A Wrestling With Sin Special: Cuba, Castro and The Kid

The Cuban Revolution | Military History Matters

Brian Damage

As we all know, professional Wrestling has played a part of many memorable moments in its history. The wrestling business has contributed to the history of the world in so many different ways. Ways we probably don’t even realize. Whether it was expanding nationally, then globally, its involvement in politics, civil rights, going mainstream in television and movies and the women’s revolution…pro wrestling has seemingly done it all. Speaking of “revolutions”…believe it or not, wrestling also had a hand in a different kind of revolution. An actual real revolution in the 1950’s….the Cuban Revolution.

When we read history books about the Cuban Revolution that lasted from 1953 until 1959…we will certainly hear about the likes of Fidel Castro, Fulgencio Batista and Che Guevara. All were the key players in what would eventually become the Cuban revolution. Someone you may not read a whole lot of is a man by the name of Arsacio Vanegas. He was not a soldier of any sort, he was not a politician, nor was he directly involved in the bloody battles that ensued all over Cuba.

Who Arsacio Vanegas was, was the grandson of famed Mexican publisher Antonio Vanegas. Arsacio was also a luchador, who went by the name of ‘Kid’ Vanegas. He wrestled in Mexico from the 1940’s until the 1950’s. Vanegas would play a low key, yet pivotal role in the Cuban Revolution.

In 1955, Cuban revolutionaries Fidel and Raul Castro were exiled from a Cuban prison to Mexico. It was while in Mexico where the Castro brothers met the wrestler and became friends. Vanegas would house the Castro brothers and take them to bull fighting and wrestling matches. From being a friend and sympathizer to their cause….Vanegas began training the Castro brothers and their small army wrestling moves to be used in hand to hand combat. The wrestler would take the Cubans and Che Guevara on long hikes in the mountains of Mexico to get them all physically fit.

Arsacio Vanegas along with Fidel Castro

As mentioned earlier, Arsacio Vanegas’ grandfather was a well known printer and publisher in Mexico for many years. Vanegas agreed to help print and publish much of Fidel Castro’s literature and manifestos that would eventually be handed out to the Cuban people. When the Castros returned to Cuba and ultimately overtook the government in 1959, news spread across the world. Vanegas was working out at a local gym in Mexico when he heard the news and allegedly danced and celebrated in the streets. He was quoted as saying, ‘I am content and satisfied to see Mr. Castro triumph, but at the same time sad, because many of those I trained died in combat.”

Arsacio Vanegas remained a loyal supporter of Castro and his rule over Cuba for the rest of his life. He had kept an old, sweaty shirt once worn by Fidel during their training sessions. He also kept a backpack once owned by Che Guevara that he wore on hikes up the mountains. When Vanegas died in 2001 at the age of 79, Fidel Castro wrote a letter to his family. It read….

“I have learned with deep regret the news of the death of Arsacio Vanegas, and I wish to convey my sincerest sentiment of condolence. Vanegas was a firm and loyal collaborator of the group of Cuban revolutionaries who in Mexico undertook the difficult task of preparing the stage of the struggle for the freedom of our country. The many and very valuable services that, with the most absolute disinterest and with full identification with the cause of the Cuban Revolution, he rendered during the long months of preparation for the Granma expedition, they earned our perennial gratitude and the recognition of all the Cuban people, who always considered him as one of their sons and as another of their combatants. Please receive the testimony of my heartfelt sorrow and my greatest appreciation. “

You can read all previous ‘Wrestling with Sin’ pieces here.

One thought on “A Wrestling With Sin Special: Cuba, Castro and The Kid

  1. Well that was certainly interesting. I wonder though, had Vanegas moved to Cuba during & after the Castro’s revolution, would Castro have remained loyal enough to not turn on him like he had turned on so many others that had helped him or would have eventually let his paranoid supercede his gratitude and eventually kill or exile him too?

    Liked by 1 person

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