[Below is the last part of a long article by Linda Diebel that was published in the May 10, 1997 issue of The Toronto Star. It is about the love affair between Fidel Castro and Naty Revuelta, an experience which more or less wrecked her life. The rich, beautiful, green-eyed blond was married to a prominent cardiologist, an older man with whom she had had a daughter. Her political sympathies prompted her to start attending meetings of the opposition Orthodox party (with which Castro was associated) and it was there, in 1952, that she first set eyes on the charismatic revolutionary. For months, later, years at a stretch, she didn’t see him. But she soon became caught up in the cause, providing moral support to Castro and his fellow rebels, and eventually allowing them to use her husband’s house for their meetings. Naty and Castro became lovers 1955. Their daughter was born in 1956. Somebody should have warned her about a certain kind of man, especially a man born to lead a cause. But it probably wouldn’t have made any difference. Does that mean that some people are destined to be ‘unlucky in love’?]
There are lasting things in life, despite the miseries; there are eternal things—such impressions that I have of you, so unforgettable that I will take them with me to my grave. — Castro from his prison cell on the Isle of Pines, Nov. 7, 1953.
The love letters began from prison.
Revuelta has kept them all. She waited for him to write to her, “like a girl waiting for a phone to ring.”
Once he did, she unleashed an outpouring of letters, brimming with accounts of books, plays, music, art, politics and, even, gossip.
“I simply devoted myself to making life a little more colourful for him. I imagined his life to be very dull, very gray, and I wanted to change that,” she says. “I brought colour to his life.”
“We played in our letters.”
She sent him a book by Sommerset Maugham, with a photo of the wedding-gift portrait of her on the cover, layered with rice paper to make it look like part of the book. It was their joke.
There is a type of honey that never satiates. That is the secret of your letters. I have been meaning to ask you for several days now to stop using the typewriter once in a while and write longhand . . . I love your hand-writing, so delicate, feminine, unmistakable. — Castro from his prison cell, Jan. 31, 1954.
She showered him with poems, songs and books by Honoré de Balzac, Feodor Dostoevski and Victor Hugo. He especially loved Hugo’s Les Misérables, writing: “I did not want it to end!”
They read the same books at the same time. She dreamed of him.
On May 15, 1955, he was freed. He came to Havana.
And, thus, began their intimate times together. She says their daughter was born in 1956.
She saw him first at his sister’s apartment, then in an adjoining apartment, rented by the Orthodox party and “no bigger than the size of an egg—we had to squeeze through.
“It was a big surprise to see him. So exciting. It was like the first encounter,” she says. “It was really wonderful. We had so much to say to each other.”
The days were hot and hurried. They had no time—just stolen hours, here and there, to be together in their little sanctuary. It was intense. It was dangerous, dazzling—unforgettable.
And then, over.
“It was so short,” she says. “It just swept by, just swept by.
“Someone once said I have had a very intensive life, and my daughter said, ‘No, my mother has had an extensive life.’
“I have had both. The intensity has been short-lived. But very intense.”
Within six weeks, Castro left for Mexico. He would return to Cuba in November, 1956, on a rickety yacht, the Granma, to fight the revolution that would end with his triumphant march from the Sierra Madre mountains into Havana on Jan. 1, 1959.
For three years, she had written incessantly. Two and three letters a day.
Would she have gone with him?
“I have asked myself that question many times,” she says.
“First, he would never have asked me, but even so, I had one, and then, later, two daughters to care for.
“Some people have told me he sent me messages to join him. I don’t know. But I’ve never said to him, ‘Did you ask me to come to you?’ ”
Instead, she waited.
“In my case, there is no greater pleasure than to anticipate your needs and I would give my right hand so that my letters were always a source of peace for you. What I always want is your happiness.” — Castro from his prison cell, Jan. 5, 1954.
It was not to be.
Castro, of course, became president, later to evolve into El Lider Maximo and the man who has held Cub in an iron grip for 38 years.
They continued to see each other, for a year, maybe two. But it was different.
“He entered his new life and he changed,” she say. “Circumstances simply opened different options for us.”
Rumours of other women. Lives drifting apart.
Still, hanging in the soft air between us, unspoken, is the truth.
He broke her heart.
She doesn’t want to talk about the last years.
“I do not ever want to sound bitter,” she says. She’s not. She doesn’t wear the face of a bitter woman.
Interestingly, at one point earlier she gave a glimpse of Castro as paramour. She had laughed when told Canada’s Margaret Trudeau once called Castro “the sexiest man (she’d) ever met.”
“Well,” Revuelta had said, slipping a cigarette into her holder, “I think of Fidel more as Ho Chi Minh than Pierre Trudeau.”
She was referring to the late Vietnamese revolutionary, driven by his cause and hardly perceived as dashing.
Nor does she wish to discuss Castro’s political life. She still lives in Cuba, they share a daughter and a granddaughter.
She shrugs. “Power changes people,” she says. No more.
Her life is one of faded grandeur in her home, surrounded by lovely things, with flowers all around. There are hardships as there are for everyone in Cuba. But Castro’s revolution, it would seem, has not treated everyone quite equally.
Still, like all of us, she has paid a price for her choices.
She lives alone with her 96-year-old mother, a few longtime faithful servants and her beloved dog. Her daughers are far away. She has a few close friends whom she sees, occasionally.
“I have confronted a lot of family problems. I have had a lot of loneliness in my life,” she says.
“I am alone now. But I am not lonely. I am simply a person who has learned to live with myself.”
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