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EXPERTISE
Destinations & Ports
Languages & Communication
Travel & Destinations
BIOGRAPHY
Melanie Smith is passionate about languages, culture and travelling! She has a BA Joint Honours degree in French and Spanish, a Masters degree in Education and also speaks Portuguese and Italian. She taught French and Spanish up to A level for several years, before moving into teacher training. She has been training secondary language teachers at the University of Southampton ever since!.

As a teacher trainer, Melanie instils in her trainees the importance of a lively delivery and attractive resources. The objective is to plan a well-structured presentation, that engages the audience and makes the experience both memorable and enjoyable!

Melanie has travelled extensively within Europe and further afield. She spent a year working in Provence, so is very familiar with the Cote d'Azur and also spent 6 months working in Tenerife, so knows the Canary Islands and its traditions very well too. She has travelled throughout Portugal, Italy, and Greece (mainland and the islands)

She worked for a number of years as a tour guide in France and Spain, leading tours such as ' Chateaux of the Loire', 'Cote d'Azur', (Nice, Cannes, Saint-Tropez), 'Andalusian Fiesta' (Cadiz / Jerez / Cordoba / Sevilla / Granada), 'Costa del Sol' (Malaga, Estepona, Mijas), Barcelona and Madrid.

She has travelled extensively throughout North, Central and South America, the Caribbean, Grenadines, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, India, China, UAE, Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Melanie looks forward to sharing her enthusiasm, knowledge and experience with your guests onboard!
PRESENTATIONS
DESTINATION SPEAKER

Introducing guests to the ports they will be visiting, Melanie provides an insight into the culture, traditions and history of each destination, as well as practical information about the main sights, how to get around safely and how to make the most of the time ashore.

A selection of possible destination talks:


EUROPE

1. 'The French Riviera - the glamour and the glitz!'
Melanie takes you on a journey along the French Riviera, to experience the glamour of Nice, St. Tropez and Cannes. She will share stories from the aristocrats who visited in the 18c, the swinging 60’s with Brigitte Bardot, to the glitterati and film stars of today.

2. La Pallice (La Rachelle) - la ville blanche!
Melanie introduces guests to La Pallice, the commercial, deep-water port of La Rochelle, the popular coastal city in southwestern France and capital of the Charente-Maritime department. La Pallice is well known for its picturesque Vieux Port (Old Port), protected by the 14th-century fortified towers that guard the historic harbour, the Chaîne tower and the Saint-Nicolas tower, which have inspired numerous artists.
After a walk on the quays, Melanie invites guests to go along the beautiful narrow streets of the old town. One of France's principal seaports from the 14th to 17th century, La Rochelle has arcaded Renaissance walkways, half-timbered medieval houses, numerous ghoulish gargoyles and several lighthouses. The city’s long seafaring heritage is reflected in its Vieux Port.
AKA La Ville Blanche (the White City), La Rochelle's luminous limestone façades literally glow in the bright coastal sunlight.

3. 'Andalusian Fiesta!’ - Sevilla / Granada
Melanie evokes the soul of Andalusia from the gypsy origins of Flamenco, to the cultural traditions of Semana Santa and the Feria de Abril, introducing guests to the stunning Andalusian cities of Sevilla and Granada. She will explore the main sights in Sevilla (Plaza de España, Alcazar, Catedral, Giralda, Barrio de Santa Cruz) and Granada (Palacio de la Alhambra, Generalife Gardens.)

4 .Sevilla - the home of Flamenco!
Melanie will share the myths and legends that surround the origins of this beautiful city and share tales of betrayal, siege and murder up to 712AD, when the Moor Abd al-Mussa took Seville and changed its name to the Arabic ‘Isbilliyya’, from which the name Sevilla is derived.
She will explain its Moorish heritage and the Golden Age of this beautiful city, when Sevilla became the most important city in Spain, reaching great splendour, with the building of the Torre de Oro tower.
Melanie will share her love and passion for this amazing Andalusian city, renowned for its Flamenco, beautiful sights and world-famous Feria de Abril! Discover the gypsy origins of Flamenco, marvel at the stunning Plaza de España, with its beautiful blue tiles (azulejos, a gift from the Moors, who used them to embellish their floors, walls and ceilings) and hear about the atmospheric Barrio de Santa Cruz.

5. 'Barcelona - Catalan Capital of Culture.'
Melanie explores Cataluna, its capital Barcelona, its people, language and culture. She introduces guests to the colourful world of Antonio Gaudi and his amazing architecture, focussing on the on-going construction of the Catedral de la Sagrada Familia, the Parque Guell and other examples around the city.

6. Santiago de Compostela – final stop on the epic 'Camino de Santiago' pilgrimage.
Melanie will share the wonder of this amazing city, the final stop on the legendary Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail.
Santiago is a unique city, with the aura of a millennium's worth of journeys, Melanie will show its arcaded streets and magnificent stone architecture and explain how, for centuries, thousands of pilgrims have travelled on Saint James’ Way every year, finally reaching the capital of Galicia and entering the iconic 12th century Cathedral, the burial place of the relics of James the Apostle.

7. Gijón
Melanie will introduce Gijón, a large coastal city in northern Spain, known for its maritime heritage and the old atmospheric fishermen’s quarter of Cimadevilla. She will encourage guests to try the great seafood restaurants and cider bars and explain the many places of interest, worth visiting in the town. These include the many museums, the 16th-century Clock Tower, the 18th-century Revillagigedo Palace, old archaeological sites, the aquarium and botanical garden.

8. La Coruña – Spain – The Glass City!
Melanie will explain the unique geographical features of La Coruña, or A Coruña, as it is also known in Galician and give an insight into the Galician language and culture. She will explain its Roman historic heritage, highlighting the main attraction of the city, which is The Tower of Hercules (Torre de Hércules), the UNESCO-listed ancient Roman lighthouse dating from the late 1st century A.D. Built on a 57-m high rock overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the lighthouse has been in continuous operation ever since and is the oldest lighthouse in the world, still in use.
Melanie will also show La Coruna's sweeping coastal views of the Atlantic Ocean, beaches, bustling city centre and medieval old town, with its narrow, pedestrianized lanes, plazas and the arcaded Plaza de María Pita, where the Estatua de María Pita stands, the 16th-century woman who warned the town of an invasion by Sir Francis Drake.
Finally, Melanie will draw attention in particular to the beautiful ‘galerias’, which are closed in glass balconies, characteristic of the city, nicknamed ‘The Glass City’ due to the streets of apartments blocks, all of which contain galeria, upon galeria. These balconies date back to the late nineteenth century and are perfect protection from Galicia’s breezy and cool winters.. -

9. Lisbon – the city on 7 hills!.
Portugal's capital city, Lisbon, sits astride seven hills, each one a different neighbourhood. A city of character, charm and culture; a city that rose again after a devastating earthquake.
Melanie will provide a brief history of the city, showing the influence of the Moors and talk about the main sights. These include the old city’s pastel-coloured buildings, the imposing São Jorge Castle, the impressive ‘Padrao dos Descobrimentos’ monument, the elevador de Santa Justa (a truly unique contraption!) and the Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge. She will also recommend a visit to the National Azulejo Museum, where 5 centuries of decorative ceramic tiles are displayed.

10. El Camino de Santiago - sacred pilgrimages across Northern Spain.
Join Melanie on an enchanting journey across Northern Spain, following in the footsteps of pilgrims, taking the Camino de Santiago. Learn about the different routes and the history of the pilgrimages, which culminate in the magnificent city of Santiago de Compostela.
Melanie will take you along the 4 main routes: Camino Frances, Camino del Norte, Camino Portugues and Camino Finisterre and show you the famous Pilgrim passport which pilgrims need to have stamped along the way, in order to receive their Compostela Pilgrim Certificate in Santiago.

11. Christmas Traditions in Spain, Portugal and Madeira.
Melanie will explain the very different Christmas traditions of these 3 countries, from the presents coming courtesy of the 3 Kings on January 6th, to the downing of 12 grapes to the chimes of midnight on New Years Eve.. She will also explain the traditional food and drink consumed at this festive time of year.


ATLANTIC ISLANDS

12. The Canaries - islands of Carnival and culture!'
Melanie will introduce guests to the history, geography and cultural traditions of each of the Canary Islands, as well as the main places to visit, whilst ashore. Having lived in the Canary Islands, she will give guests an insight into the local cuisine, the local traditions and the local crafts of lace-making and pottery. Above all, she will share the excitement and exuberance that is Carnival in the Canary Islands!

13,.The Azores: Madeira - Jewel of the Atlantic!
Melanie gives guests an insight in to this unique island, its geography, culture, flora and fauna. As well as the main sights ( Madeira Botanical Garden / Valley of the Nuns / Sleigh ride), Melanie will also share her experience of the Carnival in February and the Funchal Flower Festival in May.

14. The Azores: Ponta Delgada – Sao Miguel
On approaching the island of Sao Miguel, Melanie will recommend guests be on the lookout for whales who pass by this way, on their migratory paths.
She will explain the fascinating volcanic geology of the island, with its geothermal Lagoa de Furnas and Lagoa do Fogo, bubbling hot springs, the Caldeira Velha with its hot waterfall and natural pool for swimming and the amazing green and blue crater lakes of the ‘Sete cidades’ (7 cities) Lagoon.
Close to the cruise port and the terminal, Melanie will point out the many landmarks, churches, museums and sights to explore on foot, such as the main square, the ‘Portas da cidade’ (The City Gates), San Sebastian Church and the Military Museum.
(Melanie also has suggestions for the independent traveller, should this be appropriate, such as the Yellow bus sightseeing hop-on hop-off and the Lagarta tourist train.)

15. Bermuda, King's Wharf
Melanie will explain how King’s Wharf, otherwise known as The Royal Naval Dockyards, was at one time, Britain's largest naval base outside of the UK and was active right up until after the second World War.
She will talk about the turbulent origins of this, the oldest remaining British overseas territory and a UNESCO World Heritage site, said to have been the inspiration for William Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’.
She will show the wonderfully restored buildings, remnants of walls, the old jail and the warehouses that have been turned into museums and art galleries, as well as the clocktower building, which is now a shopping area. She will also explain how the famous Bermuda shorts came to be created.
Melanie will direct guests to the many shops, restaurants and a beach that are within walking distance from where the ship docks at King's Wharf, making it easy to navigate for quick trips on and off the ship.


CARIBBEAN ISLANDS

16. Cuba - from Salsa and Cigars to Cars and Castro!
Melanie shares with guests her passion for the music, dance and culture of the island of Cuba. She starts with a brief history of the island, including the Cuban Missile crisis of the Sixties and the rise to power of Fidel Castro, before focussing on Havana. She evokes the dilapidated charm of the place, with its fabulous American vintage cars and live jazz emanating from every bar. She explains the key features of Cuban Salsa and the sensuous skill of rolling Cuban cigars! She also shares the magic of the Malecon, the 7 kms promenade, which enjoys the most stunning sunsets.

17. Barbados - Bajan Beauty!
Melanie reminds guests of Barbados' British influence, with its place names, cricket, horse-racing and polo, before focussing on its West Indian heritage, with its rum shops, sugarcane fields and Calypso music. She shares the delights of Bridgetown, the lively, colourful and buzzing capital and recommends the nearest beaches, which are stunning!

18. St.Lucia - Castries - the city that rose from the ashes!
Melanie will introduce guests to the island of St. Lucia, famed for its iconic twin volcanic peaks, the Pitons and covered in lush rainforest.
She will provide a brief history of Castries, with its eloquent mix of French and British architecture, including the Great Fire of Castries in June 1948, when 40 blocks of homes and businesses were burnt to the ground and overnight, 809 families were left homeless and without possessions.
Melanie will give guests plenty of ideas on how best to spend their time ashore, whether it be wandering around the lively local market on Jeremie Street, visiting the duty-free shops in Pointe Seraphine where the cruise ship docks, visiting the viewing point over the harbour at Morne Fortune, relaxing in Derek Walcott Square, or topping up their suntan on Vigie beach!

19. Martinique - Fort de France – birthplace of Josephine Bonaparte!.
Famed for being the birthplace of Napoleon's Josephine, Melanie will capture the distinctive French atmosphere of Martinique.
She will show its colourful capital Fort de France, which exudes French elegance, with its architecture, patisseries and boutiques. She will talk about the bustling centre, with its lively cosmopolitan streets, local markets, tranquil parks and tiny beach.

20. Antigua - beach heaven!
Another island with a great British heritage, Melanie tells guests about the capital of Antigua, St.John's, Once the cruise ship docks at Heritage and Redcliffe Quay, the capital of St. John’s is just a five minutes’ walk away, with its beautiful port area, colourful buildings, lively duty-free shopping area and an eclectic mix of restaurants,
She will recommend a visit to Nelson's Dockyard and the English Harbour, to see the restored Georgian yard, named after the famous English Admiral Horatio Nelson and encourage guests to make the journey up to Shirley Heights to enjoy the panoramic view across the tropical landscapes of the island, one of the best spots to mingle with the locals and enjoy steel drum music.
Famous for having a different beach for every day of the year, Melanie also shares tips on the nearest and most beautiful ones to visit.

21. Tortola – Meet the Pirates of the Caribbean!
Explore this sailor’s paradise with Melanie and discover its distinctive Caribbean feel. Melanie will provide a brief history of the island, explaining how Tortola was originally named by the Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus, Tortola meaning "Land of the Turtle Dove".
However, she will go on to explain how, according to local lore, the Spaniards were beaten to it by pirates such as Edward Teach, an English buccaneer better known as Blackbeard, and the Scottish sailor William Kidd, known in popular culture as Captain Kidd.
Melanie will tell tales of these legendary pirates and refer to Robert Louis Stevenson’s book ‘Treasure Island, thought to have been inspired by the islands. She will also tell the story behind the famous song 'Fifteen Men on the Dead Man’s Chest’.
Melanie will introduce guests to the main sights of Tortola, such as the Sage Mountain National Park, the highest point in the British and American Virgin Islands and a great centre for conservation, the banana plantations and the baths located on Virgin Gorda’s north shore, where giant boulders border the sea and an intricate cave system leads to a white-sandy beach.
She will also talk about rum! How the trade developed, the distilling process and some of the different brands on offer.

22. Montserrat – Little Bay - Visit Plymouth – the Pompeii of the Caribbean! Melanie will share the fascinating Afro-Irish heritage of this lesser -known Caribbean Island, the only country, outside of Ireland, that celebrates St. Patrick’s Day as a national holiday! She will also mention her schoolfriend, Barbara, who has lived on the island for over 20 years and plays in the local steel band!
She will then focus on the eruption in 1997 of the Soufriere Hills volcano, which resulted in the ‘buried capital’ of Plymouth, aka the ‘Pompeii of the Caribbean’ and explain the importance of the Montserrat Volcano Observatory.


SOUTH AMERICA

23. Belem - Gateway to the Amazon!
Melanie shares the culture of this beautiful port, with its native Indian influences and faded colonial architecture. She shows them the colourful fishing boats where, instead of seagulls, the vultures and pelicans gather, ever hopeful of a tasty morsel! She will show guests examples of tribal jungle artefacts, collected on her own travels and made with exotic feathers, available in the local markets. She will encourage guests to try the local delicacies and drinks, such as Jambu cachaca.

24. Buenos Aires: From Gaucho to Tango!
Melanie will provide guests with a brief historical overview of Buenos Aires and explain the main sights (Plaza de Mayo / Casa Rosada / La Boca district / EL Colon Theatre etc). She will then explore the enigmatic character of the 'Gaucho' - Argentina's nomadic 'cowboy' and explain how Buenos Aires came to be the birthplace of the world's most romantic dance!

25. A taste of Argentina!
Join Melanie on an Argentinian adventure, discovering the Argentinian culture, the food and drink and the way of life.
Melanie will explore key aspects of the Argentinian life, from the evolution of the sensuous Tango dance to the nomadic life of the enigmatic Gaucho. She will introduce you to the official national sport of ‘Pato’ (duck), which is similar to polo but used to involve a duck, rather than a ball! She will tell guests all about the Argentinian obsession with meat and ‘Yerba Mate’, which has been the drink of choice for Argentinians for centuries. Drinking mate in Argentina is almost a ceremony - Melanie will explain the recipe and the rules!
She will also examine the booming Argentinian wine industry and provide an insight into the turbulent political situation in Argentina, its key figures and share some surprising facts!

26. The Chinchorro Culture - the world's oldest mummies!.
Join Melanie on a fascinating journey back in time, some seven millennia ago or more, when a group of people called the Chinchorro lived along the coasts of northern Chile and southern Peru.
Melanie will explain how the Chinchorro people were early inhabitants of the Atacama desert, whose lives revolved around fishing from the rich Pacific waters. She will share the fascinating lives of the Chinchorro people, who were unique in many ways, but perhaps most of all in their burial practices.
Their culture hit the news in recently, when the United Nations' cultural organisation, UNESCO, added hundreds of mummies preserved by the Chinchorro, to its World Heritage List.
Two thousand years before the Egyptians, the Chinchorro were mummifying their dead – creating the oldest known mummies on Earth – and doing so for everyone, not just royalty, regardless of status.
Melanie will describe the extraordinary lengths the Chinchorro went to, to prepare their loved ones for the after - life, explaining their sophisticated process of mummification, step-by-step.

27. Chilean Independence - how an Irishman become the father of Chilean Independence!
Melanie will firstly explain some of the historical events of the late 18th century, which influenced the Chilean independence movement, before explaining how Napoleon’s intervention in Spain in 1808, was also an important factor, as it forced Chile and the other colonies to rely more heavily on their own resources and led them to take the first steps toward greater autonomy and self-government.
She will than describe the key events which ultimately led to the declaration of Chilean independence in 1818 and tell the fascinating story of how the illegitimate son of a Sligo man, Bernardo O'Higgins, became the father of Chilean independence!

28. Rio de Janeiro - The home of Samba and Carnival!
Melanie will introduce guests to the sights and sounds of Rio de Janeiro, with a brief historical overview followed by information about the main sights of Corcovado / Sugar Loaf mountain / Christ the Redeemer statue / Copacabana and Ipanema. She will discuss the origin of the 'Girl from Ipanema' song, then focus on the world famous Rio Carnaval and explain the importance of the Samba dance / music in Brazilian culture.

29. The Panama Canal – one of the 7 wonders of the Modern world!
Considered one of the wonders of the modern world, Melanie will explain the significance of the Panama Canal and provide a brief history of its construction, right up to 1999 when the US formally handed it back to Panama. She will share many interesting facts about the Canal and explain how the locks work. She will also explore the challenges of navigating the canal and focus on the recent accident involving the 'EverGiven'.


ASIA

30. Hong Kong – from skyscrapers to giant Buddhas! Melanie explains the turbulent history of Hong Kong, from British colonial rule to the current situation under Chinese rule. She evokes the hustle and bustle of this vibrant city, with its famous trams, panoramic views from Victoria Peak, ‘Symphony of lights’ spectacular and giant Tian Tian Buddha.

31. Chan May
Melanie introduces guests to the two World Heritage sights of Hue and Hoi An.
Hue, one of the most significant cultural and historic centres of Vietnam, situated on the Perfume River, with its Citadel, Forbidden City, ancient pagodas and fascinating French Quarter and Hoi An – a beautiful historic town with Chinese pagodas, ornate community halls and the Japanese covered bridge, famous for its tailoring and handicrafts, particularly Chinese lanterns.

32. Ho Chi Minh City
Melanie provides a brief historical overview of the largest city in Vietnam, the cosmopolitan Ho Chi Minh City. Previously known as Saigon, it was controlled by the French from the second half of the 19th century and became known as the ‘Paris of the Orient'. Later, it was renamed Ho Chi Minh City by the Communists, following the Vietnam War.
Melanie describes the magnificent Jade Emperor Pagoda, one of the city’s most ornate and tells the story of the famous Cu Chi tunnels, used by the Vietcong during the Vietnam War.

33. Singapore – a shopper’s paradise!
Melanie conveys the importance of Singapore, as the largest port in SE Asia and one of the busiest in the world and explains how, once a British colony, it was granted independence in 1965 and is now a member of the Commonwealth.
Melanie tells guests about the diverse languages, religions and ethnic groups that make up Singapore, recommends the best things to see and do whilst ashore and explains how to make the most of Singapore’s duty-free status!

34. Kuala Lumpur
Melanie gives a brief history of KL, before introducing guests to the main sight, the Petronas Towers, the 88-story, 451.9-meter supertall skyscraper, daring them to cross the Skybridge that connects the two towers!
KL’s food is a Malay-Chinese-Indian blend that reflects the demographics of its inhabitants and Melanie gives guests a flavour of the culinary delights that await them, from succulent chicken satay to pork-filled steamed buns, on offer at the many street-food stalls and plastic-chair-and-table cafés of KL.

35. Penang
Melanie introduces guests to Penang Island, the melting pot of Malaysia, with its heady mix of eastern cultures and the UNESCO-listed George Town, full of colourful heritage houses.


NEW ZEALAND

36. Bay of Islands
144 islands dot the glittering bay, a haven for dolphins, whales and penguins and perfect for sailing!
As well as talking about the wildlife, Melanie introduces guests to the Maori traditions of the Haka ritual and the Hangi dinner, which is baked underground! She shares some of the the myths and legends of the Maori people and explains how they came to settle in this region, having arrived in their decorated 40 metre long war waka canoes. She also explains the importance of the Treaty of Waitangi for NZ and the Maori people, showing guests the nearby Treaty Grounds, where it was signed.


CULTURAL ICONS

1. 'Grace Kelly - The Hollywood starlet and the Princess'
Melanie traces Grace Kelly's Hollywood film career, until she meets and marries her handsome Prince, drawing parallels between Grace Kelly and Meghan Markle. Melanie follows Grace's life as wife, mother and Princess, until her untimely death in a car accident in 1982, at the age of 52.

2. 'Brigitte Bardot - 60's Sex kitten, animal rights activist or racist?'
Melanie starts in the sixties when BB rose to fame, after the success of films such as 'And God Created Women'. BB was the ultimate sex goddess but in 1973, at the height of her career, she left it all behind, citing screen legends such as Marilyn Monroe and Marlene Dietrich, who died alone.
Melanie goes on to talk about the work of the Brigitte Bardot Foundation, her organisation dedicated to the protection of animals, which has financed the construction of a wild animal hospital in Chile, parks to care for mistreated bears in Bulgaria, for koalas in Australia, for elephants in Thailand, and for horses in Tunisia.
Finally, Melanie reveals a darker side to this cultural icon, who has appeared several times in French courts in recent years, charged with 'inciting racial hatred'.

3. 'Che Guevara - The myth behind the martyr'
One of the heroes of Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution, Melanie explains how Che became a myth in his own lifetime and an international martyr figure, upon his death. She shares Che's epic dream - to unite Latin America through armed revolution and to end the poverty, corruption and injustice that had blighted it for so long. However, Melanie also considers the alternative view that Che was, in fact, Fidel Castro’s chief executioner and a mass-murderer. Finally, Melanie tells of the mystery surrounding his final resting place.

4. 'Eva Peron - Latin America’s Cinderella or ruthless social climber?'
Melanie tells of Eva's humble beginnings in the rural village of Los Toldos, in the Pampas, as the youngest of five children and decribes how, In 1934, at the age of 15, she moved to the nation's capital of Buenos Aires to pursue a career as a stage, radio and film actress. It was here that she met Colonel Juan Perón in1944, during a charity event. The two were married the following year and Juan Perón was elected President of Argentina in June 1946.
Melanie follows the political career of Eva Perón, as she became increasingly powerful within the pro-Peronist trade unions, primarily for speaking on behalf of workers' rights. She also ran the Ministries of Labour and Health, founded and ran the charitable Eva Perón Foundation and championed women's suffrage in Argentina.
Melanie also captures the glamour of Evita, how she became the fashion icon of her day and drew huge crowds. Finally, she chronicles her sad demise from cancer, at the tragically young age of 33 and reveals the macabre disappearance and return of Eva Peron's body.

5 .'Pablo Escobar - Drug Baron or Robin Hood?'
Melanie introduces guests to the 'King of Cocaine' and tells how his life of crime which started as a teenager, had, by the mid-1970s, developed into the infamous Medellín drug cartel and organised crime organization. She tells of the fabulous wealth he acquired and the ruthless murders he committed but shows also a different side to the man, who became known for his philanthropic efforts, which led to the nickname “Robin Hood.” He built hospitals, stadiums and housing for the poor. He even sponsored local soccer teams.
Finally, Melanie tells of Escobar's death after a rooftop gun battle in 1992.

6. 'Fidel Castro - a hero or a tyrant?
Melanie explains the enigma that is Fidel Castro, who ruled Cuba as a one party state for almost half a century. As communist regimes collapsed across the world, Castro kept the red flag flying right on the doorstep of his greatest enemy, the United States. A divisive figure, his supporters praised him as a champion of socialism, the soldier-politician who had given Cuba back to the people but others accused him of brutally suppressing opposition and pursuing policies that crippled the Cuban economy.
Melanie tells of his birth on 13 August 1926, the illegitimate son of a wealthy farmer who had emigrated to Cuba from Spain. She follows his lack of academic success at school, through to his marriage to the daughter of a wealthy politician in 1948, charting his political journey towards Marxism.
She explains how the new Cuban government promised to give the land back to the people and to defend the rights of the poor. but instead, quickly imposed a one-party system and sent hundreds of people to jail and labour camps as political prisoners. Thousands of mainly middle class Cubans fled into exile.
Melanie takes guests back to the infamous 'Bay of Pigs' attempted invasion by the US in 1961, when Castro humiliated the US and the ensuing 'Cuban Missile Crisis' brought the world to the brink of Nuclear War. Castro’s defiance of American power made him a beacon of resistance in Latin America and elsewhere and his bushy beard, long Cuban cigar and green fatigues became universal symbols of rebellion.