61 years ago today: Birth of pro-Castro propaganda at the New York Times

Matthews and his idol

How’s this for a dark date in Cuban history?

Sixty-one years ago, the romance between the Castro dynasty and El Niuyortain began in the secure hideout the Castro brothers found for themselves — far from any real fighting — in the Sierra Maestra mountains of Cuba.

This is not exactly the kind of anniversary any Cuban should be celebrating, but much like the death of a loved one or any disaster that brings woe, like Pearl Harbor or September 11, it is always remembered.

In this case, the remembering is made all the more painful by the fact that the New York Times is still publishing pro-Castro propaganda, constantly, aggressively.

In other words, to use a bit of psychobabble, there is no “closure” here.

The fervent support lent to the Castro regime by El Niuyortain is the equivalent of having the Parkland shooter — Nikolas Cruz — still roaming the streets and killing schoolchildren 61 years from now.

No “closure.” No way, Mildred.  None.

Fidel pins medal on Matthews

From The Cuban Studies Institute (The REAL successor to the defunct Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies at the University of Miami, recently dismantled by President Julio Frenk )

At dawn on February 17, 1957, Herbert Matthews, The New York Times journalist, met with Fidel Castro in the Sierra Maestra. The meeting took place ten weeks after the “Granma” landing disaster (December 2, 1956). There were lingering doubts as to whether Castro was dead or alive. This meeting turned out to be one of Castro’s biggest propaganda achievement.

Matthews was 57 and in delicate health, with heart problems. He had reached the meeting place late on the 16, and the scouts gave him a blanket to lay down for the night and wait for Castro. At sunrise on the 17th, Castro appeared in an olive-green army fatigue and a long rifle with a sharpshooter’s telescopic lens. “We can pick them off at thousand yards with these guns.” Castro boasted to Matthews soon after greeting him.

Matthews came to this meeting with his own Marxist bias, and was immediately fascinated by Castro’s charismatic personality and his masterful showmanship. Matthew reported that the tall bearded leader had a well-armed guerrilla force of more than 500 men and women and was in full control of the Sierra Maestra. Castro easily won over the willing leftist journalist of The New York Times. With the most powerful newspaper in the United States as his propaganda outlet, Castro and his 30 fighters could reach the world.

On February 24, the first of three articles was published on the front page of The New York Times under the headline: “Cuban Rebel is Visited in Hideout.” The leading story read” “Fidel Castro, the rebel leader of Cuba’s youth, is alive and fighting hard and successfully in the rugged almost impenetrable fastness of the Sierra Maestra.”

In his historical article, Matthews told his readers that Castro was anti-communist, with strong democratic ideals, fighting for free elections and the Cuban constitution. Raptured by the young rebel’s performance, Matthews called Castro “the Cuban Robin Hood.”

Batista’s Minister of Defense denied the veracity of Matthew’s story. On the 28, the “Times” responded with a front-page photo of Castro and Matthews.

On the day of the story, Fidel Castro was barely surviving in the Sierra Maestra and only in control of a small area. But Mathews rescued the failed leader and turned him, like a thundering lightening, into an unconquerable Robin Hood. In one stroke, the awesome power of The New York Times had propelled Castro into the top leadership of Cuba’s revolution and a popular figure in the U.S., especially within the State Department. It was a masterful propaganda coup and a huge step in the tragic falsification of Castro’s ideology and his march to consolidate a totalitarian state.


Fidel visits NYT office 1995

1 thought on “61 years ago today: Birth of pro-Castro propaganda at the New York Times”

  1. Closure? You want closure? How presumptuous of you, Carlos–but then again, you’re one of “those people,” and everyone knows how insufferably uppity they are. I suppose you also consider yourself white. Figures.

    Closure is for superior first-world beings, meaning higher life forms than tropical island savages–you know, like Canadians. Cubans don’t rate closure, or decent health care, or education free of gross political indoctrination, and of course they don’t rate freedom or basic human rights. They should be damn grateful for the “revolution,” because if they hadn’t had it they’d be even worse off than they are now. Just read the official memo, OK?

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