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And in Central Park, I paid my respects at the Naumburg Bandshell , where he spoke to a crowd of at least 16, I, too, schlepped there. On his hugely popular visit, Castro vanished from his hotel late at night to visit diners. This fusion soon became a staple in New York, and while most have disappeared in recent years, a few have held out.
And just one year after being swarmed by a sea of admiring spectators in Midtown Manhattan, he was now jeered in his car by angry pedestrians. He was the first foreign leader to ever stay in the neighbourhood, and many African Americans, who admired that he had declared an end to racial discrimination in Cuba shortly after assuming power, welcomed him with open arms. I made the pilgrimage to Lexington Avenue and found its regal old-world exterior unchanged.
It was crazy! In a huff, Castro took his strong Cuban contingent far uptown, taking over the Hotel Theresa around the corner from the Apollo Theater on th Street in Harlem. It was a snub to the establishment and a declaration of support for African Americans on the cusp of the Civil Rights Movement.
El Comandante again showed his flair for PR by meeting with Malcolm X while 2, Nation of Islam members rallied in the streets outside the hotel. Photos show the bellboys and desk clerks all sitting next to Castro at the lunch table, still wearing their uniforms.
A bemused doorman broke the sad news of the renovation to me. The majestic old ballroom and dining room had been gutted, he said.
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At night, Castro and his followers — many of whom were young Afro-Cubans, including the head of the armed forces, Juan Almeida — would go out to Harlem diners to eat cheap, hearty burgers, and there are marvellous photos of waitresses flirting and laughing with them. Clocking in at nearly 4 hours and 29 minutes, it was a ringing denunciation of imperialism. From then on, relations with the US slid precipitously.
Castro came back to New York three more times in , and , always to visit the UN — which forced the US to give him a visa. But he never forgot the heady days of his trip.
Yet, turning away from the Theresa, I soon realised that many of the old Harlem businesses Castro and his cronies might have visited in , like theonce-iconic Lenox Lounge, are gone. Instead, I settled for a drink at a nearby restaurant called Red Rooster. In fact, it was as unpredictable as everything that involved following Castro around New York, a city whose appeal has always been its constant reinvention.
Back home in the East Village, I threw myself back into writing my book.
LOVE AFFAIR | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary
More than anything, my Castro scavenger hunt had rekindled my fascination with my adopted hometown. I had explored corners of the city I had never imagined, and chatted with people I would not have otherwise met — which is, after all, the essence of travel itself. But it was a relief to find that the opposite is true: the city may not be what we expect, but it is still as bottomless as ever. Travel Menu. Share on Facebook. Share on Twitter.
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