Papa And Fidel

Can you delve into the life and times of Ernest Hemingway without mentioning Fidel Castro? CBS News Sunday Morning Anchor Charles Osgood found some characteristics the two men had in common, as well as a moment in history they shared.




Fidel Castro and Ernest Hemingway are two of the most identifiable figures of the 20th century. Here in Cuba, their images are not hard to find, far smaller than life in some cases. The stories of the two men themselves remain larger than life.

Fidel Castro: the young revolutionary who gathered his rebels in the hills to challenge and ultimately overthrow the corrupt dictator Fulgencio Battista. Now, 40 years later, still in power, still calling the shots. Every schoolchild in Cuba knows what Fidel Castro looks like.

And believe it or not, every Cuban schoolchild knows what Ernest Hemingway looked like, too. In fact, the Cuban schools run an annual competition for the best likeness of the man the kids know as "the great adventurer."

Hemingway was attracted to danger. To "man vs. lion" in the jungle, "man vs. marlin" at sea, "man vs. bull" in the bullring, and especially "man vs. man" in war.

In World War I, Hemingway volunteered as an ambulance driver and was severely injured.


Hemingway, after being injured in WWI (Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park)
When Francisco Franco's fascists warred against the Republican government in Spain, Hemingway went to report and record the battle. And there he was again as a correspondent in World War II.

Yet a decade later when he was living in Cuba, a revolution was going on, and Hemingway did not seek out Castro in the hills or chronicle the war in his own backyard.

Only once did the two men meet, an occasion captured in a photograph taken by Osvaldo Salas.

What happened was that in 1960, the year after Castro had come to power, Hemingway asked Fidel to be a part of his annual marlin-fishing contest.

Says Roberto Salas, Osvaldo's son and also a photographer, "Hemingway had invited Castro to be a judge." But Castro wanted to compete. And there he is in a photograph taken by Osvaldo, fishing with Che Guavera. Che's nose was in a book when Osvaldo Salas took the picture.

And when the contest was over, guess who had landed the biggest marlin? Says Salas, "It just so happened that Castro landed the biggest marlin. It just so happened that Castro won."

As the throng surged around them, Roberto's father elbowed his way through the crowd and pointed his camera and snapped the picture the world remembers.

It was, Salas says, "the only time they ever met."

It was not exactly a private meeting, he explans. "I don't think they could have had too much of a private conversation, because that shows you the maul of people that were all around them," he says.

People often wonder what it was that Papa was whispering in Fidel's ear. Was it about politics? Literature? Could it have been fish?

Salas replies, "It could have been fish."

Go Back to Papa's Place




©1999 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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