In a book based on the friendship of Fidel Castro and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Marquez scholars Angel Esteban and Stephanie Panichelli-Batalla offer an insight into the camaraderie between two of the most influential men of the modern world and the effect their friendship had on their lives and work.
According to Batalla, Marquez, or "Gabo" as he is often affectionately called across Latin America, used to send his completed manuscripts to Fidel before submitting them to his publisher and the Cuban leader would act as an unofficial copy editor to the Colombian Nobel Laureate.
“Many people say that Fidel was an eager reader,” said Batalla. “He would read all the time. You would give him a book one night and the next day he would have read it and have excellent comments on the book."
"He even became one of the first reviewers of Gabo’s books," she added.
Marquez's own political leanings played a major role in his interest in the Cuban Revolution of 1959 and the man behind it. The legendary author was fascinated by Fidel’s socialist model for Cuba, considering it ideal for neighboring countries to adopt across the continent. He considered himself more "a sympathizer than a real militant."
"When I was young,” Marquez told the New Left Review in the April 1983 issue, “he (grandfather) would regale me with horrifying accounts of the last civil war that free-thinkers and anti-clerics waged against the conservative government. My grandfather also told me about the massacre of the banana workers which took place in Aracataca the year I was born. So you see my family influenced me toward rebellion rather than toward upholding the established order."
Marquez was introduced to Marxist teachings while he was in secondary school in Zipaquira, where teachers had been taught Marxist theory under President Alfonso Lopez’s leftist government of the 1930s.
“The algebra teacher would give us classes on historical materialism during break, the chemistry teacher would lend us books by Lenin, and the history teacher would tell us about the class struggle.”
When he graduated from school, Marquez said in the same interview, he left with two clear ideas: that "good novels must be a poetic transposition of reality, and ... that mankind's immediate future lay in socialism."
It would be Fidel who became one of the few people to read first drafts of Marquez’s work including his masterpiece "100 Years of Solitude." While Fidel had no influence on the novel’s character development or plot, the Cuban leader’s eye-for-detail and passion for literature made him an ideal candidate to review the work, said Batalla.
But their relationship went beyond literature and even politics. The author stood by Fidel even when they did not see eye to eye, including when Fidel supported the Soviet intervention of Czechoslovakia in 1968.
“He knows that I’m not going to betray things that he has confided in me, and maybe I’m the person he can trust the most,” Marquez once famously said, unyielding in his support for his friend, comrade and leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro.