castro was changing from rebel to commissar, and he was
feeling for the commissar's
furtive pleasures. Provocative women no longer upset
an official visit to Santiago, I saw him walk briskly past
the greeting line
in the Casa Grande until he came to a tall, willowy tourist
from New York
smiling at him with wistful, wet-lipped yearning.
his stride or the grave cast of his visage, I saw Castro
shoot at her the
only purposeful phrase under the circumstances: "What is
your room number?"
The girl called it after him–the Casa Grande was Santiago's
only good hotel–unable
to tell even if the great man had heard it. Unable to
tell, that is,
until Captain Yanez Pelletier knocked at her door around
Captain Jesus Maria Yanez Pelletier, military aide and
senior adjutant to
Prime Minister Fidel Castro, had no part of bearded
bushwhacker in him.
He was an erect, handsome, well-mannered and smartly groomed
He had been a Cuban career officer before fate washed him up
BACK in 1953, when Yanez was serving as military prison
Santiago, the captured Castro brothers were brought to him
by the guardia. Soon afterwards came orders to mix
poison with the
prisoners' dinner; General Batista wanted a permanent
solution to his problems.
Yanez refused. Officers were gentlemen, not
assassins. It saved
Fidel's life, but lost Yanez his army his army
commission. He was dumped
out of uniform and spent the remaining years of Batista's
rule washing crockery
in a New York cafeteria.
Then came victory, and with it the grateful embrace from
Fidel and promotion
to be the great man's personal aide-de-camp.
Procuring might not have been his idea of the principal
purpose for a military
aide. Nevertheless, under the terrible corruption of
uncanny ability to make people do his bidding–Captain Jesus
To accommodate the assignations, Yanez was assigned a suite
of his own in
the Hilton, on the same floor as Fidel's. To get the
without attracting the attention of the many curious
characters camping in
the hotel–newsmen, diplomats, intelligence agents and the
out a clandestine supply route.
The Hilton had a VIP entrance in its basement garage.
it and pocketed the key, pointing out that the revolution
had abolished all
VIPS but one. Next to the basement door sat an
elevator call button
wired to a special buzzer. Whenever that buzzer
sounded, the elevator
nearest to the basement was stopped and all its passengers
were ushered out.
The empty lift was then dive-bombed down into the basement
to collect Yanez
and his charges–one, two or three girls, as per Fidel's
orders–and ride them
directly to the 18th floor. Upstairs, the captain
guided his bunny
flock down the carpeted corridor and into the special suite,
a German hi-fi, sweet Spanish wines on the sideboard, and
lights softly shimmering
through tongue-pink lamp-shades. Now all the bunnies
had to do was
wait for the Big, Bad Wolf.
During the fall and winter of 1959, I heard that special
buzzer more than
once as I was traveling up or down in the Hilton's
elevators. I always
thought of Captain Jesus Yanez and felt sorrier for the
than for myself, though every time I heard the buzzer I
found myself stranded
on a strange floor, with my elevator vanishing down into the
One day, while on a diplomatic mission in New York, trying
to smooth over
the Lorenz rape scandal, Yanez was cashiered from the army
and arrested on
his return. A strong, mysterious enemy seemed to be
against him. His house was searched by security
agents, and the case
report taken to Armed Forces Commander Raul Castro. It
other things, that a check of Yanez' clothes closet had
unearthed an unrevolutionary
lot of polished shoes–15 pairs to be exact, most of them
from the venerable
house of Lefcourt, which passes them out at about $60.00 a
Raul, who went about in campaign boots, smiled his wintry
"Muy bien. We'll give him a court-martial, and at the
we'll give him a year at hard labor for every one of those
Though the charges against Yanez were never fully clarified,
at his trial–a
short one–he got 30 years.
Now there are signs that even the Maximum Leader is losing
out in his restless
pursuit of happiness. Not long ago, I had dinner with
an old friend
in Cali, Colombia, where he now lives in secluded
exile. Jose Pardo
Llada is among the loneliest of defectors, for he was, until
truly intimate friend of Fidel, more so than anyone outside
In Cuba, Pardo was the nation's top TV and radio
commentator. A college
classmate of Castro's, a veteran companion of the Sierra
Maestra, he was
closer to Castro than most of his own blood relatives.
AFTER dinner in the Hotel Alferez Real, Pardo told me a
story. It was,
I found with fascination, the most revealing story I had
ever heard of a
dictator's loneliness and of his terrible inner defeat.
"Last year I was seeing less and less of Fidel," Pardo
said. "He was
growing manic-depressive, it seems, and his relations with
people were deteriorating
all around. But at three in the morning one day last
fall, I ran into
Fidel stuffing himself on chop suey in the Radio-Centro
restaurant in downtown
"Fidel was with his usual gang of escort guards and
But when he saw me he motioned me over to his table and
pointed to a very
pretty girl sitting in one of the booths, asking me with his
eyes if I knew
her. She was a singer, not over 20 or so, fresh-faced
and very, very
pretty. Of course I knew her.
"I went over and she said without hesitation, yes, why
not–anything for Fidel.
The only thing she asked was that Fidel get rid of his
bonche, his bunch
"Well, it was risky, it was risky every time we did it, but
there was only
one way to do it. Fortunately, I had a girl with me,
I got my girl, and the singer who was about to become, at
least for one night,
Fidel's girl, and we got into my car and drove up to the
corner of 23d Street.
We stopped and waited. Pretty soon Fidel's escort
convoy rolls up,
stops, and Fidel hops out as quick as a wink and into the
rear seat of my
Chrysler. We were off like lightning.
"In the car, Fidel tried to think of a place to go.
Yanez was in jail,
that place was gone. There was another girl sleeping
in the other Hilton
suite, probably the last person Fidel wanted to meet right
had a secret house in Miramar, but there were a half-dozen
there waiting to tell him all their troubles. He had a
near the old Country Club, but that was where he'd sent his
escort, and the
girl had wanted privacy. With one thing and another,–I
am not exaggerating–Fidel
did not have a single quiet place left to go to.
"I suggested we drive out to the beach near Tarara. It
But remember, none of this had been planned, not even by
No one could possibly know were we
were going, and that was the only security measure Fidel had
"It was a pleasant night and a long drive. Fidel
To cheer him up, I began to talk about our old, happy days
in the mountains,
how free we felt then, how strong and cheerful. I
reminded Fidel of
the night we occupied the first little town among the
foothills, Charco Redondo–how
our horses' hooves drummed on the dry earth, how every
family stood beside
its house holding red candle lanterns to catch a worshipful
glimpse of us,
who were then the saviors of Cuba. It was different
then, or maybe
just we were different.
"Anyhow, Fidel started reminiscing, too. He talked on
and on about
his mountains and this and that in the old days, until we
got to the beach
and I stopped the car behind the dunes. Fidel got out
and took his
girl, this girl to whom he had not yet spoken a single
personal word, and
they disappeared into the darkness.
"I sat there with my girl smoking cigarettes in the dark and
music from Miami, Fidel and the little singer came back in
about twenty minutes.
They were still holding hands, but now Fidel was not
talking. He sagged
into the car and told me to take him to the house where the
was waiting. He lit a cigar and never said another
word till we let
him out at the big iron gate in Miramar.
"Well, I had my girl with me, and I shouldn't have done it
for a lot of other
reasons, too. But you know how we Cubans are. I
keep myself from doing it. I turned back and winked at
the singer and
asked her how it had gone.
"She looked at me very strangely. But what she told me
was not unpleasant,
"It seems that after they had gone off together among the
dunes, hand in
hand, Fidel kept right on talking feverishly. They
a bit, then lay down in the warm sand. Fidel caressed
her, her eyes
and her hair, but he never stopped talking for a
moment. It went on
like that for twenty minutes–Fidel stroking her hair and
hoarsely, as if she were an old war buddy or a whole
audience, not a little
girl on a big date.
"He told her things she couldn't half understand, names and
places she couldn't
even recognize. At one point, it seems he was telling
had done when she was a courier in the war. Anyhow, he
He looked at her, go to his feet and puller her up,
too. They came
back to the car together, but he hadn't even kissed
must have saddened him, I guess. After that, there was
nothing to do
but go home."
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