Fidel Castro eating barbeque during 1959 visit
Fidel Castro, guarded by police, eats barbeque at a local restaurant during his 1959 visit to Houston, Texas.
His government in near collapse and the rebels on Havana's doorstep, Cuban dictator Batista fled to the Dominican Republic on January 1, 1959. Fidel Castro emerged as the leader of the new government. Fidel's first trip to the United States (on April 15, 1959) demonstrated his intelligence. He neither requested nor accepted the classical official invitation; rather, he had himself invited by the press, the Press Club, through the good offices of a man of irreproachable credentials for the American Establishment, Jules Dubois, the Chicago Tribune's correspondent in Cuba, a retired colonel, and a person to whom the State Department listened. For his part, Fidel, through OPLA, hired one of the best public relations firms in the Untied States, and it took charge of all his public appearances during the trip. "Smiles, lots of smiles," was its constant counsel. Afterward the public relations people admitted they had never handled such a consummate actor-even his "fidelenglish" was an asset. He evinced no personality problems and answered the most impertinent questions calmly. He never lost his temper, always kept his good humor. And he visited progressive universities, liberal organizations, the zoo, Yankee Stadium; he ate hot dogs and hamburgers, and tried to make a media splash. Fidel didn't try to pass himself off as a folk hero and never asked for a cent; instead, he tried to look like a calm, serious statesman people would take seriously. (From Family Portrait with Fidel by Carlos Franqui.)