Castro Moves Into the Havana Hilton

By Sandra M. Castillo b. 1962

“History always dresses us for the wrong occasions.”
—Ricardo Pau-Llosa

Camera Obscura

The afternoon lightening his shadow,
Fidel descends from the mountains,
the clean-shaven lawyer turned guerilla,
his eyes focused on infinity,
El Jefe Máximo con sus Barbudos,
rebels with rosary beads
on their 600-mile procession across the island
with campesinos on horseback, flatbed trucks, tanks,
a new year’s journey down the oldest roads
towards betrayal.

Ambient light. Available light

Light inside of them,
nameless isleños line El Malecón to touch Fidel,
already defining himself in black and white.
The dramatic sky moving in for the close-up
that will frame his all-night oratory,
he turns to the crowd,
variations on an enigma,
waving from his pulpit with rehearsed eloquence,
a dove on his shoulder.

This is a photograph. This is not a sign.

Flash-on camera. Celebrity portraits.

          1.     Fidel on a balcony across the street
                  from Grand Central Station,
                  an American flag above his head,
                  New York, 1959.

          2.     Fidel made small by the Lincoln Memorial,
                  Washington D.C., 1959.

          3.     Fidel learning to ski,
                  a minor black ball against a white landscape,
                  Russia, 1962.

          4.     Fidel and shotgun,
                  hunting with Nikita,
                  Russia, 1962.

Circles of Confusion

Beyond photographs,
Havana is looted and burned.
Women weep at out wailing wall,
El Paredón, where traitors are taken,
and television cameras shoot
the executions, this blood soup,
the paradoxes of our lives,
three years before I am born.


But it is late afternoon,
and a shower of confetti and serpentine
falls from every floor of the Havana Hilton,
where history is a giant piñata,
where at midnight, Fidel will be photographed
eating a ham sandwich.

Sandra M. Castillo, “Castro Moves Into the Havana Hilton” from My Father Sings, to My Embarrassment. Copyright © 2002 by Sandra M. Castillo. Reprinted by permission of White Pine Press.

Source: My Father Sings to My Embarrassment (White Pine Press, 2002)

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Poet Sandra M. Castillo b. 1962

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Arts & Sciences, Photography & Film, Social Commentaries, History & Politics

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Sandra M. Castillo


Born in Havana, Cuba, poet Sandra Castillo moved to Miami, Florida, with her family in 1970. Castillo earned both her BA and MA in creative writing from Florida State University. She is the author of My Father Sings to My Embarrassment (2002), selected by Cornelius Eady for the White Pine Press Poetry Prize. Her poems have been published in Cimarron Review, Midway Journal, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, PALABRA: A Magazine of . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Photography & Film, Social Commentaries, History & Politics

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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