"[W]e indeed scored a KNOCKOUT with Fidel’s visit to the South Bronx. Indeed, we made history."

In response to Mayor Giuliani’s 1995 revocation of an invitation to Fidel Castro for the fiftieth anniversary of the UN in New York, prominent Harlem citizens issued a press release welcoming Castro to their borough. The South Bronx decided to give a similar press release. With the backing of the National Puerto Rico Business Council and permission from a favorite local restaurant, Pabón—a long-time South Bronx resident, activist, and businessman—invited Castro to the South Bronx, home to a large Latino community “that indeed had the conditions for change.” Pabón never expected Castro to say yes. When he did, Pabón and compatriots had seventy-two hours to plan an event for him.

The book carefully details hurdles from that frenzied time—from Pabón’s early reluctance, a growing invite list, Secret Service requirements, and protests, among others—as well as small victories and lessons learned. Although the dinner and presentations came off as a success, the event also caused negative repercussions, such as Pabón losing some work due to his support of Castro. The book effectively explains the controversy. Without losing sight of the exciting whirlwind visit, Pabón enriches his account by including his history in radical politics and insight into factions within the Latino community over Castro’s rise to power.

Descriptions of “Fidel” as larger than life, with a warm aura that put people at ease and awed them, characterize the book’s tributary nature. Along with Castro’s gracious personality, the other organizers and guests contribute to a historic event for which the book exudes appreciation, as shown in a lengthy acknowledgment, words from people who presented Castro with gifts at the dinner, and Castro’s speech. With realistic tact and charm, the book celebrates a historic celebrity visit to an underdog neighborhood.

A 2018 Eric Hoffer Book Award Category Finalist and Montaigne Medal Finalist

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