During the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro's forces were attacked by
Batista's army at the foot of the Sierra Maestras in eastern Cuba. A government
report claimed that forty of the rebels had been killed, including Castro. Only
a few of them escaped into the mountains, among them Fidel, his brother Raul,
and a gun-totting, asthmatic Argentinean physician, Che Guevara. These few
survived with the help of people who lived in the mountains, while outside the
Sierra Maestras few knew of the rebels' existence.
In early 1957, Herbert Matthews of the New York Times evaded army
checkpoints, interviewed Castro, and returned to New York. Publication of the
interview created a sensation and Cuba's minister of defense called the story a
fantasy. The New York Times published a photo of Matthews and Castro,
making the Batista regime look foolish. With the publication of this interview
Castro gained the credibility and international support that allowed him to
overthrow Batista's government. The Matthews Papers also include the working
notes, manuscript, and typescript of his biography of Castro, published in 1969
by Simon and Schuster.
Matthews had Castro sign one page of his notes as further proof of the
authenticity of his interview. That portion of the page was detached, and for a
time was missing, but was eventually returned to Matthews who sent it along to
join the other pages of notes, already given to Columbia.