Castro, Sartre and de Beauvoir, Cuba, 1960

Colorization & Restoration by Manos Athanasiadis

Fidel Castro, Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir with Celia Sanchez and Juan Arcocha in the Cienaga de Zapata, Cuba. (Photo by Alberto Korda) October 1960

Fidel Castro (middle), Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir (front) with Juan Arcocha (left) and Celia Sanchez (behind) cruising the Cienaga de Zapata, Cuba in October 1960 (Photo by Alberto Korda)

Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz (born August 13, 1926) is a Cuban politician and revolutionary who served as Prime Minister of the Republic of Cuba from 1959 to 1976 and then President from 1976 to 2008. Politically a Marxist–Leninist and Cuban nationalist, he also served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from 1961 until 2011. Under his administration Cuba became a one-party socialist state; industry and business were nationalized, and state socialist reforms were implemented throughout society. Internationally, Castro was the Secretary-General of the Non-Aligned Movement from 1979 to 1983 and from 2006 to 2008.
Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre (1905-1980) was a French philosopher, playwright, novelist, political activist, biographer, and literary critic. He was one of the key figures in the philosophy of existentialism and phenomenology, and one of the leading figures in 20th-century French philosophy and Marxism. His work has also influenced sociology, critical theory, post-colonial theory, and literary studies, and continues to influence these disciplines. Sartre has also been noted for his open relationship with the prominent feminist theorist Simone de Beauvoir.
He was awarded the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature but refused it, saying that he always declined official honours and that “a writer should not allow himself to be turned into an institution”.
Simone Lucie Ernestine Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir (1908-1986), was a French writer, intellectual, existentialist philosopher, political activist, feminist and social theorist. Though she did not consider herself a philosopher, she had a significant influence on both feminist existentialism and feminist theory. De Beauvoir wrote novels, essays, biographies, autobiography and monographs on philosophy, politics and social issues. She is known for her 1949 treatise “The Second Sex”, a detailed analysis of women’s oppression and a foundational tract of contemporary feminism; and for her novels, including “She Came to Stay” and “The Mandarins”. She is also known for her open relationship with French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre.
Alberto Diaz Gutiérrez, better known as Alberto Korda (1928-2001) was a Cuban photographer, remembered for his famous image “Guerrillero Heroico” of Argentine Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara.
Juan Arcocha (1927-2010) was a Cuban intellectual; lawyer, writer, journalist, translator and interpreter. He wrote numerous novels that have been translated into several languages.
Celia Sánchez Manduley (1920–1980) was a Cuban revolutionary, politician, researcher and archivist. She was a close friend of Fidel Castro. Her face appears in the watermark on Cuban peso banknotes.
–  Excerpts from Eugene Wolters’ article in Critical Theory
In 1960, during the afterglow of the Cuban revolution, Simone de Beauvoir, the famous feminist philosopher took a trip with her long-time companion Sartre to Havana. They were part of a larger flock of leftist intellectuals who were invited to Cuba to attend cultural congresses. When they arrived in February, they met with Che Guevara and talked for hours. Photos were taken by Cuban photographer Alberto Korda. Korda is often known for his iconic photo of Che that has since become the basis for the image plastered on t-shirts, buttons and posters. Incidentally, that image shares the same reel of film as many images featuring Sartre and de Beauvoir in Havana.
De Beauvoir later wrote: “Well-known performers danced or sang in the squares to swell the fund; pretty girls in their carnival fancy dresses, led by a band, went through the streets making collections.”It’s the honeymoon of the Revolution,” Sartre said to me. No machinery, no bureaucracy, but a direct contact between leaders and people, and a mass of seething and slightly confused hopes. It wouldn’t last forever, but it was a comforting sight. For the first time in our lives, we were witnessing happiness that had been attained by violence.”
Later that year in October, Sartre and de Beauvoir returned to Cuba, but were somewhat disappointed. Fidel invited Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir to visit Cuba again, and they did, but this time they weren’t so entranced. “Havana had changed; no more nightclubs, no more gambling, and no more American tourists; in the half empty Nacional Hotel, some very young members of the militia, boys and girls, were holding a conference. On every side, in the streets, the militia was drilling,” de Beauvoir wrote. The atmosphere was tense with rumors of invasion, and a notable air of repressive uniformity was seeping into Cuban life. When Sartre and de Beauvoir asked workers at clothing mill how their lives had benefited from the revolution, a union leader quickly stepped forward to speak on their behalf, parroting the government’s dogma.
Later, Sartre’s relation with Castro soured. In 1971, after Sartre had taken up the case of the imprisoned Cuban poet Herberto Padilla, he found himself being denounced by his erstwhile comrade Castro as being among the “bourgeois liberal gentleman…two bit agents of colonialism…agents of the CIA and intelligence services of imperialism” who had dared to criticize Cuba. Sartre responded with a plea to Castro to ‘spare Cuba the dogmatic obscurantism, the cultural xenophobia and the repressive system which Stalinism imposed in the socialist countries.
Sources/More to Read:
Critical Theory: Incredible Candid Photos of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir in Cuba
Wikipedia: Fidel Castro
Wikipedia: Jean-Paul Sartre
Wikipedia: Simone de Beauvoir
Wikipedia: Alberto Korda
Wikipedia: Juan Arcocha
Wikipedia: Celia Sánchez


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