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On February 23, 1961, Cuban pianist Fidel Castro gave a concert in Havana, Cuba, marking the beginning of his first visit to the US since the revolution.
In a country where music was banned in the 1950s, the occasion drew millions of people to a city that had become the centre of the Cuban revolution.
This was the first time the US had sent a foreign leader to Havana since the 1959 Cuban revolution ended with the death of Fidel Castro.
However, Fidel Castro’s speech was far from a national celebration of the revolution, and it quickly became the focus of controversy. “
We don’t believe that the American Government or any foreign government should have any influence in Cuba,” he said, referring to the United States.
However, Fidel Castro’s speech was far from a national celebration of the revolution, and it quickly became the focus of controversy.
In 1962, Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista seized power, and many Cubans believed he was using the concert as a pretext to crush the revolution and crush the Cuban Communist Party.
After Batista’s death in 1981, his successor, Raul Castro, claimed he had a role in orchestrating the concert.
But Fidel Castro did not attend the concert, and instead was invited by the American ambassador to Cuba, Roberta Jacobson.
Jacobson told Castro he had made the decision to go to Cuba because she had heard he had an interest in the US, a position she described as “extremely high”.
In February 1962, Fidel Castro’s son, Rene, arrived in Washington and told the president he had not heard anything about the concert from his father.
Rene Castro told Jacobson the US was sending a message to Cuba that the revolution was no longer possible, and the two discussed how to get rid of the US.
On the day Fidel Castro returned to Cuba in late February, the two met for the first time since Castro’s return.
As Jacobson read out the US delegation’s invitation, Fidel and Rene Castro went to the front of the room, and they held hands, Jacobson recounted in her book, Cuba: From the Revolution to the Revolution, which was published last year.
Fidel Castro’s gesture was a subtle reminder that his father had not been invited to the concert and that he was going to stay in Cuba, she said.
Jacobson said that on that day Fidel Fernandez, the US ambassador to Havana, came out to greet Castro and said, “You have got to come to Havana”.
“I didn’t have to wait for the invitation to go out,” Fidel Castro told her, adding that he had no intention of leaving Cuba.
Later that day, a US naval task force had been sent to Havana and Castro had already decided to leave.
There was no word on what happened to the Cuban pianists during the trip.
Read more: Fidel Castro is a hero, not a hero in Cuba