MIAMI — There are photos of Fidel Castro as the young and handsome hero of the Cuban revolution, surrounded by giddy Havana carnival queens and runners up. There's Castro the baseball and basketball player.
Then there is Castro in a comically high Russian fur hat, or pulling a sled through snow or hugging Nikita Khrushchev during a 1963 visit to renew their alliance after their clash at the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
"I think the Russian photographers did that [the hat] on purpose, to make him look silly,'' said Camilo Loret de Mola, who provided El Nuevo Herald with more than 400 photos of Castro snapped in the 1960s, many of them unpublished.
The 53 photos being published by El Nuevo and The Miami Herald, some in print and all of them on their respective Internet pages, show Castro in private moments as well as official ceremonies, in combat fatigues and gala uniforms.
Castro, now 84, has looked thin since his emergency intestinal surgery in 2006. His hair and beard are gray and scrawny, and he often appears to need assistance walking.
But back in the early 1960s he was a charismatic and athletic six-foot-three warrior who had just toppled a dictatorship and was promising democracy.
"He was young, energetic and extremely popular,'' said Loret de Mola. "To deny that would be a lie.''
Loret de Mola said he obtained the photos from the collection of Comandante René Vallejo, a physician who joined Castro's rebels in the Sierra Maestra mountains and became his personal doctor. He died in 1969.
A Havana lawyer who defected in Mexico in 2003, he said he decided to make the photos available to El Nuevo Herald because of their historical value.
Vallejo accompanied Castro almost everywhere, including the 1963 trip to Moscow to rekindle bilateral ties strained by Castro's anger after Khrushchev agreed to remove nuclear weapons from the island in 1962 without consulting the Cuban leader.
The visit included several official functions as well as hunting and fishing outings, a ride in a traditional Russian horse-drawn sled and a picnic in the middle of a snow-covered forest.
At the end of each day the Soviet government photographers would give prints of their best shots to members of Castro's delegation, which included Vallejo, Loret de Mola said. Vallejo received other prints from Cuban photographers who seemed to trail Castro everywhere he went in the early days of the revolution, Loret de Mola said.
Some show him taking a break from a basketball game, and others on a baseball diamond, a fielder's glove in his hands. Some show him dining with a group of unidentified women, and being interviewed by a visiting Soviet journalist.
One photo shows him at age 15, standing in front of the mail post and telegraph office in his home village of Birán. And five show Castro smiling broadly as he's mobbed by enraptured Havana carnival queens and their runners-up.
"This is Fidel at the top of his popularity,'' said Loret de Mola. "That was around '59 or '60.''