Fidel Castro Visits Meridian Hill

Really? I bet you’re thinking this is a truly bizarre image. It shows a 32-year-old Fidel Castro (read the letter he wrote as a teenager to FDR) in Meridian Hill Park holding 16-month-old Sherry Robin Hayes. Even crazier … he’s still alive! We dug this gem of a photo up on one of our favorite Facebook pages, Old Time D.C. If you haven’t checked them out, you need to.

Fidel Castro in Meridian Hill Park
Fidel Castro in Meridian Hill Park

Source: Old Time D.C. and Lee Hayes

And, since we’re Ghosts of DC, we’d like to add a little extra story to this image. We dug up the article in the Washington Post and Times Herald from his visit. It was published on April 17th, 1959. Also remember, that the Cuban Revolution had only recently ousted Fulgencio Batista a few months ago to become Prime Minister of Cuba.

Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro said yesterday the executions in Cuba are “a lesson for the future.”

The bearded, 32-year-old revolutionary said in an interview at the Cuban Embassy that the people’s faith that the Batista regime leaders would be pubished legally prevented great bloodshed in the final days of the revolt.

The interview took place at the foot of the long, marble staircase in the red-carpeted Embassy foyer, just as the weary Castro was hoping to escape to his room for a brief rest. Through the day, he had been interviewed almost endlessly, mostly by the Spanish press, lunched at the Statler Hotel with Acting Secretary of State Christian Herter, and returned to the Embassy for more interviews and for a walk.

At the luncheon, he told Acting Secretary Herter and others that he hoped the people of the United States would one day “recognize the whole truth of the revolutionary struggle” and said he saw now reason why relations between Cuba and the United States should not be “the best,” and he and Herter exchanged assurances of friendship.

Castro, smiling and at ease most of the day, though perpetually surrounded by a herd of Spanish and American reporters and photographers, was dressed in his usual offhand manner. The collar of his olive green shirt was open. He kept his Army hat on, and he carried a great big Cuban cigar that kept going out.

When he arrived at the Embassy, at 2630 16th st. nw., Wednesday night, he showed the same disdain for security regulations that he had at the airport.

Esther Guzman, Embassy attache, pointed to a crowd of about 150 persons–both Cuban and American and apparently not unfriendly–across the street. She suggested he go up to the balcony and wave.

“I’m no man on a balcony,” Castro snorted, and took off, dodging nimbly through the traffic, to meet the people.

Returning to the Embassy, where a crowd of about 200, all cleared by security guards, awaited him, he went to his third-floor room. flopped on a bed fully clothed, and announced, “I’m tired. Tired.”

And then he began practicing English with one of his party, He was awakened after only a few hours of sleep, at 3:30 a.m., for some more English practice.

“He just rolled over,” an Embassy worker said, “and went back to sleep.”

Up a few hours later, Castro, whose hair isn’t as wild as that of some of his followers found out he needed a comb and a toothbrush, and an aide was dispatched to the drugstore.

And check this out. The photo above, is the same one used in the paper that day.

Fidel Castro in Meridian Hill Park (Washington Post)
Fidel Castro in Meridian Hill Park (Washington Post)

Here’s one more cool photo … it’s a shot of Castro arriving at National Aiport on April 15th, 1959.


Fidel Castro arrives at Military Air Transport Service terminal at National Airport
Fidel Castro arrives at Military Air Transport Service terminal at National Airport

About Tom

Tom founded Ghosts of DC on January 4th, 2012 as a blog to uncover the lost and untold history of Washington, D.C. He has lived in the city for over a decade and loves exploring every corner of the District.

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  • Pedro Sera-Leyva

    I was at a party/reception for Castro at the Cuban embassy at this time. I was four years old, but I remember it vividly. At one point, they tried to put a fatigue hat on me and have me hold a cigar and pose with Castro. I refused and proceeded to throw a world class fit, which offended Castro, but made my parents happy. My uncle was the Cuban Consulate here in Washington, DC. I have a photo of the moments leading up to this incident.

    • Tom

      Wow! Thanks for sharing this. Do you have any photos?

  • Sheila

    I actually remember that! I was 11 at the time, and I remember adults talking about it. It was on the news too. Being 11 I had no idea what it was all about, but I do remember that adults looked doubtful about him, or worried. Of course I was young but that is how I read them back then.