Though virtually ignored in the historiography, Brazil played an intriguing role in the politics and diplomacy of the Cuban missile crisis and in U.S.- Cuban relations during the Kennedy administration. In the years after Fidel Castro took power, successive Brazilian governments tried secretly to mediate between the United States and Cuba as the two countries' mutual confrontation intensified. Newly available U.S., Brazilian, Cuban, and other sources reveal that this role climaxed during the missile crisis, as John F. Kennedy clandestinely sought to employ Brazil to transmit a message to Castro. In turn, Brazil, which was also promoting a Latin American denuclearization scheme at the United Nations as a possible method to resolve the crisis, sought to broker a formula for U.S.-Cuban reconciliation that would heighten the prestige of its own "independent" policy in the Cold War. Ultimately, these efforts failed, but they shed light on previously hidden aspects of both the missile crisis and the triangular U.S.-Cuban-Brazilian relationship. The first part of this two-part article sets the scene for an in-depth look at the Cuban missile crisis, which will be covered in Part 2 of the article in the next issue of the journal.