Baylor College Medical School

11.1 Fidel Castro (1926)

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11.1 Fidel Castro was born in the easternmost part of Cuba. His father was a prosperous sugarcane farmer. As a boy, Castro saw firsthand the long reach of the United States into Cuba's economy. Where he lived, most farms were owned by the United Fruit Company, a United States firm.

In 1945, Castro began the study of law in Cuba's capital, Havana. While at law school, the young man became involved in revolutionary activities.

After graduating from law school, Castro joined a reformist political party and ran for a seat in the Cuban House of Representatives. However, just before the elections, an army general named Fulgencio Batista overthrew the government and grabbed power for himself.

Almost immediately, Castro became a leader of the opposition to Baista. In 1953, Castro led an attack on an army barracks. The attack was crushed, and Castro was sentenced to 15 years in prison. After serving just two years of his sentence, Castro was released. He went to Mexico, and from there began planning more campaigns against Batista.

At the end of 1956, Castro led a small group of revolutionaries back to Cuba. Most of them were killed in battle immediately. The survivors, including Castro, his brother, Raul, and a friend, Ernesto "Che" Guevara, retreated to the hills to fight a guerrilla war.

Castro gradually attracted more volunteers to his cause. After a series of victories over the larger but poorly led government forces, Castro finally claimed victory in early 1959. Batista fled the country.

Although Castro had promised his supporters that he would adopt s liberal constitution with civil liberties, he did not. Instead, he turned Cuba into a communist dictatorship. He also began to accept aid from the Soviet Union, which angered and worried the United States. Over several decades, tensions persisted between the United States and Castro. During much of that period, the Soviets provided economic aid to Cuba.

Things changed with the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union. Cuba was left without its primary supporter, and its economy suffered. Today, the nation continues to struggle economically. However, Fidel Castro remains firmly in control.


1. How did Castro become involved in revolutionary activities?

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While at law school, the young man became involved in revolutionary activities.