1960: Presidential elections, Cuba, and Fidel Castro at the UN

By mid-September 1960, the Nixon-Kennedy presidential campaign was underway. Everyone was talking about the debates around the corner. The election was too close to call. Both men were young: Senator Kennedy was 43 and VP Nixon was 47!

And everyone was talking about a certain visitor to the UN.

Fidel Castro arrived in New York in September 1960 to speak at the UN:

“In September 1960, Castro led a delegation to New York City to address the United Nations General Assembly. He and his entourage caused an immediate sensation by deciding to stay at the Theresa Hotel in Harlem.

While there, Castro met with a number of African-American leaders, including Malcolm X from the Nation of Islam and the poet Langston Hughes.

On September 26, Castro delivered a blistering attack on what he termed American “aggression” and “imperialism.

”For over four hours, Castro lambasted U.S. policy toward Cuba and other nations in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. The United States, he declared, had “decreed the destruction” of his revolutionary government.

Castro’s visit and lengthy public denunciation marked the final breaking point in relations between the U.S. and Cuba.I

n January 1961, the Eisenhower administration severed all diplomatic relations with Cuba.”

Cuba also became a hot topic in the Kennedy-Nixon debates. Kennedy took a very tough posture toward Castro and criticized the Eisenhower policy.  Nixon, on the other hand, could not reveal existing plans.

I recall that my parents and many Cubans followed these debates with keen interest. Cuba had never been such an important issue in a U.S. presidential election.

Unfortunately, President Kennedy did not support the men of Brigade 2506 at the Bay of Pigs. It turned into a huge victory for the Castro regime and the invasion was followed by severe repression against anti-Castro Cubans on the island  (my father’s cousin was arrested at that time).

The Missile Crisis the followed 18 months later!

My guess is that no one years ago thought that the bearded Cuban would become such a headache for the winner of the election.

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.