A Conversation With Fidel Castro
Travel Blog • Eva Holland • 09.08.10 | 1:35 PM ET
Atlantic writer Jeffrey Goldberg recently got a personal invitation to visit Cuba—from Fidel Castro. His first dispatch from the trip is live, and it’s a fascinating mixture of traveler’s observations and quotations from the rarely-seen Cuban leader. Here’s a taste:
The morning after our arrival in Havana, Julia and I were driven to a nearby convention center, and escorted upstairs, to a large and spare office. A frail and aged Fidel stood to greet us. He was wearing a red shirt, sweatpants, and black New Balance sneakers. The room was crowded with officials and family: His wife, Dalia, and son Antonio, as well as an Interior Ministry general, a translator, a doctor and several bodyguards, all of whom appeared to have been recruited from the Cuban national wrestling team. Two of these bodyguards held Castro at the elbow.
...Fidel lowered himself gently into his seat, and we began a conversation that would continue, in fits and starts, for three days. His body may be frail, but his mind is acute, his energy level is high, and not only that: the late-stage Fidel Castro turns out to possess something of a self-deprecating sense of humor. When I asked him, over lunch, to answer what I’ve come to think of as the Christopher Hitchens question—has your illness caused you to change your mind about the existence of God?—he answered, “Sorry, I’m still a dialectical materialist.”
In the next installment, Goldberg tells the story of “one of the stranger days I have experienced, a day which began with a simple question from Fidel: ‘Would you like to go to the aquarium with me to see the dolphin show?’”