Herbert Matthews
Herbert Lionel Matthews was a reporter and editorialist for the New York Times who grew to notoriety after revealing that Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz is a Cuban revolutionary and politician, having held the position of Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, and then President from 1976 to 2008. He also served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from the party's foundation in 1961 until 2011...

 was still alive and living in the Sierra Maestra mountains, though Batista
Fulgencio Batista
Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar was the United States-aligned Cuban President, dictator and military leader who served as the leader of Cuba from 1933 to 1944 and from 1952 to 1959, before being overthrown as a result of the Cuban Revolution....

 had claimed publicly that he was killed during the 26th of July Movement
26th of July Movement
The 26th of July Movement was the revolutionary organization planned and led by Fidel Castro that in 1959 overthrew the Fulgencio Batista government in Cuba...

's landing.

Early life

Born in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, Matthews was a graduate of Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

 and reported from Europe during the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

 before returning to New York. His coverage of that war and later the Cuban political situation were subject to substantial criticism for showing communist
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

 sympathies, a charge Matthews rejected for years. He even reported during the Italian conquest of Ethiopia
Second Italo-Abyssinian War
The Second Italo–Abyssinian War was a colonial war that started in October 1935 and ended in May 1936. The war was fought between the armed forces of the Kingdom of Italy and the armed forces of the Ethiopian Empire...

 in 1936; and then wrote "Eyewitness in Abyssinia: With Marshal Bodoglio's forces to Addis Ababa" in 1937.

Cuban Revolution

His interview with Castro was negotiated by Ruby Phillips, then the Bureau Chief in Havana
Havana is the capital city, province, major port, and leading commercial centre of Cuba. The city proper has a population of 2.1 million inhabitants, and it spans a total of — making it the largest city in the Caribbean region, and the most populous...

. Cuban exile author Teo Babun ("The Cuban Revolution: Years of Promise") mentions in a C-SPAN2/BookTV segment that "Castro 'smuggled' Matthews, in early 1957, into the Sierra Maestra in eastern Cuba" to cover the ongoing and subsequent revolution against Batista
Fulgencio Batista
Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar was the United States-aligned Cuban President, dictator and military leader who served as the leader of Cuba from 1933 to 1944 and from 1952 to 1959, before being overthrown as a result of the Cuban Revolution....

. He also said that Che Guevara
Che Guevara
Ernesto "Che" Guevara , commonly known as el Che or simply Che, was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, intellectual, guerrilla leader, diplomat and military theorist...

 later commented, "The presence of a foreign (American-preferred) journalist was more important for us than a military victory."

Reflecting conservative displeasure at Matthews' role, the conservative magazine National Review
National Review
National Review is a biweekly magazine founded by the late author William F. Buckley, Jr., in 1955 and based in New York City. It describes itself as "America's most widely read and influential magazine and web site for conservative news, commentary, and opinion."Although the print version of the...

 published a caricature of Castro over the caption "I got my job through the New York Times." (The caption was the tagline of contemporary advertisements published by the Times touting its classified ads section.) Matthews has been compared to Stalin apologist Walter Duranty
Walter Duranty
Walter Duranty was a Liverpool-born British journalist who served as the Moscow bureau chief of the New York Times from 1922 through 1936. Duranty won a Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for a set of stories written in 1931 on the Soviet Union...

, a fellow journalist on the New York Times staff, by the conservative
Conservatism is a political and social philosophy that promotes the maintenance of traditional institutions and supports, at the most, minimal and gradual change in society. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others oppose modernism...

 organization Accuracy in Media
Accuracy in Media
Accuracy In Media is an American, non-profit news media watchdog founded in 1969 by economist Reed Irvine. AIM describes itself as "a non-profit, grassroots citizens watchdog of the news media that critiques botched and bungled news stories and sets the record straight on important issues that...


In February, 2007, a Reuters report quoted Cuba's state news agency as reporting that Cuba had unveiled a plaque in the Sierra Maestra to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Matthews-Castro interview. In his book The Man Who Invented Fidel, Anthony dePalma
Anthony DePalma
Anthony Federico DePalma was an orthopedic surgeon, humanitarian, and teacher at Thomas Jefferson University, as well as the founder of the orthopedic department at University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey....

describes driving in a four-wheeled vehicle in 2005 trying to retrace Mathews trek to the site of the interview. Finally he found a 16-year-old who said he knew where the site was. After trudging two hours on foot over rugged terrain, dePalma was ready to turn back when the three-foot-high marker was pointed out to him. He writes that the marker had the following words: "In this place, commander-in-chief Fidel Castro Ruz met with the North American journalisht Herbert Matthews on February 17, 1957". The marker was erected on the fortieth anniversary of the interview in 1997.

Partial bibliography

  • Koch, Stephen 2005 The Breaking Point: Hemingway, Dos Passos, and the Murder of Jose Robles. Counterpoint Press, New York ISBN 1-58243-280-5
  • Matthews, Herbert Lionel 1961 The Cuban story. G. Braziller ASIN: B0007DNCMS
  • Matthews, Herbert Lionel 1961 The yoke and the arrows; A report on Spain. G. Braziller; Rev. ed edition ASIN: B0007DFF7I
  • Matthews, Herbert Lionel -1964 Return to Cuba. Stanford U, Institute of Hispanic American & Luso-Brazilian Studies, A Special Issue Of ‘Hispanic American Report’ Stanford, Ca
  • Matthews, Herbert Lionel – 1969 Castro: A Political Biography. New York: Simon & Schuster
  • Matthews, Herbert Lionel – 1969 Cuba. New York: The Macmillan Co. London: Collier-Macmillan
  • Matthews, Herbert Lionel 1969 Fidel Castro. Simon & Schuster, Clarion Book New York
  • Matthews, Herbert Lionel 1973 Half of Spain Died: A Reappraisal of the Spanish Civil War. New York, Scribner, 1973
  • Matthews, Herbert Lionel -1975 Revolution in Cuba: An Essay in Understandings. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons
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