Peek into Fidel Castro's past in Cuba's wild east
- Submitted by: manso
- 07 / 31 / 2010
Oriente is the steamy, jungle-dense, tourism-free side of Cuba – it is also where Fidel Castro grew up. Lydia Bell visits his
Castro's home, exterior, Biran The Castro family finca in Cuba's wild east is now a museum, the Conjunto Histórico Birán, above, celebrating Fidel and his revolution.
The clapped-out Moskvich is blaring Charanga Forever, the hottest salsa band in Cuba. Its owner, Yasser, is being paid to drive us to the Sierra Maestra.
Twenty minutes later, past a tiny hamlet called Birán, we arrive at a remote farm overlooked by mountains, set in sun-kissed meadows. There is no one there save a couple of guards who send for a guide for us. We have chanced upon an extraordinary place: the estate where the nine Castro siblings spent their halcyon childhood.
I had no idea Fidel's father was so successful. An immigrant from Spain, Angel Castro married Lina, a Cuban girl 28 years his junior, and bought a farm, which he kept expanding (Fidel ultimately confiscated land from his father: no special treatment there). Angel built a general store, telegraph room, school, hotel and mini cockfighting stadium.
You can visit the house Fidel's parents lived in until their death. Lina's bedroom is dotted with religious statues, her glass-top dresser decorated with clippings of her son in the jungle.
There is Angel's old wardrobe with his clothes hanging there, and all the family bric-a-brac. In a country of closed doors, which knows about as much about museum curating as it does about hedge fund management, this is most compelling – perhaps because it was rescued from dilapidation and passionately restored in 1979 by Celia Sánchez, a revolutionary leader.
By: Lydia Bell
Source: Photograph: Patrick Frilet /Rex Features