FIDEL CASTRO, CHE GUEVARA, CAMILO CIENFUEGOS AND THE CUBAN REVOLUTION
A tremendous association piece and great rarity, a letter from the three-time president of Costa Rica bearing several rare endorsements including and A.E.S. of FIDEL CASTRO RUZ (b. 1926) "Fidel Castro" together with endorsements of ERNESTO CHE GUEVARA (1928-1967) "Che", CAMILO CIENFUEGOS GORRIARAN (1931-1959) "Camilo Cienfuegos", PEDRO LUIS DIAZ LANZ (1926-2008) "Pedro Luis Diaz", JOSE PARDO LLADA (c. 1923-2009) "Jose Pardo Llada" together with two other unidentified endorsements on the recto and verso of a fine content T.L.S. of three-time Costa Rican President, JOSE FIGUERES FERRER (1906-1990) "J Figures", 1p. 4to., San Jose, Jan. 2, 1959, in Spanish, a letter of introduction for Luccio Ranucci, a reporter for the magazine, La Republica, testifying to the man's character, loosely translated: "The bearer of this, Mr. Lucci Ranucci, is editor and special correspondent of the newspaper 'La Republica' of San Jose de Costa Rica. A good friend of ours and a person of complete confidence. It is our good friend and person of complete trust. He goes to Cuba on journalistic mission. Any help you pay for the fulfillment of their reporting, would be appreciated".
Jose Figueres, a longtime foe of Latin American despots, had formed the Caribbean Legion in 1949 to plot the overthrow of the dictatorships of the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Costa Rica. Some of the Legion's early members included Castro and Guevara. The Batista regime in Cuba also fell into Figueres' crosshairs, and he orchestrated the supply of arms to Castro's rebels. Those arms were flown by none other than one of the endorsers of this letter, PEDRO LUIS DIAZ LANZ, who was working as a commercial pilot with the airline Aerovias Q.
The letter was endorsed over a week-long period as the revolutionary leaders arrived in Havana following the fall of the Batista regime on Jan. 1, 1959. The first two to arrive in Havana were ERNESTO CHE GUEVARA and CAMILO CIENFUEGOS GORRIARAN who add their endorsements to the letter on the 4th and 5th of January respectively. Guevara writes (and roughly translated) "For the democrat that made freedom possible [?] in the freedom of America. Che" Cienfuegos writes, on the verso, (and roughly translated) "In this hour of victory... the democratic people of America, among those who have defended the liberty of Hispanic Americans...you show respect, and send our affection.... Liberty or Death [Libertad o Muerte]". The same day, the recently appointed head of the air force (and aforementioned arms smuggler between Costa Rica and Cuba), PEDRO LUIS DIAZ LANZ adds a lengthy A.E.S.(misdated 1958) addressing Figures as "Don Pepe" thanking him for his contributions to the furtherance of the cause of democracy in Latin America. Diaz had been appointed as head of the Revolutionary Air Force and served as Castro's personal pilot, but he soon became a vocal opponent the rise of communist influence in the revolutionary government. On June 29, 1959 Castro relived him of his post and he immediately departed for Florida by boat. He would return on October via plane, dropping anti-communist leaflets over Havana, reportedly accompanied by Frank Sturgis. He was then recruited by the CIA and became a member of Operation 40 that carried out secret operations against Castro.
The reporter who was carrying the note then left Havana that day and travelled east to Santa Clara to meet Castro, who had been moving slowly toward Havana in what became an extended victory parade (he did not arrive in Havana until Jan. 8). Writing from Santa Clara on Jan. 6, Castro added his endorsement (also misdated 1958) sending his greetings to "Pepe Figures...a friend in desperate times..." and thanking him for this support of democracy in the Americas.
The letter also bears an undated A.E.S. of FAURE CHOMON (b. 1929) a student leader who participated in the 1957 attack against Cuba's presidential palace and led a guerrilla column in 1958. It is also endorsed by JOSE PARDO LLADA (c. 1923-2009) a prominent Cuban radio journalist who was a major critic of Batista and was arrested 27 times between 1952-1958. He also covered Castro's rise to power but went into exile three years later considering the new Cuban leader, 'egocentric.' Castro responded by branding him a traitor.
The reporter retained the document, which served as a sort of passport ensuring him safe passage throughout Cuba. It came back into the possession of the Figures family as the document was accomplished in Luccio's capacity as a reporter for La Republica The document has been laminated in very thin plastic. Although this is considered a serious defect among collectors, it may have helped preserve the document during its long stay in a very warm and humid climate, a traditional enemy to paper, especially paper with high wood pulp content. Apart from the laminate, the letter bears the usual folds, a minor chip at the top margin, and is in otherwise very good condition. This is the one of the finest pieces we have encountered concerning the Cuban Revolution and captures the spirit of the revolution's early days.