Fidel Castro Ruz was born August 13, 1926 in Birán, in the former province of Oriente. His father, Angel Castro Argíz, the son of poor farmers in Galicia, was a landholder and sugarcane colonist. His mother, Lina Ruz González, was from a rural family in the province of Pinar del Río.
He learned to read and write in a rural, public school in Birán, and continued his elementary education in the private Catholic boarding schools of La Salle and Dolores, in the city of Santiago de Cuba. He began his secondary studies at the same Dolores College and concluded them at the Jesuit Belén school, in Havana, from which he graduated in June of 1945.
The Jesuits of Belén said, "Fidel Castro always distinguished himself in all subjects related to Letters… He was a real athlete, and was able to win the admiration and affection of all. He would go on to study law, and we never doubted that he would write brilliant chapters in the book of his life. Fidel had the raw material and the sculptor will not be lacking."
In September of 1945 , he enrolled at the University of Havana, to study Law, Social Sciences and Diplomatic Law. There, he immediately joined the political struggles of the student body and assumed different positions in the University Student Federation. He was an outstanding member of different progressive and anti-imperialist organizations, such as the Pro Puerto Rican Independence Committee; the September 30 Committee, of which he was a founder; and the Pro Democracy in the Dominican Republic Committee, of which he was president.
As part of his political activity during these years, he organized and participated in innumerable protests and denounced the political and social situation in the country. He was beaten and jailed more than once by the repressive forces.
Between July and September of 1947, the third year of his studies, he signed up to participate in an expedition to fight against the regime of Dominican dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo. The volunteers trained on Confites Cay. He was promoted to lieutenant, squad leader, and then to head a battalion company. The expeditionaries set off to the sister republic by sea, but were intercepted by the Cuban Navy. Fidel jumped into the water with his rifle, to avoid capture, and always considered it shameful that the fighters ended up arrested without ever joining the struggle.
He came into contact with Marxist ideas as a university student. He sympathized with the Orthodox Party of the Cuban People, a progressive tendency, and participated actively in their electoral campaigns, beginning in 1948, in particular in that of the party's principal leader Eduardo R. Chibás. Within the political organization, he worked to promote the most radical and combative positions among the youngest members. After the death of Chibas, he redoubled his efforts to unmask corruption within the government of Carlos Prío.
After his participation in the expedition against Trujillo, in 1948, he traveled to Venezuela, Panama, and Colombia, as a student leader, with the goal of organizing a Latin American Student Congress, which was to take place in this last country.
He was in Bogotá when the rebellion erupted following the assassination of Colombian leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, in April this year. He threw himself into the struggle, and only survived by pure luck.
In March of 1949, he led a protest in front of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana, to express popular indignation with the disrespect shown by U.S. Marines to Cuban national hero José Martí, at a statue located in the center of Old Havana.
In 1950, Fidel graduated with a PhD in Civil Law, and a bachelor's degree in Diplomatic Law. From his attorney's office, he devoted himself to defending the poor.
When Fulgencio Batista staged a coup March 10, 1952, Fidel was one of the first to denounce the reactionary, illegitimate nature of the regime and call for its overthrow.
He organized and trained a large contingent of almost a thousand young workers and students, fundamentally from the ranks of the Orthodox Party.
With 160 of these comrades, on July 26, 1953, he led the assault on the Moncada Garrison in Santiago de Cuba and one in Bayamo, in an action conceived to detonate the armed struggle against the Batista dictatorship.
The plan for a surprise attack failed, and they were unable to accomplish their objective. Fidel was imprisoned by the tyranny's repressive forces, a few days after the military setback, and was held incommunicado for 76 days. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to 15 years in prison, after defending himself in a private hearing, under guard, giving a statement known as "History will absolve me," in which he outlined the future Cuban Revolution's program.
"No weapon, no force is capable of defeating a people that decides to struggle for its rights. There are innumerable historical examples in the past, and in the present. Just recently, in the case of Bolivia, where miners with their sticks of dynamite, defeated and crushed the regular army's regiments," he said on that occasion.
In prison, he continued his work denouncing the oppressive regime, while at the same time perfected his revolutionary plans, and deepened his theoretical and ideological foundation and that of his compañeros.
As a result of popular pressure and a broad campaign, he was released in May of 1955. Over subsequent weeks he carried out an intense effort agitating and denouncing the regime, and founded the July 26 Movement to continue the revolutionary struggle.
In July of 1955, seeing the impossibility of moving forward against Batista via legal means, Fidel departs for Mexico, to organize an armed insurrection in exile. In precarious economic conditions, and subjected to the vigilance and persecution of the dictatorship's agents, the organizational and preparatory work continued, while at the same time, the ideas and goals of the insurrection were disseminated. Fidel traveled to the United States - to Philadelphia, New York, Tampa, Union City, Bridgeport and Miami - where, along with exiled compatriots, he established "patriotic clubs" to build economic and political support for the revolutionary struggle.
Under the banner of Fidel's words: "In 1956, we will be free, or we will be martyrs," he, Raúl, Juan Manuel Márquez, Ernesto Che Guevara, Camilo Cienfuegos, Juan Almeida, and other outstanding revolutionaries trained with long walks through the streets of Mexico City, scaling mountains, self defense, guerrilla tactics, and target shooting.
June 20, 1956, the leader of the July 26 Movement, Che, and others were arrested, the safe houses discovered, and a significant portion of the weapons they had collected confiscated.
After they were released by the Mexican police, plans were accelerated. The Granma yacht was purchased and they set sail for Cuba, during the dawn hours of November 25, 1956, from Tuxpan, with 82 combatants aboard, whose average age was 27.
After seven days at sea, they landed December 2, at Las Coloradas, on the southwestern coast of the former province of Oriente. Batista's forces located the landing site and attacked the expeditionaries. On December 5, Fidel and his comrades were surprised at Alegría de Pío. The revolutionaries were split up, several captured, and many killed in the attack.
With the valiant collaboration of local campesinos, Fidel and Raúl are reunited in Cinco Palmas, and regrouped the revolutionary forces, departing for the Sierra Maestra mountains to continue the struggle.
On January 17, 1957, Fidel led the insurgents' first armed attack on the Batista army, at the Plata Garrison, and won their first victory. The Rebel Army began to grow and become stronger.
In his role as Commander in Chief, Fidel directed the armed struggle of the rebel forces and the work of the July 26 Movement for 25 months, during the war. Under his direct command was the José Martí Column One, and he participated personally in almost all of its operations and the most important battles that took place in the First Rebel Front's territory.
Following a crushing defeat, the principal leaders of the dictatorship's elite troops decided to recognize the rebel victory in the theater of operation in the province of Oriente, on December 28, 1958. During the dawn hours of January 1, 1959, Fidel neutralized a coup attempt in Havana - supported by the U.S. - by calling a general strike, and entered the city of Santiago de Cuba that very day, arriving in Havana with the Freedom Caravan on January 8.
He maintained his role as Comandante en Jefe after the insurrection ended, and on February 13, 1959, was named Prime Minister of the Revolutionary Government.
He directed and participated in all actions undertaken to defend the country and the Revolution, against both military aggression from abroad and attacks by counterrevolutionary bands within the nation. In particular, he led the Cuban forces that defeated the invasion organized by the CIA at Playa Girón, on the Bay of Pigs, in April of 1961.
He led the Cuban people through the dramatic days of the October Crisis in 1962.
In the name of the revolutionary government, he proclaimed the socialist character of the Cuban Revolution on April 16, 1961.
He took the lead as secretary general of the Integrated Revolutionary Organizations of this era, and later in the same position heading the United Party of the Socialist Revolution of Cuba. When the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba was established, he was elected First Secretary, a decision which has been ratified by delegates to five Party Congresses.
He was elected as a deputy to the National Assembly of People's Power, representing a district in Santiago de Cuba, from its creation in 1976, and was chosen by this body as the President of Cuba's Councils of State and Ministers through 2006.
He led official Cuban delegations to more than 50 countries, and received multiple decorations abroad and in Cuba, as well as academic honors from institutions of higher learning in Cuba, Latin America, and Europe.
He strategically directed hundreds of thousands of Cuban combatants on international missions in Algeria, Syria, Angola, Ethiopia, and other countries; while inspiring and organizing tens of thousands of Cuban doctors, teachers, and technicians who have offered their services in more than 40 countries of the Third World, along with the provision of training to tens of thousands of students from these nations. Fidel led the establishment of assistance and cooperation to establish comprehensive healthcare programs in numerous countries in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean, and the creation in Cuba of international schools offering studies in medicine, sports, and other sciences and disciplines.
On a global level, he promoted the Third World's battle against the reigning economic order, in particular against crippling foreign debt, the wasting of resources on military spending, and neoliberal globalization, as well as efforts to build unity and integration among Latin American and Caribbean nations.
He has headed the decisive action of the Cuba people to confront the impact of the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on Cuba by the United States, since its inception, and likewise in confronting the consequences of the collapse of the socialist camp, leading the tenacious efforts of Cubans to overcome the great difficulties that resulted, overseeing the resistance and reinitiating a period of growth and economic development.
Throughout the Revolution's many years, he inspired and directed the Cuban people's struggle for the consolidation of our revolutionary process; its advance toward socialism; the unity of revolutionary forces and the entire people; the country's social and economic transformation; the development of education, health, sports, culture, science, and defense; the country's response to foreign aggression; the country's active, principled foreign policy based on solidarity with world's peoples struggling for their independence; and the deepening of the people's revolutionary, internationalist, communist consciousness.
In 2006, for heath reasons he was obligated to resign from his position as President of the Councils of State and Ministers, and in the 2011 6th Party Congress stepped down as First Party Secretary, retaining his seat as a deputy in the National Assembly of People's Power until his death.
Throughout these last ten years, he has carried out productive work, writing Reflections and hundreds of articles, while with great perseverance conducting experiments related to improving human and animal nutrition.
On the basis of his immense moral authority, until his last breath, he continued to contribute his opinions regarding the most important battles undertaken by the Revolution.
The life of Fidel cannot be reduced to a few lines. His permanent, insoluble ties with the people, his brilliant oratory, his constant teaching, his unlimited dedication to the Revolution have left a indelible mark in the Cuban people and served to inspire millions of men and women on all continents. Future generations of Cubans will have in him, as in Martí, an enduring example and the inspiration to give continuity to his work
Reprinted from Granma Newspaper
Back to Article Listing