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Long Night with Fidel Castro: Intellectuals Discuss the Cuban Revolution

Carlos Aguirre, University of Oregon; PLAS Visiting Research Scholar and Visiting Professor; Jocelyn Olcott, Duke University; Institute for Advanced Study

Tue, 3/5 · 12:00 pm1:20 pm · 216 Aaron Burr Hall

Program in Latin American Studies

On January 8, 1967, a group of prominent foreign and Cuban intellectuals gathered for dinner at the Museo de Artes Decorativas in Havana. Most of them were members of the advisory board of the journal Casa de las Américas who had been convened for their first meeting ever. Sometime between 10 and 11 pm, and without advance notice, Fidel Castro showed up and announced that he had come to dialogue with the group and answer any questions and criticisms they may have. Recent developments in Cuba had generated concerns about the path of the Revolution, and Castro wanted to confront them head-on, particularly foreign friends of the Revolution like Mario Benedetti, Julio Cortázar, Ángel Rama, Mario Vargas Llosa, and others. The meeting lasted until about 7 am and, in typical fashion, included long soliloquies by Castro, who talked about the treatment of homosexuals in Cuba, Che Guevara and the future of Latin American guerrillas, the Cuban exile, censorship in Cuba and the Soviet Union, and many other topics. In some cases, he admitted mistakes and promised rectifications. This presentation will analyze the reasons behind Castro’s decision to meet with intellectuals, the performative nature of the encounter, the testimonies left by several participants, and whether the meeting actually led to the changes Castro announced.


Carlos Aguirre (Ph.D., University of Minnesota), a professor of history at the University of Oregon, is a Visiting Research Fellow at PLAS. He is the author or editor of several books on the history of slavery, prisons, intellectuals, and print culture, including, most recently, Cinco días en Moscú. Mario Vargas Llosa y el socialismo soviético, with Kristina Buynova (2024), Las cartas del Boom (2023), Alberto Flores Galindo. Utopía, historia y revolución, with Charles Walker (2020), and The Peculiar Revolution. Rethinking the Peruvian Experiment Under Military Rule (2017). Professor Aguirre has been the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship and the Faculty Excellence Award at the University of Oregon. He is currently at work on a book about Latin American intellectuals and the Cuban revolution between 1959 and 1975. During his stay at Princeton, he is teaching a seminar on “The Long 1960s in Latin America: Utopian Dreams, Harsh Realities.”

Discussant: Jocelyn Olcott, Historian, Duke University; Institute for Advanced Study (IAS)

This event is open to students, faculty, visiting scholars and staff. Lunch provided while supplies last.

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