The End of an Era: Fidel Castro's Undying Global Influence

The End of an Era: Fidel Castro's Undying Global Influence

The early hours of Saturday morning were dominated by the news of the passing of revolutionary Cuban leader and former president, Fidel Castro, at the age of 90. As many world leaders before and after him, Castro was an incredibly polarizing figure; many around the world are currently mourning him while others are celebrating. Fidel Castro was a lawyer, a guerrilla warrior, a self-proclaimed Marxist socialist communist. He was a man with little fear and an even greater resolve. He overthrew then-President Fulgencio Batista during the Cuban Revolution in 1959 and proceeded to take the reins of Cuba for nearly fifty years afterward.

In the remarkable time that followed, he was instrumental in many world events: He converted Cuba into a Communist, one-party socialist state and subsequently pushed out American involvement in Cuba, including the American mafia whose casinos were prevalent in Cuba at the time. This also held true for landowners and the wealthy whose land now belonged to the government. He brushed aside President John F. Kennedy’s Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, forged ties with the Soviet Union and received nuclear missiles from them, igniting the less-than-lax, thirteen day Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

Cuban natives celebrating victory following the failed Bay of Pigs invasion.

Cuban natives celebrating victory following the failed Bay of Pigs invasion.

American women protesting the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of 1962. Photo: Phil Stanziola

American women protesting the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of 1962. Photo: Phil Stanziola

He was controversial and loathed by democratic nations with the United States becoming his most prominent enemy. Fidel Castro was certainly no saint: he killed, he plotted, he was the cause of a heavy Cuban migration to Florida and punished any and every kind of Cuban dissent with incarceration and executions. On the other side, he was instrumental in assisting other nations like Chile and Nicaragua, in the fight against the imperialist rule.

Castro’s Cuba, with limited resources following the fall of the Soviet Union and a U.S. imposed embargo in effect since 1960, became a world leader in education and medicine. Those happen to be two areas that the United States continues to struggle in, to this day. While they live on rations, missing meal is unheard of in Cuba. Homelessness is nonexistent. Human trafficking is an incredulous thought.

Fidel Castro was a man who outlived the Cold War. He outlived the allies that inspired him, like renowned Bolivian revolutionary Che Guevara, and in turn, allies who he, himself influenced such as former Venezuelan President, Hugo Chávez, both enemies of the United States. More impressively still, Castro outlived all of his enemies, including multiple assassination attempts by the CIA and ten U.S. presidencies. Fidel Castro still outlives all of us in a way. His presence, his leadership, his defiance of Western imperialism will live on as an exemplary symbol for disenfranchised nations in the many decades to come. Castro was a champion to the poor, a proverbial shield for the defenseless and an everlasting symbol in world politics.

Ernesto "Che" Guevara

Ernesto "Che" Guevara

Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro

Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro

Short of Cuban writer, poet, and national hero, José Martí, Castro is the most influential person in that nation’s history. While Cuba will be fine under his brother, President Raúl Castro, who officially took over in 2008 after Castro relinquished his power, one has to wonder if the essence of Cuba will be missing something intangible without Fidel’s life imbued in it. It is truly the end of an era. A figure that was always present in some form in our lives is now gone. While many in the United States government, common Americans and exiled Cubans in Miami are celebrating his death, they should be reminded of this quote by prolific Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho - ironically enough, also borrowed by Castro ally, Hugo Chávez: "There is no greater failure than to rejoice over the death of the man you could not overcome in life".

Che Guevara and Fidel Castro in 1961. Photo: Alberto Korda

Che Guevara and Fidel Castro in 1961. Photo: Alberto Korda

Fidel Castro and Malcolm X at Harlem's Hotel Theresa in 1960.

Fidel Castro and Malcolm X at Harlem's Hotel Theresa in 1960.

There's no desire here to live in a communist state or to eradicate the pleasures of ambition and of individual success that Americans get to exercise here. There is only a respect for a man who, for better or worse, did what he thought was right for his people, and greatly influenced the world. 

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