García Márquez thought Fidel Castro was bigger than his sins

I had long been curious about the relationship between Gabriel García Márquez and Fidel Castro. The great Latin American Nobel Laureate, and the dictator. An odd couple, to say the least.

So when I found him, drink in hand, alone at a coctail party, I was determined to get to the bottom of that friendship. It was in October, 1996 at a meeting of the Inter American Press Association in Los Angeles.

After some brief small talk, I asked him, “It is very awkward, don't you think? Here you are talking about a free press, promoting your journalism academy in Cartagena, but when you sit with Fidel to smoke cigars, drink mojitos and talk for hours you are with a man who shut down all free newspapers and persecutes independent journalists and kicks out of the country foreign correspondents!”

I spoke softly, not aggressively.

“Do you ever talk to him about freedom, the press, those journalists in his jails?” El Gabo, as he was called, took a long sip from his Scotch on the rocks. “ Coño, you are like all the Cubans from Miami, you can't let go of that bitterness,” he told me.

I expected him to bolt, to excuse himself and run for cover. But to his credit he stood his ground and we went at it in a very civilized but candid conversation. And I gave him room to talk, so we established a journalist to journalist relationship that permitted a dialogue.

García Márquez felt that Fidel was bigger than his sins. He had become infatuated by the man who was the embodiment of an ultimate character in one of his novels.

“The man has been able to endure and survive 37 years of hostility from the most powerful country in the history of mankind under their very noses.” That statement says more about your own morality than about Fidel, I told him. And I added, “So at the heart of your relationship is the hatred of the Americans.”

He smiled. He had a home in Cuba where he spent quite a bit of time.

It was obvious that he admired the revolution at a literary level. As a surrealistic, out-of-this-world place where the rules were different. A kind of tropical, anti-gringo Macondo. And he thrived in the access to the bigger than life patriarch-dictator.

I told him that his groupie-like admiration for Fidel and the Cuban revolution was a stark contrast to his novel, The Autumn of the Patriarch, where he mocks a Caribbean tyrant who dies of old age trying to hang on to power. “I have to find my ideas some place,'” he said with a smile.

That was a cynical and disingenuous statement. A disconnect that told me that he felt he was above the morality reserved for mere mortals. A moral snob.

Oddly enough at the conference we were attending, García Márquez had delivered a lecture on a pet project he had developed in Cartagena, the Foundation for a New Ibero-american Journalism. He started as a reporter in Cartagena, and was helping young journalists sharpen their skills and become advocates for probing, hard reporting.

I was there representing El Nuevo Herald and as a vice chairman of the Freedom of the Press Committee to deliver a report on the persecution of journalists in Cuba.

As much as I disagreed with his moral compass, I admired his wit, and his willingness to engage with me in a conversation where I held his feet to the fire. And I walked away knowing it was an experience I would always remember.

Roberto Fabricio was a journalist and editor for the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald.

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald

Tony Lesesne


    Tony Lesesne: Overkill, and an apology

    Yes, it happens in South Florida, too — and it shouldn’t. Black men pulled over, needlessly hassled by police officers who give the rest of their colleagues a bad name, who make no distinction when a suspect has no other description than ‘black male,’ who harass residents because they can. A North Miami Beach officer pulls over a black man in a suit and tie — and behind the wheel of an Audi that simply had to be stolen, right? In another Miami-Dade city, an officer demands that an African-American man installing a vegetable garden justify why he has a shovel and seedlings. Detained for possession of cilantro? Here are five South Floridians who tell of their experiences in this community and beyond, years ago, and all too recently.

Delrish Moss


    Delrish Moss: Out after dark

    “I was walking up Seventh Avenue, just shy of 14th street. I was about 17 and going home from my job. I worked at Biscayne Federal Bank after school. The bank had a kitchen, and I washed the dishes. A police officer gets out of his car. He didn’t say anything. He came up and pushed me against a wall, frisked me, then asked what I was doing walking over here after dark. Then he got into his car and left. I never got a chance to respond. I remember standing there feeling like my dignity had been taken with no explanation. I would have felt better about that incident had I gotten some sort of dialogue. I had not had any encounters with police.


    Bill Diggs: Hurt officer’s feelings

    “I’m the first generation in my family to go to college, and if I wanted to do nothing else, I wanted to make my mom happy. I was living for my parents, I wanted to be that guy, I wanted to go to work and not have to put on steel-toe boots. And here I am in Atlanta, I have finally grown to a particular level of affluence. I wasn’t making a lot of money, but I was a college kid, wearing a suit, driving a nice BMW going to work everyday. Can’t beat that. I would leave my house, drive up Highway 78, the Stone Mountain area, grab some coffee, go to work. So on this particular morning, there’s a cop who’s rustling up this homeless guy outside the gas station where I was filling up. I’m shaking my head, the cop looks at me. This homeless guy is there every morning. I get in my car and on to the expressway. The police officer comes shooting up behind me. I doing 65, 70. He gets up behind me, I notice he’s following me. I get in one lane, he gets in the lane, I get in another lane, he gets in that lane. He finally flips his lights on, he comes up to the car. I’ve been pulled over for speeding before, I know the drill. Got my hands up here, don’t want to get shot, and I think he’s going to say what I’ve heard before: ‘License and registration, please.’ He says ‘Get out of the car!’ and he reaches in and grabs me by my shirt. He says, ‘So you’re a smart ass, huh?’ Finally he says, ‘License and registration.’ I tell him it’s in the car. He says, ‘Get it for me!’ He goes back to his car, comes back and asks, ‘So where did you get the car from?’ I say ‘It’s a friend of mine’s.” He says, ‘Is it stolen? What are you doing driving your friend’s car?’ I finally asked, ‘Is there a reason you stopped me? You followed me, what’s up, man?’ He says, ‘I’m going to let you go with a warning, but if you see me doing what I’ve got to do for my job, don’t you ever f---ing worry about it.”

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category