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When Fidel Castro was 14-years-old he wrote a letter to Franklin Roosevelt & asked him for a 10 dollar bill

Goran Blazeski

In November 1940, President Roosevelt was re-elected for an unprecedented third term as president of the United States. He received thousands of letters from all around the world in which people wished him luck, asked him questions, shared suggestions, criticized him, congratulated him on his re-election, and even made requests to the President of the United States.

On November 6, 1940, a young Cuban student named Fidel Castro sent a letter to Franklin D. Roosevelt. He identified himself as a 12-year-old Cuban with bad English (he may actually have been 14), thirteen years before spearheading the revolution that would ultimately see him replace dictator Fulgencio Batista, as leader of Cuba.

Roosevelt signing declaration of war against Japan (left) on December 8 and against Germany (right) on December 11, 1941.

Roosevelt signing the declaration of war against Japan (left) on December 8 and against Germany (right) on December 11, 1941.

At that time Fidel Castro was studying at a boarding school, Colegio Dolores in Santiago, Cuba. He heard about Roosevelt’s re-election and he decided to write him a letter, praising the American leader. Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz grew up to become one of the most famous figures of the 20th century.

Since his allowance at that time was only 80 cents a month, he thought the President of the United States would be generous and donate him ten dollars, leading to him asking Roosevelt to send over a bill.

A letter written by the 14-year-old Castro, learning English, to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt

A letter written by the 14-year-old Castro, learning English, to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Here is what the future Cuban president wrote in his letter addressed to the President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (misspellings included):

Santiago de Cuba

Nov 6 1940

Mr Franklin Roosvelt, President of the United States. 

My good friend Roosvelt I don’t know very English, but I know as much as write to you. I like to hear the radio, and I am very happy, because I heard in it, that you will be President for a new (periodo). I am twelve years old. I am a boy but I think very much but I do not think that I am writing to the President of the United States. If you like, give me a ten dollars bill green american, in the letter, because never, I have not seen a ten dollars bill green american and I would like to have one of them. 

My address is:

Sr Fidel Castro
Colegio de Dolores
Santiago de Cuba
Oriente Cuba 

I don’t know very English but I know very much Spanish and I suppose you don’t know very Spanish but you know very English because you are American but I am not American. 

(Thank you very much)

Good by. Your friend,

[Signed]

Fidel Castro

If you want iron to make your ships I will show to you the bigest (minas) of iron of the land. They are in Mayari Oriente Cuba. 

Castro visiting the United States in 1959

Castro visiting the United States in 1959

This letter was rediscovered in 1977 by specialists at the National Archives and Records Administration.

Castro received a response, not from the President himself but from the U.S. Embassy in Havana. To his disappointment, no money was included in the letter sent from the “President.”