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 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 his comrades waged a furious guerrilla war against Batista, finally managing to topple him in 1959, in what has become known as the Cuban Revolution. Castro became a celebrity and toured America to much acclaim.
Although initially keen on democracy and promising a democratic Cuba, Castro began getting interested in Marxism-Leninism when he met with Cuban communists to form a working 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 USSR for support. After the Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961, Castro declared himself a communist, set up a communist regime with himself as the Glorious Leader, transformed Cuba into a one party state and ruled the country as dictator until 2008, when he officially stepped down due to ill health. He was succeeded by his younger brother, Raúl (who has been second-in-command for decades).
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, 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 Thaw. 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, only to be barely restrained by his Soviet partners. 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).
During the Cold War, Castro's regime heavily involved itself in anticolonialist struggles in the African Continent. Cuba involved itself in many 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.
Still, Castro managed to overcome these difficulties through a rigorous re-structuring of the country's economy. Cuba is now a major tourist destination for non-Americans (Americans are forbidden to go to the island by the US government) and much of its economy is based around tourism.
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 Latino-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 and the human rights record of the government is poor (though it has slowly improved over the years and its record is significantly better than the average dictatorship). 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 2010 autobiography. 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 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 30,000 women, with his secret police allegedly recruiting many of them. 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 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.
Since Castro is a controversial figure, with many fans and detractors, please use the Rule of Cautious Editing Judgment when editing this page.
Tropes as portrayed in fiction:
- Cigar Chomper: Castro without a cigar in any of his portrayals just doesn't seem to be Castro.
- The Generalissimo: Castro is one of the major inspirations for characters that fall under this trope.
- Iconic Outfit: Almost always portrayed wearing a simple green military uniform, pillbox cap, large beard, and cigar. Late in life 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 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".
- 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.
- 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.