My memories of a giant who always stood tall
Iwas thrilled in 2004 when I was given an assignment to cover PresidentHu Jintao’s visit to Cuba. I had regretted never seeing Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the late revolutionary, in person. How exciting it would be, I thought, to meet his closest comrade and a giant of the 20th century.
A month before the visit, Fidel Castro, then 78, had injured his left knee, so I was surprised to see him on Nov 22 at a ceremony in the Palace of the Revolution, where he andHu witnessed the signing of a raft of agreements between Beijing andHavana.
I stood just meters from Castro. He wore a dark suit and red tie, and was seated in an armchair, with his leg resting on a cloth cushion. He was tall and thin, and had gleaming, penetrating eyes. His signature long, black beard had turned a wispy gray.
As the signing ceremony finished, he jerked his index finger and the hall erupted in applause. I noticed, too, that he attempted in vain to move his left leg.
The next day, when the countries’ national anthems were played at the hall, I sawCastro push himself against the armchair and, with the help of a walking stick, he stood for the first time since his injury. He went on to deliver a pounding speech, hailing the brotherly relations between China and Cuba.
I visited Cuba again on Sept 25 this year. This time, I didn’t have an opportunity to see Castro. But at theHotel Nacional de Cuba, I noticed a huge picture of him as a rugged soldier fighting in the eastern SierraMaestra mountains. This picture will remain forever in the memory for people inHavana and beyond.
Hundreds of people gather on Saturday at the University of Havana to mourn their former president’s death.