Fidel Castro has died.
For almost half a century, Fidel Castro was the undisputed leader of Cuba. On the day of his death, the Infographix Directory publishes the biography of one of the historical figures of the twentieth century with infographics.
Fidel Castro, was a child in the recess of the College of La Salle in Santiago de Cuba, and unaware why they called him “a Jewish pig.” In Catholic Cuba of the 1930s, that was how was denounced who was not baptized. This was the case of Fidel, the son of Galician Ángel Castro, owner of a land close to the United Fruit Company – the American sugar-mill that used half Cuba – and Lina, Angel’s maid in his Manacas farm.
Fidel was born on August 13, 1926, in Biran, and was the third child of this forbidden relationship. The two families of Ángel Castro – married before God and the law with the primary teacher Maria Luisa Argota – caused a chatter in the neighborhood. To defend himself in the divorce proceedings brought by his wife, D. Ángel sent the bastard sons to Santiago de Cuba, where no one had ever heard of the Castro. In this semi-secret, little Fidel gives in to the feeling of abandonment. At school, grades are a catastrophe and behavior a calamity. He becomes insolent, refuses authority, and is often beaten.
The 19 of January of 1935, is finally baptized in the Cathedral of Santiago. The father is not present and the baptismal record does not mention it. On paper, Fidel was no longer an outcast, but parental recognition would only come at the age of seventeen, and D. Angel had married Lina. Only then did Fidel use his father’s nickname.
In the atmosphere of study and recollection provided by the Jesuit colleges, Fidel seems to be unfolding. He becomes an exemplary student and the first in all sports. At age 14, in basic English, he writes a letter to “friend” Franklin Roosevelt, asking him for a $ 10 bill because “I would like to have one.” He also proposes a guided tour on the Mayari iron mines. The President of the United States never replied.
In 1945, after attending the end of World War II, Fidel enrolled in Law at the University of Havana, distinguished by the politicization of his students. After Jesuit discipline, he plunges into disorder. Taken by nationalist and revolutionary students, who idolize José Martí, the hero of Cuban independence, the university is alive. Fidel realizes that the world of speeches, punches and guns at the waist is tailored to him.
THE “BLACK SHEEP” OF THE FAMILY
Fifty years after formal independence (1902), Cuba remains under US tutelage. For Fidel, who heads the Orthodox Youth, a social-democratic formation, only a “profound revolution” would liberate the people from the frustrations provoked by social injustices. After traveling through Venezuela, Panama and Colombia, he realizes that hatred of US neocolonial rule is not exclusive to Cubans. In light of this anti-Americanism, the Communists no longer resemble the bloodthirsty monsters that the Jesuit priests and the father had described to him.
Before, they seemed to be the only ones with a sense of discipline and ability to organize an army capable of facing dictators. But in Cuba, the Communist Party was a minority with no representation in universities and no influence on the workers’ union. And the Cubans did not even sympathize with the Soviet Union.
Fidel lives with the money his father sends him. The girls frighten him and make him blush, but on October 12, 1948, he married Mirta Díaz Balart, a student of Philosophy from an influential family. D. Ángel does not attend the ceremony or the party in the American Club, felt with the rebellion of the son. Fidel does not pay attention to his studies, it’s the family’s shame. Still, the patriarch agrees to fund the honeymoon … in the United States.
In Miami and New York, Fidel dazzles with rampant urbanism and the density of car traffic, he is shocked by the shamelessness of young couples who kiss in public and get lost in bookstores. Buy “The Capital” of Karl Marx and wonder how a country so deeply anti-communist allows the sale of works that call for the destruction of the capitalist system. You get the feeling that the “American way of life” results from the plundering of the poor by the rich: if Americans have refrigerators, skyscrapers, Cadilacs and corn flakes, they owe it to the plunder of the peoples of South America by Its multinationals. Anti-imperialism is the engine that makes Fidel move.
Returning to Havana, the couple settles in a hotel. Mirta retakes the studies and Fidel the activities in the Orthodox Party. Politics causes him dependence, and in a few months, the woman is alone. Fidel informs her to refuse all that is offered by the Balart Days. Do not want to feel “bought”. To feed his son – Fidelito, born on September 1, 1949 – Mirta asks for money from his friends. Gradually, Fidel becomes aggressive, stingy and almost tyrannical. His spirit of mission transcends everything. He lives solely for the Cuban people.
In September 1950, he completes the course, but can not get a scholarship to go to the United States and prepare the revolution “in the entrails of the monster.” He opens an office in the capital, at No. 57 of Tejadillo Street, and puts himself to test. After being arrested during a student demonstration, he assumes his defense. He asks for a borrowed robe and in the courtroom organizes a collection to pay the deposit. Fidel was acquitted.
FROM “GRANMA” TO “SIERRA”
On March 11, 1952, after leading the assault on the military camp of Columbia, army operations center, General Fulgencio Batista self-proclaimed President of Cuba. Known for their pro-American leanings, they call him “Mister Yes.” This “status quo” strengthens Fidel’s armed struggle project, which creates a military organization – “Movement” – aimed at direct action, “the guerrilla.” Rigorous in the selection of his followers, he only accepts anyone who is willing to die for the revolution and accept a life of austerity. Fidel is the undisputed head of this secret army, instructed in the handling of weapons in the cellars of the University of Havana.
The “Movement” left the clandestinity on January 27, 1953. On the occasion of the centenary of José Marti, 500 men with torches are part of the official procession. It was time to take action. Fidel then conceives the capture of a neuralgic center to begin the liberation of the country. On July 26, he leads the disastrous assault on the Moncada barracks in Santiago, which killed 64 of the 123 members of the command. Fidel escapes to the “sierra”, but ends up being arrested. In Boniato’s prison, he recovers from his emotions. He divorces Mirta, devotes himself to reading and prepares the defense. “History will acquit me” is the title of his claim.
Sentenced to fifteen years in prison, he enjoys a presidential amnesty. He took refuge in Mexico, where he regrouped the troops, gathered funds collected in Cuban communities exiled in the United States and contacted the Argentine revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara. He is informed of the death of his father, whom he had not seen in years, and learns that Naty Revuelta, a former lover from the Cuban bourgeoisie, had given birth to a girl, Alina. Fidel instructs the mother to check if the baby has traces of the Castro.
On November 25, 1956, Fidel, brother Raul, Che and 79 followers depart from Tuxpan aboard the Granma, a 14-meter pleasure boat and two diesel engines to start the revolution. The day before, Fidel wrote the will. On December 2, at 4:20 am, 82 exhausted and distressed men, due to the violent storms and the persecution of government troops, disembarked at Playa Colorada.
“We won!” As José Martí has recovered our land, the tyrant Batista has his days counted! “Says Fidel. His followers look upon him as a prophet. In the steep refuge of the “sierra” Maestra, he organizes what remains of his force: 16 rebels survive the army’s persecution and the aerial raids ordered by Fulgencio Batista. But in Havana, the President makes a mistake: he announces Fidel’s death. United Press spreads the word all over the world and Fidel feels that conditions are created to one day, like a legend, to resurrect him.
A BEARDED MAN IN AMERICA
Castro’s cause stirs attention in the United States after Herbert Matthews, a famous New York Times columnist, climbs the “sierra” to interview Fidel. In the camp, the conversation is constantly interrupted by the rebels who communicate the last ones to Fidel. Everything is nothing more than a scenario to convince the journalist that the army is numerous and well organized. On the front page of the largest American newspaper, Fidel emerges as a charming and romantic revolutionary embodying the Cuban people’s greatest hopes. America likes him and, contrary to what Batista wants to put it, the CIA does not consider him communist, but sees in him a potential partner in the fight against the red danger.
In May 1958, the Cuban President launched an offensive to end anti-government groups. Placed between the sword and the wall, Fidel transcends. Benefiting from mass desertions in Batista’s forces, Fidel’s army is accumulating victories and conquering town after city. On December 31, the head of state flees to the Dominican Republic. On January 8, 1959, Fidel enters victorious in Havana and assumes the position of Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. On February 13, he takes the reins of the revolutionary government.
At the invitation of the Press Club, Fidel makes a charming visit to the United States. At the head of a “retinue of bearded”, he responds with humor to the uncomfortable questions, eats burgers and hot dogs and repeats that he is not a communist. To get the attention of the media, Fidel checks in on a low-rise hotel in the New York neighborhood of Harlem. Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharial Nehru and the activist Malcom X are there. Deputy President Richard Nixon welcomes him, but not President Dwight Eisenhower, who apologizes for a round of golf.
Returned to Cuba, he settled in a suite on the 23rd floor of the Hilton Hotel, the highest point in the capital. He instituted a “velvet government” to calm the deeply anti-Communist people and numb the American neighbor, who suddenly recognized the new authorities. The new Constitution establishes the death penalty and confiscation of the property of those who served the Batista regime. Cuba is transformed into a popular court and Fidel is a hangman. He is the mentor of this simulation of justice that seeks to save the souls of fellow citizens by “purification”, by the firing squad, “the wall”. Based on the “moral conviction” of the winners, hundreds of Cubans are executed, most without trial.
A COLD WAR PIVOT
On May 8, 1960, Cuba and the Soviet Union reestablished diplomatic relations and Fidel and Nikita Krutchev signed bilateral military and economic pacts. The United States does not remain indifferent and suspend financial aid; Cuba confiscates American refineries that refuse to refine Soviet oil; Washington reduces the sugar import quota; Havana responds with nationalizations. In between, Fidel abolishes the figure of Santa Claus, replacing him with a bearded character, in olive green uniform, called “D. Feliciano.”
The animosity between the United States and Cuba peaked on January 3, 1961 with the severing of diplomatic relations. In the logic of the Cold War, Cuba is in the area of influence of the USSR. Then began the era of conspiracies and attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro. Only to the CIA, 634 operations are assigned to liquidate it. “If surviving assassination attempts were an Olympic modality, I would have won the gold medal,” he said.
On April 17, 1961, about 1,400 Cuban exiles trained by the CIA landed in the Bay of Pigs. Three months ago at the White House, John Fitzgerald Kennedy backs on promised air support for the invasion, which results in a resounding failure. In a speech on December 2, Fidel Castro asserts himself as Marxist-Leninist and announces that Cuba has adopted communism. The Marxist nature of the revolution leads to the rupture between Fidel and Che Guevara, a partisan of the Maoist conceptions. At the same time, deceives many “bearded commanders” who denounce what they consider to be the embryo of a dictatorial regime, diverted from the nationalist and democratic purposes of the “sierra” Master.
Thousands of people are accused of counterrevolutionary offenses and executed. Political prisoners, refugees and forced evictions are skyrocketing. The Cuban economy is in penury. Before the revolution, 80 percent of the imports came from the United States. By cutting off this “umbilical cord,” Fidel turns to the Soviets and is shocked by the delay in the techniques of the new allies over the Americans in at least 20 years. On March 12, 1962, Fidel instituted a rationing booklet for each Cuban, which even provides rations of five eggs and one-eighth of a pound of butter a month. The black market saves the people from hunger.
In October 1962, photographs taken by a U2 reconnaissance aircraft confirm the existence of Soviet nuclear missiles on the island, threatening 80% of the US territory. JFK decrees a naval blockade of Cuba. In the sights of the US Navy, the USSR fleet reverses the march and Krutchev removes the missiles. For 13 days, the “missile crisis” puts the world on the verge of an atomic war. In the streets of Havana, thousands of Cubans shout: “Nikita mariquita, lo que se da no se quita”.
BLIND FAITH IN SOCIALISM
For Fidel, the break with the Kremlin does not stand. “We will not make the same mistake twice and we will not break with the Soviets after we have broken with the US,” he says. On the contrary, “El Comandante” becomes the most eloquent lawyer of the USSR in the Third World. Africa becomes the new “sierra” Maestra and only Angola, over the years, receives thousands of Cuban civilians and technicians.
But in the Kremlin, Mikhail Gorbatchov, the “gravedigger of communism”, is installed. In a speech delivered on July 26, 1988, Fidel refutes Perestroika, calling it “dangerous” and “opposed to the principles of socialism.” After the Soviet military withdrawal and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the crisis settled on the island: 85% of its markets had disappeared as well as trade subsidies and blessings; Almost universal, free and high technical education and health systems and a whole range of social indicators were seriously affected. In January 1989, when he marked the 30th anniversary of the revolution, Fidel Castro would reaffirm his rigidity in doctrine: “Socialism or death!”
The economic tightening forces, however, oblige him to give in: the formation of joint ventures, the privatization of companies and banks, and the decriminalization of the purchase of dollars. For Fidel, for whom any market reform is a kind of surrender, it was “painful measures to perfect the regime.” At the international summits, he exchanges the olive-green military uniform for his suit and tie and concentrates his attention even more. But in Cuba, his long speeches – he appeared in the Guinness Book of Records with an address of 4.29 hours, on September 26, 1960, at the UN General Assembly – sound increasingly anachronistic. The Cubans no longer hear him, only obey him.
Though seldom attended, the churches are placed under surveillance. Fidel fears that Cubans will be inspired by the Solidarity movement that stirs up Poland to challenge it. He chases homosexuals, opens special aids facilities for AIDS patients, a virus coming from abroad, it is said, and invests on the black market. To repression on the “crap” of the capitalist approach calls “Rectification of Errors”, a policy that sent Cuba to the Cavemen Era. He neutralizes political dissidents and complains of human rights organizations that consider Cubans as slaves. “I am the slave!” Says Fidel. “I am the slave of my people. I have spent days and nights for almost fifty years.”
THE FINAL FALL
At the end of 1989, Fidel Castro is aware that he is not eternal. Stress causes hypertension, which leads to frequent seizures. He is forced to quit smoking the famous Cohiba cigar, the “Lanzero”, and then a strict diet. In the biggest of secrets, he is operated on for a tumor in the colon at the Cairo University Hospital.
Tired of Fidel’s delusions, more and more Cubans are practicing acts of rebellion. Young people inoculate the AIDS virus to become unwanted and expelled from the country; Others are struggling to reach the Florida coast, clinging to chambers stolen from trucks and delivered to the uncertainty of the shark-infested Caribbean sea. The Cuban police close their eyes to this….fewer mouths that the state will have to feed.
Fidel recognizes that Cuba is different and shows realism in relation to what is happening in the world. Excommunicated by the Vatican since 1962, he opens the doors of Cuba to one of those responsible for the break-up of the socialist bloc in Eastern Europe, Pope John Paul II, in January 1998. During the five days of the visit, Fidel accompanies him in Various public appearances, especially during Mass in Revolution Square in Havana.
“Fidel was the President who paid the most attention to Pope John Paul II,” wrote Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone in his book “A cuore grande, Omaggio a Giovanni Paolo II.” “Fidel showed affection for the Pope, who was already sick, and John Paul II confided to me that possibly no head of state had prepared so thoroughly the visit of a Pontiff.” Fidel had read the encyclicals, the main speeches of John Paul II and even some of his poems. In December of that year, Fidel abolished the ban on the celebration of Christmas, which lasted almost 30 years.
On October 20, 2004, the fateful fall of Fidel Castro, after a student graduation ceremony in Santa Clara, seems to be the beginning of the final chapter of El Comandante. Fidel recovers from fractures in the arm and knee, but no longer does the disease stop bothering him. On July 31, 2006, following a bowel surgery, Fidel Castro transferred his powers to his younger brother, Raul, his Vice President. Fidel retains the title of President of Cuba until February 24, 2008, when the National Assembly elects Raúl Castro for the presidency of the country. “I would betray my conscience to assume a responsibility that requires mobility and total surrender, which I am not in a physical condition to offer,” Fidel wrote in a letter to Cubans.
Fidel is safe at home, being photographed in training clothes in the company of foreign rulers and personalities, of which President Hugo Chávez was the most frequent visitor. Fidel writes a column in the Granma ( “Reflections”) and gives occasional interviews, where he takes to make “meã culpa”. In September 2010, he said: “The Cuban model no longer works for us either.” “I am responsible for the persecution of homosexuals in Cuba.”
The secrecy surrounding his illness – diverticulitis (caused by the lack of fiber in the diet) – triggers speculation about his state of health. Fidel’s death is anticipated several times. Today, it was confirmed. “Time passes and the marathon men get tired,” one day “The Commander” said. “The race was long, very long!”