It Takes Three to Tango: How a Cuban Ballerina Interpreted for Castro and Khrushchev


  • Boris Naimushin New Bulgarian University, Sofia, Bulgaria



consecutive interpreting, history of conference interpreting, high-level meeting, translation studies, image-based research, autobiographical subjectivity


This text launches a series of articles under the image-based project 'With the Aid of an Unidentified Interpreter: Putting Names to Faces on Historical Photos' dedicated to the history of high-level interpreting. Here, the quest is to identify the interpreter at the two encounters between Nikita Khrushchev and Fidel Castro at Harlem's Hotel Theresa and at the Soviet Mission in New York on 20 and 23 September 1960 based on a photo from the personal archive of Khrushchev's assistant Vladimir Lebedev. This interpreter turned out to be Menia Martínez, a historic figure in Cuban ballet. Educated at the Vaganova School in St. Petersburg (Leningrad), she was proficient in Russian. The text looks at other professional and unprofessional interpreters who worked with the two leaders before, on, and after this trip to New York and whose work contributed to the development of Cuban-Soviet and East-West relations. The discussion draws on available visuals, memoirs, newspaper sources, and unclassified documents placing the discussion in the wider context of international relations at the time. The author is grateful to Menia Martínez, who, in a telephone conversation, has helped in clarifying some of the aspects of the matter under investigation.

Author Biography

Boris Naimushin, New Bulgarian University, Sofia, Bulgaria

Boris Naimushin, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Translation and Interpreting in the Department of Foreign Languages and Cultures, New Bulgarian University. He has a degree of Master of Advanced Studies in Interpreter Training from FTI, University of Geneva. His research interests lie in the broad area of Translation and Interpreting Studies. He is the Editor in Chief of English Studies at NBU. Boris is an active conference interpreter (Bulgarian - English - Russian).


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How to Cite

Naimushin, B. (2023). It Takes Three to Tango: How a Cuban Ballerina Interpreted for Castro and Khrushchev. English Studies at NBU, 9(2), 147–168.