Violent, corrupt, anti-imperialist, communist, yet a historical icon? Fidel Castro was a Cuban Revolutionist that took control of his country by directly attacking the Cuban Army. Many people saw Castro as a cold-hearted killer, however, Castro was a hero of history because he improved the lives of the people and helped Cuba gain more freedom through the Cold War.
World War II had just ended, countries were destroyed, yet there was a lot going on during this time period such as the Czechoslovakian “constitutional coup”, the Berlin Blockade, and many other international affairs. As Americans, the biggest threat was any communist leader with potential to surplus the right amount of power and use it in the wrong way, which is what would later happen. Shortly after the war, the Soviets created left-wing governments in eastern Europe that were controlled by the Red Army. (Picture 1) This communist power was later tried to be forced upon western Europe, whom had American ideals and democracy, which ultimately caused the Cold War. It wasn’t until 1958 when the United States and Soviets started to engineer intercontinental ballistic missiles, leading to a secret planting of US aimed missiles in Cuba in 1962. This action caused the Cuban missile crisis, which is where Fidel Castro notably made his mark in Cuba.
Fidel Castro grew up to the small town of Birán, which was a small town in eastern Cuba. Since his father was a wealthy Spanish sugar farmer, he was able to apply and then attend the university of Havana as a law student. Castro loved politics and once he went to college, he joined the anti-corruption Orthodox Party. After some time had passed and Castro had graduated from college, he opened a law office. Castro thought it was a good idea to run for office so he ran for office against the Cuban house of Representatives. When the election never happened because of Batista seizing power of the Government, Castro planned an uprising. In July of 1953, Castro led an attack against the Moncada Army with only 120 men. The attack was a huge failure as most of his men were killed and Castro was captured and then sentenced to 15 years in prison. Castro ended up in Mexico a freed man 2 years later, after being released early as part of a general amnesty. It was there that he met up with Ernesto “Che” Guevara, to plot his return.
A year later, Castro sailed with about 81 other men to the eastern coast of Cuba with intent to attack the Government. However, the Government got to Castro before he could get to them, ambushing the boat and leaving only eighteen survivors alive. The remaining survivors fled to the Sierra Maestra Mountains in southern Cuba. Castro and his fellow Revolutionists had to rebuild his party however his men were left with little to no supplies and two rifles.
Fidel Castro helped the people of Cuba in many ways. He was a man who believed in equality for all and wanted the best for the people of Cuba. Some ways he improved the lives of the Cubans include: abolishing legal discrimination, bringing electricity to the countryside, provided full employment and advanced the causes of education and health care (History). Castro worked to end discrimination against the Afro-Cuban population. Before, they were poor, they lacked medical care and they lacked educational opportunities but Castro put laws into place to improve the lives of the Afro-Cubans. Before Castro was the leader, a large portion of Cuba didn’t even have electricity. Fidel Castro made it a must to give the people of Cuba power. (Picture 2) Since Castro was a communist, he believed that everyone should be employed and should have a job that would positively affect Cuba. He successfully did this along with providing a better education system and health care. “Since its 1959 revolution, Cuba’s infant mortality rate has fallen from 37.3 to 4.3 per 1000 live births. From 1970 to 2016 life expectancy increased from 70.04 to 78.7 years” (Blumenthal). Overall, the health of Cubans has improved dramatically thanks to Castro’s healthcare system. Out of all of Castro’s many positive impacts, one of the most well known is his accomplishment of making most of Cuba literate with the language. This was called the Literacy campaign. He told the literacy teachers “You will teach, and you will learn” and successfully helped unit the country of Cuba. (Picture 3)
Castro successfully helped Cuba gain more freedom through the Cold War. Originally, Castro felt that he had no choice but to store missiles in Cuba in order to help the Cuban revolution due to his solidified relationship with Khrushchev. Khrushchev later backed out of the Cuban missile crisis and Castro decided to do what was right. He made an agreement with John F. Kennedy to stop the missiles in Cuba. The agreement had five conditions. The first condition was cessation of all commercial and economic pressure against Cuba. This meant that other countries would have to stop trade with Cuba. The second was an end to all subversive activities carried against the Castro regime from the territory of the United States and other “accomplice territories.” The third was an ending of pirate attacks on Cuba. The fourth was an end to U.S. aircraft and ships entering (“violating”) Cuban airspace and naval space uninvited. This meant that the United States was not allowed to bring their airplanes and ships into the military base area of Cuba. The final agreement was the evacuation of the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo. This made it so the U.S. was not interfering and their military was not a constant presence in the country of Cuba. All of these agreements made it so Cuba had more freedom from mainly the United States but also other countries as well.
All in all, Castro was a successful leader that turned out to be for the better despite all the violence. Due to him growing up a peaceful and educated young man, he was able to overcome obstacles and drastically affect Cuba long term. Castro managed to help the citizens of Cuba tremendously in many ways as well as help gain space and freedom to be their on country without the constant interference of the U.S.. Because his ability to gain power, take over the country, and help enlighten the citizens of Cuba, Fidel Castro is nowhere near a cold hearted killer, but a historical icon from our perspective. As students, we need to acknowledge the memorable and heroic actions that Fidel Castro orchestrated and learn to be independent and brave just like him.
Article by Matt Jenner & Video by Nico Gambetta
“About the AARC.” ASSASSINATION ARCHIVES, aarclibrary.org/cold-war-context/.
“Fidel Castro’s Health Care Legacy.” The Commonwealth Fund,
The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Cold War.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia
Britannica, Inc., 18 Sept. 2017, www.britannica.com/event/Cold-War.
“Was the Soviet Union Justified in Putting Missiles in Cuba? – A-Level History – Marked by
Teachers.com.” Marked by Teachers,