How Fidel Castro Finally Caught Beatlemania

Atlas Obscura
Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
Jan. 10 2014 12:54 PM

The Story of the John Lennon Statue in Havana, Cuba

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February marks 50 years since The Beatles first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, igniting a global phenomenon. But when Beatlemania swept the world, communist Cuba resisted. Believing the Fab Four were the epitome of mindless, vulgar consumerism, Fidel Castro declared a nationwide ban of Beatles music in 1964. Cubans eager to experience the rock-and-roll revolution resorted to trading smuggled tapes of "I Want To Hold Your Hand."

Almost four decades later, with "All You Need Is Love" playing in the background, Castro unveiled a bronze statue of John Lennon in a Havana park. At the ceremony, held on the twentieth anniversary of Lennon's 1980 murder, Castro spoke of his respect for the former Beatle.

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"What makes him great in my eyes is his thinking, his ideas," he said. "I share his dreams completely. I too am a dreamer who has seen his dreams turn into reality."

Castro's change of tune resulted from re-imagining Lennon as political dissident hounded by the U.S. government. In the dictator's eyes, Lennon was no longer a symbol of the decadent West, but a revolutionary dedicated to emancipating the working class. That conveniently made him a posthumous ally of Cuba — hence the need for a life-sized bronze statue and an accompanying open-air concert of Lennon's music.

The statue, which captures Lennon in his long-haired, anti-war activism years, sits on a bench in John Lennon Park. Its iconic circular-rimmed glasses have been stolen so often that a guard now stands nearby holding them, poised to place them on the statue's face when visitors approach.

Other Beatles sights around the world:


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