MIAMI – Although he considered pornography a capitalist vice, Fidel Castro had in Playboy, the most infamous female nude magazine in the world, an unusual ally to propagate his ideas and secure support for the Cuban Revolution.
In his book “Fidel Castro, Comandante Playboy, Sex, Revolution and the Cold War,” to be released Saturday in Miami by Cuban writer and journalist Carlos Alberto Montaner, Cuban essayist Abel Sierra Madero explains the connection between Hugh Hefner’s raunchy empire and the leader of the Cuban Revolution.
The writer also delves into how the “Comandante” became a celebrity in the United States with gossip magazines and media taking an interest in his allegedly relaxed sexual preferences, which, paired with his militant communism made him the “incarnation of all evils,” Sierra Madero told EFE.
Playboy published two interviews with Fidel Castro: one in 1967 conducted by Lee Lockwood, and another in 1985, by Jeffrey M. Elliot and Congressman Mervyn M. Dymally.
In 1975, the French Oui, another publication of the group, reproduced excerpts from an interview with Castro by Frank Mankiewicz, Kirby Jones and Fernando Morais.
The Playboy interviews reached some six million readers.
Castro knew exactly what he was doing when he agreed to interviews that would never see the light of day in Cuba, Sierro Madero, who has an interest in the history of sexuality and in 2006 won the Casa de las Americas Prize for “Del Otro Lado del Espejo” (On The Other Side of The Mirror).
Hefner also knew what he was doing by giving Castro a voicebox for his regime.
“Playboy played a fundamental role in the debates over the normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba,” the author added.
Hefner, along with the CBS media corporation, Boeing and IBM, among others, collectively exerted pressure to reestablish economic and commercial ties with the Caribbean island.
The group succeeded on “a mediatic, symbolic and political level” in great part thanks to the backing of Kirby Jones, who brokered several commercial deals between American companies and the Cuban government and who had ties to Democratic senator George McGovern.
Recently declassified documents by the US State Department suggest that Jimmy Carter had the intention of eliminating the Cuban economic blockade if he was re-elected president in 1981, but it was Ronald Reagan who emerged victorious from the polls.
According to one of the memoranda, in a meeting at Camp David with senior members of his cabinet on May 3, 1980, Carter said that he wanted to lift the economic embargo on the island state.
Paradoxically, Castro was never interested in those efforts prospering, Sierra Moreno continued.
“His model of a besieged nation and the confrontation with the United States was key” for his aim of controlling everything in Cuba, the essayist mused.
“He was a left-wing populist, with a leftist discourse that ended up closer to the right,” Sierra Madero said of the man who officially led Cuba between 1959 and 2007, after which he delegated to his brother Raul due to illness.
In the 1967 Lockwood interview for Playboy, the journalist asked Castro if he deceived his fellow citizens by not declaring himself a communist until he was in power.
Lockwood also asked him if he imagined himself as an old retired statesman. Castro’s response was that he found it hard to imagine himself as old because he would be unable of indulging in hobbies such as hiking and fishing.
Castro said that when he retired he would immerse himself in learning, experimenting and working the fields, and that he would try not to fall into the “mania” of thinking that young people were upsetting everything.
Sierra Madero believes that Castro became a myth due to the Cold War, a period that in his opinion should be “revisited.”
The ideological tourism that he promoted to present a false image of a joyful and happy Cuba to intellectuals and international personalities was one of the mainstays to maintain the aura of the revolution, which for Sierra Madero ended in 1968 when Castro supported the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.
If Playboy was a Disneyland for adults, Cuba was Castrolandia and its boss serving as the main attraction, the author concluded.