In 1940 14 year old Castro writes to Roosevelt. How did they figure out who he was?

So, as the title says, in 1940 young Fidel writes to the President requesting a ten bucks. This letter is on display in the National Archives. You can see a copy online here:

My question is, Fidel wasn’t anybody until at least 15 years later. How did anyone at the archives figure out it was that Fidel Castro? How did anyone remember some kid’s letter for over a decade? Roosevelt probably got thousands of letters from kids. Do they save all of them? Was it that unusual to get a letter from Cuba? Did someone set it aside because of the audacious request for 10 dollars, thinking it was funny?

Fidel apparently took the rejection of his request pretty hard.

I wondered that myself when I first heard about that famous letter. I did some Googling and found one source that said that a researcher found it by accident.

The letter was found about 1977. It was in a bound volume of State Department documents being declassified. Roosevelt evidently directed the US Embassy in Havanna to reply, and they told Castro “thanks for the letter, kid.” Well, not exactly like that, but that was the jist of it.

Did he get to at least see a ten dollar bill?

So they kept the letter on purpose because it was from Cuba, and therefore of State Department interest?

They wouldn’t have kept a letter from some kid in Ohio, right?

Can anyone make out the post script?

If you want iron to make your sheaps ships I will show to you the biggest (minor) of iron of the land. They are in [location].

By sheaps does he mean sheep? And is there a reason Mr. President would want sheep ships?

Perhaps he meant cheap ships?

“Sheaps” looks crossed out to me. Fidel was offering to show Roosevelt where he could mine iron to make war ships.

No. “sheaps” is crossed out and then replaced by “ships”. It seems he did not know the English word “mines” so he put it in Spanish (minas).

It makes you wonder if a lot of ugliness could have been avoided for only ten dollars.

The article I read was in a 1977 newspaper story. It wasn’t clear, but I assume the letter and response were kept in a file by the ambassador to Cuba.

You’d be surprised how many rather mundane letters to government officials were kept, both in this period of time and before.

These days, I rather doubt this kind of letter is preserved.

The last line reads, “They are in Mayari, Oriente, Cuba.” He is listing the location of the iron mines.

Reminds me a bit of the fact that in the 1940s, Ho Chi Minh wrote a letter to Harry Truman (third on page) asking the United States to help Vietnam gain its freedom. Of course, Truman probably saw him as a rabble-rouser and no more important than FDR would have seen a 14-year-old Cuban boy, but again, one wonders if history would have turned out different.

My guess is the probably didn’t exactly discover it, Castro probably said he once wrote a letter to Roosevelt and then someone went looking for it.

It was probably standard procedure to save all letters from kids in a big box or something, in case they needed publicity.

For example, Johnny Q. Public writes Mr Roosevelt and then someone on a radio shows, Johnny Q Public, wins the patriotic award for collecting cans. Johnny goes on the radio and says “Gee Mr Roosevelt I wrote to you.” Roosevelt’s people hear this and can quickly pull out the letter and score publicity points, saying “See the President cares”

So in case something like that happens, perhaps they just save all the letters from kids

I can’t immediately find anything to dispute that, but I’ll wager that virtually all of the letters from American kids wishing Roosevelt well were probably not saved.

As far as Castro saying he wrote the letter, my description of how it came to be found in 1977 is almost certainly accurate, and probably routine procedure.

The Castro letter was preserved only because it got forwarded to the American Ambassador in Havanna who responded to the kid. That kind of thing was obviously, in this case, saved.

Of course that was ten 1940 dollars, equivalent to $625,000 in today’s money. :smiley:

No, seriously, it’s about $125 today.

Hell, he asked Woodrow Wilson, too, as well as FDR (if FDR had lived, something might have come of it). There’s little reason to believe that $10 would have changed Castro’s fate, but America certainly passed up many opportunities to change the fate of French Indo-China… er, I mean Vietnam.

My guess: not all letters were saved, but all those replied to personally were. As for finding it, after Roosevelt died, private papers were archived, including being indexed by name.

Is it just me, or does that letter read like it was written by a much younger kid? I don’t understand how a 14-year-old could be so naive as to think that the President would just send him $10 because he asked, or that Roosevelt needed him Castro to show him where the iron was.

Well, Castro has always been rather naive. He’s the type who thinks communism will bring wealth and prosperity to the country.

And as for:

Where d’you learn to hyphenate like that, boy?