January 1959: Fidel in Venezuela, a Telluric Visit

By Dalia Reyes Perera on January 26, 2024

Just days after the triumph of the Revolution Fidel goes to Venezuela to thank them.

On January 23, 1959, just days after the triumph of the Cuban revolution, Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro visited Venezuela. The leader’s stay corresponded to a historical debt Cuba had with the sister nation.

According to Professor Rubén Rodríguez Echevarría, President of the José Martí Cultural Society of the Venezuela Chapter “we had a historical debt with the Venezuelan people; in 1958, when Fidel was in the Sierra Maestra, Radio Continental in Venezuela distributed to the Americas the voice of Radio Rebelde and our military reports. It was invaluable help from that dear people to tell the truths of the Cuban process. Also in 1958 Venezuelans created the One Bolivar Campaign for the Sierra, through which they were able to contribute six tons of weapons for the struggle. Also Manuel Urrutia -who later betrayed the revolution- but who was destined to be the first President of the Republic for just a few months, remained protected by the Venezuelan people and by the 26th of July Movement here to not just save his life but were able to move him to the island after the  Revolution triumphed. Also on January 27, 1958, the March of the Torches in honor of the birthday of Marti was held in Caracas, a replica of the one that took place in Cuba”.

Echevarría recalled that, “Fidel’s visit in January 1959 is the first he made as Head of the Revolution, but it was not his first encounter with Venezuela, in 1948 he had been in Bogota as a student leader, (remember the Bogotazo), and Fidel was one of the insurgents defending the democratic process in that country; then he moved to Venezuela. Of course, in 1959, grateful for the support of his brothers, the first visit he made after the rebel victory was to the Venezuelan homeland. “ he explained.

It was an unscripted whirl wind visit, telluric, that broke protocols, as he met with representatives of different spheres of society, students, workers, politicians, exiles, and people that acclaimed him everywhere.

The professor recalled that according to the press of the time “Fidel arrives on January 23 with the features that always characterized him, he was always a hurricane; he arrives at the Maiquetia Airport, breaks protocols, gets on a truck with the bearded men that went from the Guaira Highway to Caracas, to our Embassy, at another moment he breaks the protocol again, escapes from his Personal Security, climbs the Avila (the current Waraira Repano), the mountain range that surrounds Caracas, he meets with the authorities of the country that were avoiding him, because in fact he had not been invited by them but rather the Venezuelan people, he talks with the students, Dominican exiles, with leaders of the Venezuelan Parliament, he makes a hurricane stay as he always did, he was at the Central University of Venezuela (UCV), and gave a magnificent speech before the young people”.

The professor recalls that after forty years, the Commander in Chief returned to the Aula Magna of the UCV and “as he himself says, it was another Fidel, another people, another city, but it is the same historical moment, it was a cardinal speech for America, and it was there that he says the historical phrase “A Revolution can only be the daughter of culture and ideas”.

It was precisely the Venezuelan people who welcomed Fidel with all the love that the sons and daughters of this land know how to give.

According to Rodriguez Echevarria “His stay in Venezuela in 1959 was telluric, beautiful, he recognizes that he was very happy about the encounter, because, as he says, the Cuban people is our natural people and he was by logic directly grateful; but in an apparently foreign land as Venezuela was, to feel so many signs of joy, fervor, gratitude, support, company, support for the Cuban Revolution was a stellar moment that reminded him of the love of the Venezuelans for Jose Marti, during his stay in 1881 in this beloved homeland”.

thousands filled O’ Leary Plaza to greet Fidel.

The  President of the José Martí Cultural Society describes that meeting as “hurricane-like, he arrived at the Plaza O’Leary full of people, there he spoke of the history of Venezuela, of Martí, of Bolívar, of the struggles of the Venezuelan people and thanked  them for allowing him to stay in their country a year after the fall of the dictatorship of Marcos Pérez Jiménez”.

Further on, the researcher emphasized; “undoubtedly, it was an incredible event, as spectacular as the entrance of the Caravan of Freedom to Havana on January 8, because the two capitals were flooded with the humble, the peasant, the popular teacher, the man of the people, beyond the company of political figures, of culture, commerce, economy, education that were with him, beyond the company of political figures, culture, commerce, economy, I compare it with the joy of the entry of the bearded rebels into Havana on January 8 just a few days before this event, they were two triumphal entries of our giant of America into the most volcanic capitals of American history”.

For Fidel, his stay in Venezuela lasted just a days after the triumph. It was an enriching visit, since in his opinion “it was a beautiful symbiosis”. Fidel had to return to this Homeland, it was necessary for him to come to get a second wind, to start the Revolution that marked a milestone in Latin American history. He was compelled to come to Venezuela to thank, to be nourished by the people, by the Venezuelan sap, by the Venezuelan history. He stopped to talk to the people in the streets into the early hours of the morning, he ate with the most destitute, he shared with the poorest, he lived Caracas at night, at dawn, he climbed the Waraira Repano, and was nourished by the people in the Plaza O’Leary. Clearly for the revolutionary forces in Venezuela his presence was very important, also the Dominican exiles welcomed him with affection, Fidel’s presence was nourishing for the Venezuelan, Dominican, Puerto Rican revolutionaries and for the Cuban exiles who remained in Venezuela and who had fought since the 26th of July Movement (M-26-7) and of course, this journey impacted the people of Cuba and its maximum leader who inhaled this democratic air to undertake the great tasks that lay ahead. It was also decisive for the great events that took place later in the continent and the rest of the world”.

Such was Fidel’s stay in Venezuela in January 1959, a telluric visit that strengthened roots of love between two of our American homelands, the homelands of Marti and Bolivar.

Source: Network in Defense of Humanity (REDH) translation Resumen Latinoamericano – English