Fidel Castro was born in Birán, Cuba on August 13, 1926, and died at the age of 90 on Friday, November 25, 2016.
Within five decades, Fidel Castro overthrew a dictator, took his place as leader, initiated a communist society in Cuba, and, according to Cuban officials, survived more than 600 assassination attempts. For all the perceived good and bad, his passing last month led many to recall the dynamic and controversial force that was Castro.
Beginning in 1956, Castro led a successful campaign to overthrow the U.S.-backed dictator of Cuba, Fulgencio Batista, with a small batch of fighters and then took the helm of Cuban government.
As Cuba’s leader, Castro implemented communist domestic policies and initiated military and economic relations with the Soviet Union. Cuba’s close ties with the Soviet Union strained their relationship with the United States and led to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis and a U.S. ban on trade.
As the leader of Cuba, Castro made many improvements to health care and education that today, according to the CIA World Factbook, still exceed regional outcomes. Castro opened about 10,000 schools, according to Biography.com, which increased literacy rates and provided a universal health care system, decreasing current infant mortality to 4.5 deaths per 1,000 births.
Despite the improvements made, many Cuban citizens did not like the idea of being under the control of yet another dictator, nor did they or American leaders appreciate the new communist society (Castro had denied being a communist but later championed himself as a Marxist-Leninist backing the main philosophers of communism).
Castro brutally persecuted those suspected to be a threat to his dominion; thousands died trying to escape his regime’s rule and Castro later accepted blame for the persecution and imprisonment of LGBT Cubans.
For five decades, Fidel Castro greatly influenced his country and others, so the question arose; how should people react to his death?
Castro’s successor and brother, President Raul Castro, gave a short speech several days after announcing his death. “He devoted his life to solidarity… He became a symbol of anti-colonialist struggle, anti-apartheid, and anti-imperialist for the emancipation and dignity of the people,” said the surviving Castro brother.
Their sister, Juanita Castro, had little to say after Fidel’s passing. During an interview with a New York Times reporter, Ms. Castro explained that she left Cuba because she could not accept the kind of regime that was being forced onto her country. When asked about her thoughts on the people in Florida celebrating Fidel’s death, she said that it was a very sad moment for her.
“It is not necessary to do what the Cuban people have done here in Miami… I respect the sentiment of people, but I can’t accept this,” she said. Ms. Castro has no intention to ever return to Cuba, not even for her brother’s funeral.
Within the borders of Cuba and around the world, people have expressed different feelings about Castro’s death. The prominent Afro-Cuban community in Cuba, and Africans outside of Cuba that have been touched by Castro’s rule one way or another, are said to be in deep despair over the leader’s passing.
In an article posted in The Undefeated, DeWayne Wickham wrote, “To many people of African descent outside of Cuba, Castro was seen as the leader of a poor country that sent 40,000 soldiers to Africa to help free Angola and Namibia from the grip of South Africa’s apartheid government – an action that speeded up Nelson Mandela’s release from prison.”