Fidel Castro was born in 1926 in the Oriente providence of Cuba.1 During his childhood, Castro attended a Roman Catholic boarding school in Santiago de Cuba.2 Castro much of his early life on his father’s farm where he was given anything that he could need as a child- far from mistreated.3 Castro’s family holdings began to expand during his childhood after his father leased over 10,000 hectares of land from United Fruit. Castro’s father then began using this land for raising livestock and growing trees for timber.4 Overtime, this land and the surrounding farmlands gave way to a feudal-like society that Castro would seek to destroy.5 Castro was sporadically involved in politics during his younger years. For example, Castro was in Bogota during the Bogotazo riot in the late 1940’s. This riot was preceded by communist radio stations calling for an overthrow of the government. Castro attempted to lead the rioters in the streets towards real revolution.6 In 1950, Castro graduated from Havana University and opened his own law office.7
Castro’s introduction to the political world began with a run for the Cuban House of Representatives in 1952, but his campaign was cut short when Fulgencio Batista seized power in Cuba shortly before the election.8 Due to popular discontent with Batista, Castro and a band of revolutionaries attempted to overthrow the dictator in 1953. This coup was unsuccessful, and though convicted, Castro and other plotters were freed in 1955.9 From exile, Castro eventually helped form a small rebel army that returned to Cuba raise a rebellion against Batista’s forces in 1956. After numerous defeats, the rebels slowly gained local support and power. At the end of 1958 they succeeded in driving Batista and many of his supporters out of the country. Batista fled to safety, first in the Dominican Republic, and later in Portugal.10 Castro briefly served as head of the new Cuban military but assumed power as Prime Minister in early 1959.
After Castro and his forces seized control of the Cuban government, the United Fruit Company protested the loss of its land and assets, which were nationalized, along with other foreign properties, by the new Cuban government. United Fruit lent many vessels from its Great White Fleet to the United States for an attempt to overthrow Castro and regain their footing in Cuba.11 These United Fruit ships were used to deliver many CIA men and Cuban exiles to Cuba in 1961 with the mission of removing Castro from power. This Bay of Pigs mission was a failure and led greater tensions between Cuba and the US, eventually leading to the Cuban Missile Crisis a year afterwards.12 During his long rule as “First Secretary,” Castro’s style became increasingly authoritarian. Castro failed to hold free elections and imprisoned those who dared to oppose him politically.13 Castro replaced the company colonialism of the United Fruit Company with a Soviet state-directed economic model.14 After decades at the head of the Cuban Communist Party Castro resigned from rule in 2011 and handed power over to his brother, Raul. Castro died in November 2016.15
1 “Fidel Castro Born- This Day in History August 13” History.com, August 12, 2019. Accessed April 28, 2020. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/fidel-castro-born
3 Coltman, Leycester, The Real Fidel Castro (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008), 4.
4 Ibid, 5.
5 Miroff, Nick, “Castro Town: Fidel grew up here, but he came back to destroy it” The Washington Post, December 13, 2016. Accessed May 3, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/castro-town-fidel-grew-up-here-but-he-came-back-to-destroy-it/2016/12/03/51b0f40e-b8d2-11e6-b994-f45a208f7a73_story.html
6 “The Bogotazo” Central Intelligence Agency, July 2, 1996. Accessed April 28, 2020. https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/kent-csi/vol13no4/html/v13i4a07p_0001.htm
7 “Fidel Castro” History.com, November 9, 2009. Accessed April 29, 2020. https://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/fidel-castro
9 “Castro Failed Coup” PBS.com, Accessed May 4, 2020. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/castro-failed-coup-moncada-barracks/
10 “Fulgencio Batista (1901-1973)” PBS.com, Accessed May 4, 2020. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/castro-fulgencio-batista-1901-1973/
11 Chapman, Peter, “Rotten Fruit” Financial Times, May 15, 2007. Accessed May 2, 2020. https://www.ft.com/content/778739c4-f869-11db-a940-000b5df10621
12 Shreve, JB, “Why is Latin America so Dysfunction? Part Three- United Fruit Company” The End of History, April 3, 2019. Accessed May 4, 2020. http://www.theendofhistory.net/important_stories_christians_need_to_know/why-is-latin-america-so-dysfunctional-part-three-united-fruit-company/
13 “Castro and Communism in Cuba” American History from Revolution to Reconstruction and Beyond, Accessed May 4, 2020. http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/outlines/history-1963/america-in-the-modern-world/castro-and-communism-in-cuba.php
14 Miroff, Castro Town.
15 DePalma, Anthony, “Fidel Castro, Cuban Revolutionary Who Defied U.S., Died at 90” The Washington Post, Noember 26, 2016. Accessed May 4, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/26/world/americas/fidel-castro-dies.html