February 2, 1964…. ABC news journalist Lisa Howard was waiting for legendary Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro in a suite in Havana’s Hotel Riviera. Lisa decided to go to the bed at 11:30pm after waiting for two hours. Suddenly, someone knocked the door. The young American journalist opened the door and found that the 37-year-old Fidel was standing outside her suite. “You may be the prime minister, but I’m a very important journalist. How dare you keep me waiting…. ,” she told Castro. However, Lisa invited Castro, accompanied by his top aide – René Vallejo, into her room.
It was Lisa’s first interaction with the great Communist leader. Over the next few hours, they talked about various issues from Marxist theory to the treatment of Cuba’s political prisoners……
The US was Castro’s ‘biggest’ enemy…..but he fell in love with the young American journalist on that day! Later, Lisa visited Cuba many times and admitted that she had a relation with Castro and they even shared the same bed.
The archive of the George Washington University recently published a hand-written diary of Lisa, born as Dorothy Jean Guggenheim to a middle-class Jewish family in Ohio on April 24, 1926. In her diary, she revealed the ‘truth’ (about her relation with the revolutionary). The American media had published several articles on the ‘chemistry’ between Lisa and Castro in the past. But, people forgot their relation after Lisa’s death on July 4, 1965 at the age of 39.
The hand-written diary
Lisa started her career as an off-Broadway theatre and soap opera actress. Later, she became a journalist, writer and television news anchor. Her responsibility was to convey the Kennedy and the Johnson governments’ messages to Havana. She also informed Washington about Castro’s activities (secretly).
Once, Lisa wrote: “There is no doubt in my mind that the emotion Fidel inspires in all women is sheer undiluted sexual desire. He is the most physical animal man I have ever known.” She also wrote: “He pulled me over and asked me to sit on his lap, and then spoke to me very gently, and said, ‘Lisa, you are very dangerous for me. I could love a girl like you very deeply. You’re very sweet, very pretty, very intelligent, very sensitive.’”
Lisa discovered a ‘different’ Castro in Havana. Her Castro was a romantic and caring personality. She claimed that leader Castro and her ‘friend’ Castro were completely different. “I do not want you destroyed. … You possess what George Bernard Shaw called ‘that spark of divine fire’. You are not the ruthless, cynical tyrant (your critics) have depicted. … I do not believe you have meant to hurt people, though, in all candour, I am both saddened and outraged that you have destroyed thousands and harmed many more without just cause,” added Lisa.
Finally, Lisa lost her job for ‘biased’ reporting on the activities of Cuban government. The journalist, who had almost single-handedly built an unprecedented bridge between Castro and the Oval Office, ended her life by consuming 100 pills in a parking lot. As she died of the drug overdose, the FBI launched an inquiry to determine whether her death was somehow tied to Che Guevara’s disappearance following his visit to New York. However, the Bureau failed to establish that Lisa’s death was a foul play tied, presumably, to her work on Cuba.
The world will always remember her fearlessness, as Lisa wanted “to live by the truth as she saw it”. She also wanted to speak that truth loud and clear.
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