HAVANA – Fidel Castro talked on the phone several days ago with university students who were on a trip to his native province of Santiago de Cuba, a conversation of which several parts were aired on state television this Friday and in which his voice was heard for the first time in more than a year.
The commander in chief of the Cuban Revolution urged the students to visit his childhood home in Biran and the land that in that eastern area of the island was formerly occupied by the United Fruit Company.
“You’re going to find a pretty house, that’s now. In my time there was nothing, no radio, only one of those crank-phones for communicating with the central telephone exchange,” he said in a conversation with the president of the University Students Federation, Randy Perdomo.
The 88-year-old Fidel, who ceded power to younger brother Raul Castro in 2006, told Perdomo that in those days the United Fruit Company, whose lands were expropriated by the revolution, “covered some 140,000 hectares (346,000 acres) sown only with sugar cane and providing work for only three months.”
The university students set off on April 11, 70 years to the day after Fidel entered the University of Havana, on a tour of iconic places in Cuba’s history that eventually took them to the province of Santiago de Cuba where the Castro brothers came from and where the revolution began in 1953 with the assault on the Moncada Barracks and the subsequent uprising in the Sierra Maestra Mountains.
This wasn’t the first time Fidel Castro addressed university students, since it was in a letter sent to them on Jan. 27, after several months of silence, that he spoke about the renewal of diplomatic relations between Cuban and the U.S., 40 days after it was announced.
The letter endorsed the dialogue but expressed a lack of confidence in the intentions of the neighboring country, the chief enemy of Castro’s Cuba for more than 50 years.
Several days later the first photos of Fidel Castro were published in over five months, which coincided with a meeting in his home with Perdomo, and which served to quiet rumors about his health that had been doing the rounds for months.