Young Fidel

Both Fidel Castro and Ernesto “Che” Guevara came from well-off families.

Now, the small community created by Fidel’s father is a well-preserved museum, visited recently by Lyn Funnell.

Fidel’s father Angel moved to Cuba from Spain. His first marriage failed and he then married his housekeeper Lina, a Cuban girl 28 years younger than him, and they produced seven children; three boys and four girls.

Angel bought a farm of 25,000 acres in Biran in 1915 and made a fortune from growing sugar cane, timber from the pine forest, and cattle. He developed the farm, constructing among other buildings a small school, a bar, shop and post office, a hotel for passing travellers, family homes and a small open building used for cock fighting, and also dog fighting.

Dotted around are small huts which were homes for the 400-odd residents.

The farm provided employment for local farm workers as well as Jamaican and Haitian migrants in the area. Apparently Angel was a very good boss. He created a community, educating the workers’ children and also providing medical care. And his workers were paid a fair wage.

It was a hot day when our coach arrived at the Biran farm.

We weren’t allowed to take our bags off the coach, but we could carry anything we needed, like cameras and water bottles.

Angel Castro’s grave

Our guide took us to see Angel’s grave. He died after collapsing with a heart attack in the bathroom in 1956.

Castro school

Nearby is the schoolroom, where Fidel and his siblings sat with the farmworkers’ children to have their lessons. No special treatment for them!

The cock/dogfighting site was next. We were told that Fidel and his friends first started planning their revolution here.

Cock/dog fighting arena

While our guide was explaining this, two dogs appeared and loudly had sex in front of us.

Maybe they were descended from fighting dogs and wanted to demonstrate that it was better to make love, not war!

Hotel

We moved on to see the shop, bar and post office. Across the grass is the old hotel that was given to one of Fidel’s sisters to live in as a wedding present.

The two dogs trotted along beside us and then happily gave another sexual demonstration.

They’d got more energy that we had in that heat!

Family car

Underneath one of the family homes is a huge open garage with one of the Castro family’s old cars in it. Nobody’s allowed in the house at the moment as it was badly damaged by a hurricane.

Next, we strolled along to see the small museum filled with family photos. Then we queued to go upstairs to see the family home.

Fidel & brother’s bedroom

It was fascinating. It’s frozen in time. Even the family clothes are left hanging in the wardrobes and the beds are still made, as though awaiting the return of their occupants.

TV

The house had luxuries that the average Cuban didn’t own, and had never even seen.

In the lounge is a small TV, but I wonder if there were many programmes transmitted for the Castro family to watch in the stifling hot evenings.

The bathroom must have been sheer luxury. It even had a bidet!

A lot of Cubans still don’t have plumbed-in bathrooms

Through the living area

And yet the Castro family were living with all modern amenities in the early 20th century.

As I walked around the well-kept land, I had a feeling of complete peace. I’d love to go and spend a day there, relaxing and walking in the nearby countryside. It’s a lovely place to visit – if you can get there!

The nearest town is 3 km away and there are no hotels for miles.

In the museum itself, they’re missing the chance to make a lot of money. There’s no shop or café. I was gasping for a cold drink, but there’s nowhere to buy one.

There are no souvenir guide books, no Fidel fridge magnets, no corny Castro keyrings, no photos and no cold cans of Coke.

Tourists turn up on coaches with money to spend, but with nothing to spend it on!

This youtube link takes you on a reality tour round the site.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DU0KkiFBesc

On the drive to Biran, we passed fruit and vegetable stalls, all lovingly set up by the roadside.

The proprietors didn’t have cars parked beside them, they had a horse and cart.

We didn’t see many cars at all until we approached the industrial town of Biran.

The Castro family must have attracted a lot of attention in the region as they drove along!

Our coach stopped later as we drove through the countryside to knock on a door and ask the lady there if some of us could use the loo. She was delighted to invite us in her house. The family was gathered round the small old-fashioned TV. But the toilet was full to the brim and there was nothing to flush it with. There was no toilet paper, and no water from the sink tap.

Cuba’s certainly had its ups and downs!

Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz was Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976 and then  President from 1976 to 2008

Born 13 August 1926, Birán, Cuba.

He died 25 November 2016, Havana, Cuba.

He would have been 91 this month.

 

The Conjunto Histórico de Birán, the museum in the Castro family finca, is 3km northeast of Birán (open Tue-Sun).

Isabel D. Jimenez

Cuba Tourist Office

Embassy of Cuba

167 High Holborn

London WC1V 6PA

Tel: 020 7240 6655

Email: tourism@travel2cuba.co.uk

www.travel2cuba.co.uk

www.facebook.com/MinturCuba.uk

Virgin flies from Gatwick to Cuba twice a week.

When I’m flying, I usually book into the No 1 Travel Lounge.

I get a comfortable seat, plus free food and drink.

All drinks are free, except Champagne.

It can work out the same, or even cheaper, than buying everything in the main airport Departures.

If the flight’s delayed (as they often are!) I can relax and check the Departures board from time to time.