Fidel Castro: 1927—: President
Born Into Privilege
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz was born on August 13, 1927 near the village of Brián in the Oriente Province. His father, Angel Castro, came from the Galacia region of northwest Spain in the 1890s and performed contract work for the United Fruit Company. He eventually accumulated 2,000 acres of land, leashed another 25,000 acres, and became a wealthy farmer. Angel Castro married a schoolteacher named Maria Louisa Argote and they had two children, Lidia and Pedro Emilio. He later married Lina Ruz González and they had seven children: Angela, Ramón, Fidel, Juana, Raúl, Emma, and Augustina.
Although Fidel Castro grew up in privilege, he was influenced by the poverty of his municipality. In Cuba: or, the Pursuit of Freedom, Hugh Thomas wrote, "Castro's early impressions and ambitions were mostly therefore formed by conditions in Oriente province, the most savage part of Cuba, where gun-law often reigned; the area where the U.S. influence was strongest and most brutally exercised; where the doctors, teachers, dentists and indeed all social professions were least numerous in proportion to the population." His hero from youth was a national leader named José Martí who had died in 1895 fighting for Cuban independence. "As the island's greatest thinker and patriotic hero," wrote Tad Szulc in Fidel: a Critical Portrait, "Martí was always Castro's role model … "
Castro attended the French Marists brothers' La Salle school in Santiago and at nine enrolled in Colegio Dolores boys' school. In 1941 he entered Belén College, an exclusive high school in Havana and Bourn noted, "From the moment Fidel arrived at the school, he was spotted by the fathers as a boy with exceptional talent and leadership potential." He became active in sports and won a prize for Cuba's best all-round school athlete in 1943-44.
Castro became interested in politics while studying law at the University of Havana in the mid-1940s. He took part in abortive invasion of the Dominican Republic in summer of 1947, designed to overthrow dictator Rafael Trujillo. When the expedition was called off, Castro escaped in a small boat that overturned. Thomas wrote, "he swam, carrying an Argentinian sub-machine gun and a pistol, across the Bay of Nipe, known to be infested with sharks … " In February of 1948, Castro mobilized a mass protest against the invasion by the police of university autonomy, and in April, he traveled to Bogotá as a member of the student congress and became involved in the street violence that erupted during the Ninth Inter-American Conference.
Brief BiographiesBiographies: Katie Burke (1953–) Biography - Personal to Galeazzo Ciano (1903–1944) BiographyFidel Castro: 1927—: President Biography - Born Into Privilege, Rejected Batista's Dictatorship, Instigated Revolution, Clashed With United States