Fidel Castro’s Visit to Texas

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In 1959, after the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro visited Texas. Houston residents gave him a standing ovation, the mayor gave him a handshake and ranchers, who had dressed their children in revolutionary garb, gave him a horse. Business leaders were so enthusiastic about Castro that they talked about making a movie of the Cuban revolution starring Marlon Brando. “Fidel Castro swept through Houston in glory bordering on pandemonium, with sirens failing to drown out the cheers of his admirers,” the Houston Chronicle wrote at the time. Today, a Chronicle article looks back on the event. It quotes a Houston business leader who visited Castro in Cuba and recalled what must have been an especially Texan fascination with the revolution at the time: “It was almost like walking into the wild, wild West with a Spanish flavor.”

The visit, in which Castro was accompanied by his brother Raul, had been orchestrated by then-Texan Senator and future President Lyndon Baines Johnson. At the time Castro was still viewed as a likely force for democracy. Still, the invitation to Texas would seem no less plausible today if it came from President George W. Bush, who has so much in common with the dictator. At Bush’s Crawford ranch, the two revolucionarios could talk about limiting civil liberties, detaining and torturing people, usurping executive power and beating up on the media—and maybe adjourn for a bit of target practice. Who knows, maybe Bush will hit it off with Raul. The two men are, after all, both the inheritors of a dynasty.

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