Fidel Castro Lays a Wreath at the Lincoln Memorial

Shortly after taking power in 1959, the Cuban leader visited the United States.

+ (Via iconicphotos / Wikipedia)

Shortly after Fidel Castro took power in Cuba in 1959, he visited the United States for two weeks.The trip had all the features of a diplomatic tour—Castro, a guest of the National Press Club, met with Vice President Richard Nixon, appeared on Meet the Press, and visited national landmarks such as Mount Vernon and the Lincoln Memorial. In the above photo, Castro has just laid a wreath at the feet of Lincoln. The New York Times described Castro's visit at the memorial:

At the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. Castro walked up to the crowd of several hundred, shook hands, and chatted. Then he went up the steps to the memorial and slowly, in a low voice, read the Gettysburg Address inscribed on the wall. 

"Formidable and very interesting!" he murmured. 

The trip was all pretense. "We are not communists," the Cuban leader told a group of 1000 newspaper editors, according to The Washington Post.

Not long after his visit, the U.S. would impose trade restrictions on Cuba. And just three years later, the world would almost go to war over Soviet ballistic missiles stationed on the island nation. Castro, who governed Cuba until 2008, then told The Times: "I'm not interested in being in power one minute more than necessary."

Photo via Iconic Photos, Wikimedia Commons