Fidel Castro, a prominent Cuban politician and revolutionary, died on November 25, 2016. During his unusually long political career, Castro became a towering international figure whose importance, influence but also controversy far exceeded what would be expected from the head of state of a small Caribbean island nation. His supporters laud him as a champion of socialism and anti-imperialism whose revolutionary regime secured Cuba’s independence from American imperialism. Conversely, critics view him as a dictator whose administration oversaw human-rights abuses, the exodus of a large number of Cubans, and the impoverishment of the country’s economy. Whether you view him as a hero or villain, here are 25 Facts About Fidel Castro You Probably Didn’t Know.
Fidel Castro is the author of the longest timed speech ever delivered at the United Nations. Castro made the speech at the 872nd plenary meeting of the General Assembly on 26 September 1960. The time listed is 269 minutes (4 hours and 29 minutes).
Castro was known for his busy working hours, often only going to bed at 3 or 4 a.m. He even preferred to meet foreign diplomats in these early hours, believing that they would be tired, and he could gain the upper hand in negotiations.
Castro claimed he survived 634 attempts or plots to assassinate him, mainly masterminded by the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S.-based exile organizations. They may have included poison pills, a toxic cigar, exploding mollusks, and a chemically tainted diving suit.
Castro's favorite author was American novelist Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway had one of his permanent residences in Cuba and wrote some of his famous works such as For Whom The Bell Tolls on the island. Castro and Hemingway met in 1960 at a fishing tournament in Cuba.
In 1955, after being imprisoned for two years, Castro traveled to Mexico where he formed a revolutionary group, the 26th of July Movement, with his brother Raúl Castro and Che Guevara, a controversial Argentine Marxist revolutionary, guerrilla leader, diplomat, and military theorist.
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Fidel Castro was the world’s third longest-serving head of state, after Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and the King of Thailand, leading Cuba for nearly 5 decades.
During his extraordinarily long political career, Castro also outlasted as many as 9 US presidents - from Eisenhower to Clinton. For most of his reign, Castro faced numerous economic and financial sanctions issued by those presidents.
Castro was uninterested in music but was a devoted sports fan and spent much of his time trying to keep fit and undertaking regular exercise.
Fidel Castro's private life remains largely unknown, but the Cuban leader is known to have had five wives with whom he had a total of eleven children.
If you’re enjoying this list, also be sure to check out 25 Little-Known Facts About Cuba: The Capital Of Revolution.
Fidel Castro was named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential personalities of all time.
Castro's full name was Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz. He was named Castro after his father, Ángel Castro y Argiz who was a Spanish immigrant. His second name, Ruz, was given to him after his mother Lina Ruz González, a daughter of Canarian immigrants.
Wait until you see number 5! It might just shock you.
Castro was known to chew on Cuban cigars until he gave it up in 1985, saying, "The best thing you can do with this box of cigars is give them to your enemy."
Castro started wearing his iconic beard as a young revolutionary. It was not just a symbol of the guerrilla fighter; he had practical reasons for that, explaining, “If you calculate 15 minutes a day to shave, that is 5,000 minutes a year spent shaving." Castro said he would rather spend his time on more important activities.
While still in school (aged 21), he traveled to the Dominican Republic in the summer of 1947 to participate in the overthrow the military dictator Rafael Trujillo, planting the seed of his inclination toward armed rebellion.
One of Castro's cows, known as Ubre Blanca (translated as White Udder), made it to the Guinness Book of World Records for the highest milk yield by a cow in one day - 110 liters (29 U.S. gallons). Castro referred to this cow's extraordinary output in speeches as evidence of communism's superior breeding skills, and the cow's achievements were often printed in Cuba's government-controlled newspapers.
American historian Theodore Draper coined the term "Castroism," defining it as a blend of European socialism with the Latin American revolutionary tradition.
Castro took a great interest in gastronomy, as well as wine and whisky. As Cuban leader, he was known to wander into his kitchen to discuss cookery with his chefs.
In the mid-1960's, Castro formed an alliance with the Soviet Union, and - in response to U.S. nuclear missiles in Turkey that he perceived as U.S. threats against Cuba – he allowed the Soviets to place nuclear weapons on Cuba, sparking the Cuban Missile Crisis - a defining incident of the Cold War.
Castro was fluent in English, but he usually refused to speak it (even in public or private interviews) because he considered it to be "the language of his enemies."
Castro met Yuri Gagarin in June 1961 in Havana, a Russian Soviet pilot and cosmonaut and the first human to journey into outer space. The photo of the two hugging became one of the most famous of Castro's pictures.
Fidel Castro had many admirers even among some of the most popular American celebrities such as Jack Nicholson, Steven Spielberg, Robert Redford, Chevy Chase, Oliver Stone, and Kevin Costner.
Castro is also the author of many quotes. Some of his most famous quotes are, “Revolution is not a trail of roses. A revolution is a fight to the death between the future and the past,” and “Men do not shape destiny. Destiny produces the man for the hour.”
Castro changed his opinions on LGBT rights in Cuba. In the 1960's, the country's government forcibly suppressed and persecuted homosexuals and cultural dissenters with imprisonment and "reeducation." In 2010, however, Castro expressed regret over this policy. His niece, Mariela Castro, is an LGBT activist and is currently fighting for lesbian rights in Cuba.
For most of his life, Castro preferred military style clothes and the combat look to anything else, but in his last years, he adopted a more comfortable style. He particularly grew fond of the sport brand Adidas. He wore casual Adidas jackets even at important political meetings.
Interested in learning more about Cuba? Take a look at 25 Revealing Photographs Of Life In Cuba Before Castro.
Castro's best friend and closest political ally was Hugo Chavez, a controversial Venezuelan politician who served as the 64th President of Venezuela from 1999 to 2013. Chavez died in March 2013.
Photos: 23. Manos Bourdakis via wikimedia commons, 20 & Feature: Televisione Streaming via Flickr, 18. Cuban Government Archives via wikimedia commons, 17. Antonio Milena/ABr via wikimedia commons, 16. Marcelo Montecino via Flickr, 15. Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-L0618-027 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, 14. no author info via wikimedia commons, 13. http://en.kremlin.ru/ CC 4.0 international , 10. Vandrad from de.wikipedia.org, 7. Ricardo Stuckert/ABr via Agencia Brasil via wikimedia commons, 5. Georges Biard via wikimedia commons, 4. Roberto Di Fede Pilato via Flickr, 3. Duffboy via wikimedia commons, 2. Presidencia de la Nación Argentina via wikimedia commons, 1. Randal Sheppard via Flickr