Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz (August 13, 1926 November 25, 2016) was born to a peasant and conscript from Spain who became a sugar plantation owner in Cuba. Fidel Castro involved himself in revolutionary politics during his days as a law student in Havana. He participated in the attempt to overthrow the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo in 1947, as well as the first, unsuccessful attempt to overthrow Fulgencio Batista, the dictator of Cuba. He then fled to Mexico, where he met Che Guevara. Gathering Che, Camilo Cienfuegos, and other like-minded Cubans, Castro formed the left-wing nationalist 26th of July Movement or M-26-7. After sailing back to Cuba in 1956, Castro and M-26-7 waged a furious insurrection in the cities and countryside against Batista, finally managing to topple the dictator in 1959, in what has become known as the Cuban Revolution. Castro became a celebrity and toured America to much acclaim.
Contrary to popular belief, Castro appeared to be genuinely keen on democracy and was effectively a left-wing nationalist during the revolution, and only later found the direction for his own nationalism in communism. He started his political career off as a radical social democrat working for the like-minded populist Ortodox Party (many 'Ortodoxos' later joined M-26 -7's ranks), and promising a democratic Cuba with the restoration of the famous 1940 Constitution. After his victory on January 1st, 1959, Castro began getting interested in communism when he met with Cuban communists - who had previously scorned him as a bourgeois hipster all throughout the revolution - to form a working left-wing government. Worsening relations with America over nationalization of American business properties in Cuba, and an embargo by the Eisenhower administration led Castro to begin looking towards the Soviet Union for support, destroying the revolutionary alliance as he exiled or imprisoned anyone who was opposed to the now pro-Soviet direction of the revolution. But it took the Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961 for Castro to officially declare himself and the revolution communist note . He then set up a communist state with himself as the Glorious Leadernote transformed Cuba into an authoritarian one party state under Marxism-Leninism, and ruled the country as dictator until 2008, when he officially stepped down due to ill health. He was succeeded by his much quieter younger brother, Raúl (who has been second-in-command for decades). But until his death, Castro was the face of Cuba, and his left-wing nationalism (now taken in a communist direction) ensured that he had the respect of the Cuban populace, even those who privately disagreed with the communist system. Both his admirers and actual supporters alike are known as Fidelistas in Spanish, and Castrists in English.
Naturally, Castro quickly became an enemy of the US. The CIA tried in various ways to get rid of Castro, including multiple assassination attempts (including some rather odd methods like exploding cigars), the Bay of Pigs Invasion on 1961, and an economic embargo since 1962 (this is still in effect, though Barack Obama has worked to lighten the restrictions—even allowing visitors to bring home 100 dollars' worth of Cuban cigars), he nevertheless survived. Castro was also excommunicated by Pope John XXIII, though his stance towards religion was far more moderate than other Communist nations, and Cuba notably was far less religious than other Latin American nations, due to the Catholic and Protestant churches generally being supportive of Spanish colonization and US economic domination respectively. The Cuban government actually began a careful rapprochement with the Church in the 1970s, and changed its constitution to declare the state a secular one as opposed to state atheism. This is a fact acknowledged when Pope John Paul II, a famous anti-communist icon visited Cuba under his tenure, and condemned the US Embargo. Years later, Pope Francis played a role in brokering the US-Cuban Thawnote .
Castro was also a central figure in the Cuban Missile Crisis and he was the one player in the incident most ready to launch the missiles if the Americans dared invade (as well as mobilizing the entire army beforehand), only to be barely restrained by his Soviet partners. However, Castro only wanted to launch the missiles as an absolute last resort. Khrushchev also openly treated Cuba as a pawn in the whole matter despite previously buttering Cuba up as a trusted Soviet ally, and locked Cuba out of the negotiations, something Castro absolutely despised as a Cuban nationalist, and never forgave the Soviets for. As a result, Cuba aligned closer to the Non-Aligned Movement than the Warsaw Pact afterwards, despite still being a Soviet ally. Through the Cold War, Cuba relied on Soviet support, and when that was cut off Cuba faced a major economic crisis (mostly due to a lack of oil). Later on, Castro admitted that he now regarded JFK as a Worthy Opponent and honorable man.
During the Cold War, Castro's regime heavily involved itself in anti-colonialist struggles in Africa. Cuba involved itself with liberation struggles in Mozambique, Namibia, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), Guinea-Bissau, and Angola. Cuba's intervention in the Angolan War against Portugal was especially decisive, since it played a part in the end of the Portuguese empire and its transition to democracy, secured Angolan independence, as well as the independence of Namibia, and checked a potential invasion by Apartheid South Africa. Castro also provided much support and inspiration for Nelson Mandela and his African National Congress, and he dispatched doctors across Africa to provide aid to the poor. For these reasons, Castro and Cuba in general have a heroic reputation in Africa, and Nelson Mandela considered Castro his friend and mentor. However, Castro also provided military support for the pro-Soviet 'Derg' military junta in Ethiopia, which was widely condemned for its cruelty, corruption, ineffective governance, and worsening an ongoing famine with its thuggish policies.
Castro also made some surprising and intriguing alliances with leaders supposedly at the opposite end of the political spectrum to him: the fascist Francisco Franco (shared Galician heritage, mutual suspicion of the USA, similar social conservatism and dislike of Fulgencio Batista), the brutally anti-communist Argentine junta (Castro strongly supported what he saw as the 'anti-imperialist' invasion of the Malvinas) and the fundamentalist Ayatollah Khomeini (mutual suspicion of the USA again).
The blockade persisted throughout all aspects of Cuban life, and caused tremendous economic strain. Still, Castro managed to overcome these difficulties through a rigorous re-structuring of the country's planned economy. Cuba is now a major tourist destination for non-Americans (Americans are forbidden to go to the island by the US government, though many do nonetheless) and much of its economy is based around tourism. Cuba also had a long history of pursuing secret backchannel negotiations with the US to try and form some sort of detente throughout the Cold War and afterwards.
Although Cuba remains a poor country with very limited political and economic freedom, Castro's regime did much to improve public education, sports and particularly public health. Cuba still exports doctors to many Latin American countries and has an average life expectancy on par with your average first world country. On the other hand, a lot of basic living commodities are rationed, many buildings are in a poor state of repair, internet access is extremely limited, journalists are treated badly, press freedom is almost non-existent, and the human rights record of the government is poor, particularly regarding incarceration rates, as Castro was notoriously fond of short-term arbitrary detention in terrible prison conditions for all his critics, with bouts of psychological torture to boot. However, the human rights record has improved over the years albeit very slowly, and is at least significantly better than the average dictatorship nowadays.
Aside from the infamous executions of former officials and dissidents without trial at La Cabana prison (overseen by Che himself), the Castro regime has become infamous for homophobia in past decades, with homosexuals being thrown in labor camps immediately after the revolution while others were expelled from the country. That said, Castro did take personal responsibility, declaring that his attitude to LGBT rights was wrong in his autobiography, and outright declaring that he was wrong in his homophobia in 2010. The country does have a good rating on the sustainable development index, though this likely has more to do with the poverty than conscious government policy (i.e. they waste little resources because many things are in short supply, and their living standards are low so they don't consume much anyway).
Not as much is known about Castro's personal life, but one of Castro's biographers, Leycester Coltman, described the Cuban as being "fiercely hard-working, dedicated, loyal... generous and magnanimous" but also noted that he could be "vindictive and unforgiving" at times. He went on to note that Castro "always had a keen sense of humor and could laugh at himself" but could equally be "a bad loser" who would act with "ferocious rage if he thought that he was being humiliated." There have been claims he had been with around 35,000 women, with his secret police allegedly recruiting many of them off Cuba's beaches. He was known as a cigar fan, but stopped smoking them on the advice of his doctors in 1985.
Castro was the author of many political books (most of them being edited collections of his speeches, of which there are many—Castro currently holds the record for the longest speech delivered at the United Nations General Assembly, at 4.5 hours), most of them dealing — as you'd expect — with his problems with capitalism and American foreign policy.
Castro died on November 25th, 2016, of unannounced causes. Ironically enough, his death on November 25 was Black Friday in America, a very consumerist capitalist holiday. It was also the birthday of violently anti-communist Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, leading to many jokes to the effect that Pinochet's birthday wish had finally been granted. On the less ironic note, he passed away on the very day that he and his comrades sailed to Cuba to begin the most important section of their revolution. November 25 was also the birthday of Armenian communist Monte Melkonian, funnily enough. There remains a small group of people who believe Castro had actually died months to years before the announcement, with it being withheld for various reasons depending on who you ask.
Since Castro is one of the most polarizing figures in modern history, with many supporters and detractors, please use the Rule of Cautious Editing Judgment when editing this page.
Tropes as portrayed in fiction:
- Chummy Commies: In a handful of works more sympathetic or nuanced towards him, Castro is portrayed as a brilliant revolutionary leader who had to resort to authoritarian methods to ensure his nation's survival.
- Cigar Chomper: Castro without a cigar in any of his portrayals just doesn't seem to be Castro.
- Ironically enough, after his death, Cuba would begin to edit the cigars out of official photos, for reasons that have not been officially stated.
- Dirty Communists: Perhaps the example of this trope in American media after the Soviets and Chinese, especially at the height of the Cold War.
- The Generalissimo: Although his enemy Batista was a famous example, Castro became and remains one of the major inspirations for characters that fall under this trope, usually overlapping with Dirty Communists in most portrayals and his character trait of making extremely long and fiery speeches.
- Iconic Outfit: Whether as himself or an Expy, Castro is always portrayed wearing a olive drab military uniform and Ridgeway cap note , with a large beard and smoking a cigar. In his twilight years, he switched over to an Adidas track suit, with provoked jokes about him being a Slav (Adidas tracksuits are associated with working class Slavs in Eastern Europe and Russia).
Fidel Castro in media
- He's the target of an unsuccessful assassination attempt by Nick Fury himself in Fury: My War Gone By during the Bay of Pigs Invasion.
- He appears in one sketch in The First Family, the Vaughn Meader comedy album spoofing the John F. Kennedy administration. In the sketch, JFK is hosting a meeting of numerous foreign leaders, and has everyone order what kind of sandwich they want for lunch. Castro requests "A chee-kon sandwich with a live chee-kon."
- Nero: He has a cameo in Het Wonderwolkje ("The Magic Cloud") where he orders Nero executed for claiming he is more famous than him.
- He sets the plot of Scarface (1983) in motion by releasing a massive number of prisoners to Florida. He appears onscreen giving the real-life speech on the subject.
- A segment of The Godfather Part II takes place in Cuba during his uprising against Batista. While he doesn't appear on-screen, he's a major concern for the businessmen, and los fidelianos hail his name after his victory.
- Oliver Stone's Commandante is a documentary film made of interviews with Castro about a diverse range of topics.
- Featured in the Cuban Crisis segment of The Fog of War, in which he's considered a Worthy Adversary by former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.
- Though he never appears in-person, he is an important character in World War Z, and he (and Cuba) emerge from the Zombie Apocalypse arguably in better shape than when the ordeal commenced. Once he weathers this crisis, Castro officially steps down and allows for democratic elections.
- Castro shows up in the novel The Man Who Brought the Dodgers Back to Brooklyn during a scene where Dodgers owner Bobby Hanes flies to Cuba to sweet-talk Castro into lending players directly from the Cuban national team. Castro reveals that he was a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers of old, considers the New York Yankees a symbol of capitalist decadence, and happily lends Hanes a star slugger.
- In the New Deal Coalition Retained timeline, the US-backed counterrevolution in Cuba is much more successful. This causes Castro to eventually have a nervous breakdown, resulting in Che Guevara executing him and seizing power.
- Harmon Rabb meets him in the JAG episode "Florida Straits".
- Legends of Tomorrow: In the episode "Bay of Squids", a time-displaced alien crashes in Cuba during the Missile Crisis. The paranoid Castro is convinced that it's a CIA plot to kill him, and intends to launch a Soviet-made nuke at DC in retaliation.
- He and Guevara are mentioned in "Indian Girl" by The Rolling Stones from Emotional Rescue:
Mr. gringo, my father, he ain't no Che GuevaraAnd he's fighting the war on the streets of MasayaLittle Indian girl, where's your father?Little Indian girl, where is your momma?They're fighting for Mr. Castro in the streets of Angola.
- In the song "Motorpsycho Nightmare" from Bob Dylan's Another Side From Bob Dylan Dylan purposefully offends a farmer by pretending to like Fidel Castro.
- The English indie music band Infidel?/Castro! is named after him.
- "April Sun in Cuba" by Dragon:
Castro in the alleyway, talkin' that missile up,
Talkin' 'bout JFK, and the way he shook him up!
- A playable leader in Tropico. The original Presidente and the in-game generals are modelled after him, featuring his signature green uniform, cap hat, beard, and cigars.
- The first mission of Call of Duty: Black Ops has you assassinate him during the Bay of Pigs invasion. Turns out you got a double - the real Castro shows up at the end, handing the Player Character over to the Russians. He later appears in the Nazi Zombies stage "Five", fighting zombies in the Pentagon alongside Richard Nixon, John F. Kennedy, and Robert McNamara. His appearance in Zombies is positively littered with Genius Bonus and Historical In-Jokes. Amusingly, he gets along pretty well with Nixon.
- In SCP Foundation, Castro is a Humanoid Abomination monitored under the number "SCP-3874". His supernatural attributes are unclear but are speculated to have allowed him to survive so many murder attempts, either because of invulnerability, clairvoyance, or reality-warping. After his official death, the Foundation manage to steal his corpse and perform an autopsy, as well as interviewing his brother Raul to gather information. It turns out he apparently was just a perfectly normal human being.
- Castro appears in the second episode of The Critic where he is initially depicted as kindhearted and grandfatherly, until Jay Sherman unknowingly insults him. When pointed out that he just insulted 'El Presidente' Castro replies: "Not to worry. I am not the gruff old bear people think I am." The show then cuts away to Jay standing in front of a firing squad with Castro yelling "Shoot to wound, men!"
- King of the Hill: In "Yankee Hankee", Castro is briefly shown in a flashback where he made a rare visit to New York to attend a baseball game. Cotton Hill attempted to assassinate him with a poisoned dart but was distracted by his wife Tilly giving going into labor, causing the dart to miss and hit someone else. In the present, Cotton and his fellow elderly WWII veterans decided to try to sail to Cuba to assassinate Castro, but Hank, not wanting them to do something that reckless, foils them.
- In The Simpsons he is about to give in and declare the defeat of Communism, but this is averted after he steals a trillion dollar bill from Mr. Burns.
- Family Guy had an episode where Peter declares his property to be its own independent nation because said property was somehow not considered to be a part of the United States. He invites all of the world's communist leaders and dictators for a pool party and Castro is one of the guests. Castro is running near the pool and gets scolded by Stewie for it.