Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Adiós to the Valley - part six

This is a prewar postcard showing the Casa de Palmas, a quite splendid hotel in McAllen, a small city near my little winter abode.

The hotel opened in 1918 in what was then a rough ‘n’ ready sort of place, incorporated a few years before. Most towns and cities in my part of the Valley only came into existence in the early Twentieth Century as the railroad arrived. It has the 'mission revival' style of architecture I so enjoy and continues to be McAllen’s premier hostelry. 

I’ll tell you a little secret, well, not so much as a secret as something many here would prefer forgotten. In 1956, Fidel Castro was a visitor and, at the time, the visit certainly was secret.

Castro entered the U.S. by dressing as a Mexican worker and swimming across the Rio Grande. On the American side, he was met by supporters who took him to McAllen. In a suite at the Casa de Palmas, he asked Cuba’s former president, Dr. Carlos Prío Socarrás, to back an invasion of Cuba. Although the amount is uncertain, many of the expedition’s costs were covered with money provided by Prío. And, of course, the tiny ‘invasion’ eventually led to the overthrow of the Batista government.

No plaque for Castro as, in this country, mention of El Commandante’s stay would not be seen as useful advertising. Even the guides on a McAllen history tour I took didn’t know.