…Few, meanwhile, know that Fidel has had at least three children out of wedlock, including one with his personal interpreter and longtime mistress, Juanita.
Castro may not be as ostentatious as Khadafy or Saddam Hussein, but he’s rich beyond most people’s dreams. His simple appearance is due more to laziness than austerity. Castro, who rarely wakes before 10 a.m. or 11 a.m., is happy not to wear a suit and confessed that the main reason he has a beard is so he did not have to shave every day.
But there were plenty of perks to being the depository of Cuba’s wealth. He has his own private basketball court where he never lost a game. And his own private hospital housing two people full-time simply because they shared his blood type.
At Punto Cero, each member of his family possessed his or her own cow, so as to satisfy each one’s individual tastes, since the acidity and creaminess of fresh milk varies from one cow to another. And so the milk would arrive on the table, each bottle bearing a number, a little piece of paper scotch-taped onto the bottle, corresponding to each person’s cow.
Antonio’s was No. 8, Angelito’s No. 3, and Fidel’s No. 5, which was also the number he wore on his basketball shirt.
There was no question of deceiving him: Fidel possessed an excellent palate that could immediately detect if the taste of milk did not correspond to that of the previous bottle.
Perhaps most extravagantly, Fidel Castro has his own secret island.
Ironically, he has John F. Kennedy to thank for it. In April 1961, a group of CIA-trained exiles landed at the Bay of Pigs and tried to overthrow the Cuban government. It was a complete fiasco.
In the days following the failed attack, Fidel came to explore the region when he encountered a local fisherman with a wrinkled face whom everyone called El Viejo Finalé. He asked Old Finalé to give him a tour of the area, and the fisherman immediately took him on board his fishing boat to Cayo Piedra, a little “jewel” situated 10 miles from the coast and known only to the local inhabitants.
Fidel instantly fell in love with this place of wild beauty worthy of Robinson Crusoe and decided to have it for his own. The lighthouse keeper was asked to leave the premises and the lighthouse was put out of action and later taken down.
To be precise, Cayo Piedra consists of not one island but two, a passing cyclone having split it in half. Fidel had, however, rectified this by building a 700-foot-long bridge between the two parts.
The southern island was slightly larger than its northern counterpart, and it was here, on the site of the former lighthouse, that Castro and his wife, Dalia, had built their house: a cement-built, L-shaped bungalow arranged around a terrace that looked out to the east, onto the open sea.
While ordinary Cubans suffered, this is where Castro would relax.
On the west side of the island, facing the setting sun, the Castros had built a 200-foot-long landing stage for his personal yacht. The Aquarama II, decorated entirely in exotic wood imported from Angola, had four engines from Soviet navy patrollers, a gift from Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. At full throttle, they propelled Aquarama II at the phenomenal, unbeatable speed of 42 knots, or about 48 miles an hour.
To allow Aquarama II to dock, Fidel and Dalia had also had a half-mile-long channel dug; without this, their flotilla would not have been able to reach the island, surrounded by sand shoals.
The jetty formed the epicenter of social life on Cayo Piedra.
A floating pontoon, 23 feet long, had been annexed to it, and on the pontoon stood a straw hut with a bar and barbecue grill.
From this floating bar and restaurant, everyone could admire the sea enclosure in which, to the delight of adults and children alike, turtles (some 3 feet long) were kept. On the other side of the landing stage was a dolphinarium containing two tame dolphins that livened up our daily routines with their pranks and jumps.
Fidel Castro also let it be understood, and sometimes directly stated, that the revolution left him no possibility for respite or leisure and that he knew nothing about, and even despised, the bourgeois concept of vacation. Nothing could have been further from the truth…
The Cuban economy, which derived almost 80% of its external trade from the eastern bloc, was collapsing like a house of cards and households were surviving on the breadline while the GNP had decreased by 35% and electricity supplies were seriously inadequate.
Meanwhile, Fidel Castro sipped his whiskey on the rocks and ate fresh fish in the shade of his secret island.