Letters From Prison: Castro Revealed

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In April 1959, just months after a charismatic 32-year-old revolutionary named Fidel Castro seized the reins of power in Cuba, a slim volume of his correspondence, titled "Cartas del Presidio," or "Letters from Prison," was published in Havana. The book contained 21 letters addressed to Castro's inner circle of supporters, including his wife, Mirta Diaz-Balart; his half-sister, Lidia; a future mistress; the father of a fallen comrade; and nine missives to his devoted friend and political devotee, Luis Conte Aguero, who published the book.

The letters, however, have not appeared in English until now, and after 1960, when a disillusioned Conte Aguero fled Cuba, no further copies were printed in Havana. Nevertheless, this collection of Castro's writings -- virtually the only unofficial writing he ever did -- has become something of a Rosetta Stone for historians, biographers and journalists seeking to understand the man who would become Cuba's ruler for life. Some may argue that a careful reading of the letters foretells what would transpire in Cuba over the next 50 years. Others could say that the Castro of these letters is not the Castro he would become.

Both are true to varying degrees.

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