An 8-year-old Cuban boy who likes to dress up as Fidel Castro got
to meet his idol after Cuba's 88-year-old retired leader invited him
and his family to his Havana home for a chat.
"I felt a lot of emotion upon seeing Fidel," Marlon Mendez told
Reuters on Monday from his home near Havana. "The whole family
hugged him. It was my dream to meet Fidel, and I did it. ... My
mother was shaking."
Marlon and his family went to visit Castro on Aug. 16, upon the
invitation of the retired leader who is revered by some and detested
by others for leading the Cuban revolution of 1959 and remaining in
power for 49 years.
The boy likes to dress in green fatigues, army boots and cap as
Castro once did. Marlon wore the costume to his meeting with Castro,
but without Castro's trademark beard and cigar. Castro was
frequently seen puffing on a Havana until he quit smoking in 1985.
Marlon was first featured on Cuban television on Aug. 12, a day
before Castro turned 88. His bedroom wall is decorated with dozens
of pictures of Fidel, in contrast to the bed made with Snoopy
After Marlon appeared in the media in his Fidel costume, first on
Cuban television and later in Reuters photographs, his family
received the invitation.
Marlon showed off pictures of his meeting with Castro and a
hand-written note in which the aging revolutionary referred to "my
great friend Marlon Mendez."
The boy's grandmother, Maria Elvira Hernandez, said they talked
about agriculture and Venezuela, Cuba's close socialist ally.
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"Eight-eight years are 88 years. But a lot of 88-year-olds would
like to be like him," Hernandez said. "We want Fidel around for a
While many Cubans love or respect Castro for standing up to the
United States and leading the one-party state for so long, others
dismiss him as a dictator.
Due to failing health, Castro handed power to his younger brother
Raul Castro, at first provisionally in 2006 and then permanently in
2008. In retirement, Fidel Castro has traded his habitual military
uniform for a track suit. He has mostly withdrawn from public view,
occasionally writing columns or receiving foreign leaders.
(Reporting by Enrique de la Osa, Rodrigo Gutierrez and Nelson
Acosta; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by David Gregorio)
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