Granma International
October 21, 2004

‘I am still in one piece’

Yesterday, after delivering an emotional speech to the young Arts Instructor graduates in the Ernesto Che Guevara Plaza in Santa Clara, on moving toward his seat and greeting the crowd, President Fidel Castro failed to notice the sidewalk curb, and fell forwards – instinctively protecting himself with his arms extended from what would have been a severe blow to his face and head. With the assistance of several comrades, he returned to his seat, from where he requested a microphone to address the population with the following words:

Dear Graduates;

Dear Citizens of Villa Clara and invited guests

I beg your pardon for having fallen. (Applause and Exclamations.)

Surely... Well, I can see – and so that nobody starts speculating our there – that possibly I have a fracture in my knee and something similar in my arm, it’s not definite as yet, but I still in one piece. (Laughter and applause)

I am solely distressed at the bad moment, the possible suffering I have caused you with this. (Applause and Exclamations).

I will be very interested to see the photographs of how I fell, the international press will have covered it and it will surely be on the front pages of the newspapers. (Laughter); But believe me that I am not sad, I feel full of joy at this event and at what we have just seen (Applause), one of the most agreeable experiences of my life, and I have had many agreeable experiences, but none of them are of importance compared to this one.

So you can be assured that I will do everything possible to recover as quickly as possible; but as you can see, I can speak even if they put me in plaster, and I can continue my work. (Laughter and Applause). Here comes a car, because I do not want to be taken off in an ambulance, I am going in a jeep, I don’t like that car (Laughter) There isn’t a jeep? Well, there’s no jeep, so they can’t please me.

I have to leave you, and I am going to beg you one thing, that you do not suspend the cultural event that so many artists have worked so hard for, and please indulge me, because I do not want sadness, I want joy, I want happiness for everyone. (Extended applause).

Later on, at the end of the Gala, the president communicated with the organizers to inquire into their impressions of the cultural event and the subsequent presentation of diplomas to the graduates who took part in the ceremony. On being told that the students, concerned about his health, had expressed their wish to suspend the final cultural performance organized for them, Fidel asked that they be given the following message:

"I earnestly beg you to go ahead with the event. I feel fine and I am taking the necessary measures so as to recover my health as quickly as possible. I would not feel happy if you suspended the event. I wish you every happiness and all the joy that merits the way in which you have fulfilled the task."

When this message was announced to the new graduates, still assembled in the Ernesto Che Guevara Plaza, the president called to find out the students’ response and received their insistent demand to hear in his own voice how he was feeling. The president asked for a microphone to be brought to the phone and spoke with the course graduates for more than 15 minutes, conversing with two of the best all-round students. Fidel asked for details of the cultural event and asked to be kept up to date and that they film the festivities. The reaction was one of relief and joy among the new cultural workers, who yesterday received their merited reward after four years of hard effort.