Fidel Castro, Cuba’s despot for the better of a half a century turned secretive retiree, allegedly made his first public appearance in nine months at an art show in Havana this week.
The New York Times reports that video has surfaced of a frail old man in an olive green scarf reading a poetry book, and photos abound of Castro admiring paintings and touching sculptures. The footage seems to indicate that Castro spent a respectable amount of time out and about at the event, admiring the art and chatting to communists in attendance.
The video’s narrator alleges that Castro spoke to the audience in Havana on various topics of international significance and particularly reflected upon “the great problem that ignorance presents in our society and how they have tried to dominate us for 55 years and failed.” The video, acquired by the Associated Press, does not allow for the viewer to hear Castro’s own voice.
This rare public appearance was intended to celebrate the 55th anniversary of Castro and his soldiers arriving in Havana in 1959, after former President Fulgencio Batista fled the country on December 31, 1958. Castro descended from the Sierra Maestra Mountains with his brother Raúl, Ché Guevara, Camilo Cienfuegos, and other prominent members of the Cuban Communist canon.
Castro’s Marxist troops – who denied being Marxists until they came to power – spent most of the 1950s perched in the mountains after attacking the Moncada soldiers’ barracks at night in 1953 and subsequently were released by an amnesty law Batista passed, despite being found guilty and sentenced to fifteen years in prison.
According to state propaganda newspaper El Granma, Castro was visiting “Romerillo Studio… devoted to the development and dissemination of the arts and human understanding.” The studio showcases the visual art of young communists and was prepared on this day to celebrate the anniversary of Castro’s arriving in Havana.
Fidel Castro’s last public appearance was in April 2013 for the opening of a school. He took the opportunity of renewed publicity that month to also chide North Korea for its violent rhetoric, advising against the threat of nuclear war. He also made a television appearance that month, listening to a tape of a song written for then-recently deceased Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez; he approved of the song.