QUESTION: Fidel Castro Quote Verification

question / pregunta: 

I'm seeking the source of the following quotation:

"In prison, there were no rifles for training, no stone fortresses from which to shoot. Behind those walls, our rifles were books. And through study, stone by stone we built our fortress, the only one that is invincible: the fortress of ideas."

~Fidel Castro

I would like to find the primary source (speech, autobiography, newspaper article, interview, whatever it may be). If I can't find the primary source, any authoritative reference such as a reputable collection of quotations will do. I need the full citation, including page number, publisher, year, etc.

This has been particularly frustrating, because almost all references to this quote are on anti-Castro websites, none of which cite the source of the quote.

I may have more requests for help with quote verification in the coming weeks. Thank you.


Answer posted by:

Found the quote in both of these sources via Google Books:

Mencia, M. (1982). Time was on our side. La Habana: Editora Politica.
Quote is said to be found on page 15 of this book.

Mencia, M. (1993). The fertile prison: Fidel Castro in Batista's jails. Melbourne, Australia: Ocean.
Quote is said to be found on page 36 of this book.

Also, this quote is mentioned in the following articles:

Castro's Library Pass (Part III)
By Walter Skold | October 14, 2005


Nat Hentoff/Free Inquiry, Aug./Sept. 2004
Nat Hentoff: Castro's Gulag and American librarians

In Op-Ed

The quote is from Mario Mencia, author of The Fertile Prison, where it is found on page 36 - though with "their" instead of "our." A footnote references Jose Marti as the source of the "fortress of ideas" image, though without citation.
So, although Mencia is describing Castro's time in prison as a time where study was essential, the words are Mencia's; he certainly would have given credit to Fidel. (Note: Castro did say "prison was our academy of struggle" in a letter to Nico Lopez, 1/1/1955 - see p. 152 of this book. So the sentiment, if not the words, do reflect Castro's attitude towards his prison experience.)

Latin American Network Information Center (LANIC)

If you haven't checked it out already LANIC has a Castro Speech Database running from '59-'96. The direct link is:

It is also searchable.

Good Luck!


Not there

Thanks xarathustra,

It was not found in the database, but that is a good resource nonetheless and am glad you pointed it out to me. Several responses I've received from the PLG mailing list indicate that this is not an authentic Fidel Castro quotation, but you'd be amazed at how often it is quoted in both websites and literature and always attributed to him. I call this sloppy, irresponsible scholarship, to attribute a quote to someone without checking it's authenticity first. Makes me angry.

Thanks again for your help.

not verification

Neither Skold nor Hentoff, cited in pixoli's answer, cite the source of the quote. Hentoff has not responded to a request for the source. We need someone to check the books cited (they are two editions of the same book) and see if the quote is merely repeated, unsourced, or if there is a specific citation of where/when Castro said this.

Clarifying the Sources

I am going to try to go by UT's Latin American Collection tomorrow morning and look at the Mencia book, but I can't guarantee the time.

This is the google book search:

which produces results for 2 editions that are found in about 35 libraries according to worldcat:

so maybe you're nearby one of those libraries and can get to it before me.

The following is quoted from the google site mentioned above:

The book is a series of five articles published originally in Bohemia magazine in 1980 plus some unpublished documents.

Time was on Our Side
By Mario MencĂ­a
Published by Editora PolĂ­tica, 1982

The LOC call number is F1788.22 C3 M38 1982.
The "quote" you are looking for is, according to Google, on page 15.

I will attempt to report back tomorrow.


Both books are the same

The Fertile Prison is a revised version of Time was on Our Side and is more widely held.

Thanks Radical Ref

Thanks to all of you who worked on this question. I will follow up on the recommendations.

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