Who Says History Can't Be Fun?
Nutshell Fidel: A Primer
Fidel Castro was born on August 13th, 1926 to rather prosperous parents who owned a sugar cane farm In Cuba. His father, having been raised in poverty, insisted that Fidel work with the field hands so that he wouldn’t grow up to be a rich A-hole with no concern or compassion for the poor. Perhaps more significant: as you can see, Fidel was cute as button. He was the kind of teenage jailbait that you’d feel proud to introduce to mother.
As a young man, Fidel attended the University of Havana, where he studied law. As college students have always been wont to do, he protested government corruption and economic injustice. And there was plenty in Cuba, since the government (and the country) was effectively owned by American corporations and the mafia--both of which treated Cuba as little more than a personal playground to pillage and exploit with utter contempt for the millions of exploited Cubans who lived in abject poverty.
Upon becoming a lawyer Fidel tried to change this by advocating for the poor and participating in mass, popular protests for political reform. Like all American puppet regimes, however, the government of dictator Fulgencia Batistia resisted even moderate reforms, bringing out the standard arsonal to beat down resistance: teargas, mass arrests, torture and execution.
Fidel like many other came to realize that an inherently corrupt system cannot be reformed from within: it must be overthrown. So on July 26th, 1953 he tried to start a revolution against Batistia.
It failed and Fidel was imprisoned for about a year and a half.
While prison made Fidel no longer cute in the young-hot-thang sense, he nevertheless managed to develop a certain degree of charming Cuban debonaire (Note tohipsters:You are not Cuban, nor debonaire, so stop growing F-ing mustaches). It also gave him time to consider a better strategy for bringing about a successful revolution in Cuba. In short, he decided the Revolution must start as a guerilla war drawing its primary support from rural peasants. These were, after all, the majorty. And it was they who suffered most under exploitative dictatorship and who had the most at stake in fighting for freedom.
Thus, on release from prison Fidel went on a revolutionary fund-raising tour in the United States. After that he hit Mexico where he trained with 81 steaming Latinos in the art of guerrilla warfare. And if you never believed Revolution could be sexy, then check out this suggestive photo of Daddy Fidel with Rockin’ Marxist Boy-toy Che Guevarra and you may change your mind ...
Presumably satiated after presumably hours of presumably rough, presumably sweaty Gay Latin lovemaking, Fidel finished buttoning his jacket then he, Che and their comrades hopped into a rickety old boat called Granma and headed for Cuba in a second attempt at Revolution.
But then ... the motherF-ing boat crashed into a motherF-ing swamp off the coast of motherF-ing Cuba! On top of that some motherFer must have ratted them out because Batista’s army was waiting in ambush, the motherFers. Of the 82 men who landed in Cuba on December 2nd, 1956 only 19 managed to elude death or capture by escaping into the Sierra Maestra mountains. They had lost most of their supplies, they were out-gunned, hunted, haggard and hungry men. Not a very promising start to a Revolution.
Yet from this inauspicious beginning a Revolution did indeed emerge. So too did a beard. A very powerful beard. A beard for all seasons. A beard to end all beards. The alpha and omega of beards. Fidel’s beard.
The Revolution was rough going at first, but it quickly picked up steam. From a handful of men a disciplined guerrilla army emerged, as peasants and workers rallied behind Fidel and the movement his beard had inspired. In the span of two short years Batista and his cronies were ousted and Fidel’s Revolutionary army paraded down the streets of Havana to the cheers of a now free people.
After the Revolution Fidel became Prime Minister (later, President) of Cuba. He kicked out the exploitive American corporations that “owned” 90% of the land and returned it to the people. He provided work, food, cheap housing and advanced, free, healthcare and education to every Cuban. He eliminated illiteracy, mandated equal rights for women and, with the help of the Soviet Union, gave Cuba the highest standard of living in Latin America. All of this within 12 years of the Revolution.
Admittedly, a few thousand Cubans were unhappy with this change in the system and fled Cuba to found a new country called “Miami.” Most of these disgruntled sticks-in-the-mud represented that minority of Cubans who had managed to flourish under Batista’s regime, including the Mafia (which ran the gambling, drug and whorehouse rackets); those with close ties to U.S. Corporate interests; plantation kings; and in all likelihood the husband of Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz. But we must forgive Desi for his inability to see the forest for the trees, because I Love Lucy is a F-ing classic and timelessly hilarious show. Also, Lucy’s grandfather was a member of the Communist Party.
With that said, Desi has some ‘splainin’ to do because of the speculative fact that it was he who engineered Uncle Sam’s attempt to destroy the Revolution by covertly sponsoring, training and supporting a half-baked invasion army of Miamians in April of 1961. This "Bay of Pigs" invasion--a gross violation of international law--failed because El Jefe Fidel had cojones of steel: he wasn’t going to be Uncle Sam’s beOtch and as much as he too probably loved Lucy, he wasn’t going to be Desi’s beOtch either.
Like a rich brat who can’t stand to lose, Uncle Sam spent the next half a century stomping his feet, whining, threatening, cajoling, and working to isolate Fidel and Cuba. Decades of terrorist attacks on Cuban civilians by C.I.A. supported Miamians is part of the historical record. The CIA even plotted schemes to make Fidel’s Revolutionary Power-Beard fall out, and trick him into smoking an exploding cigar (true, and true).
But Fidel wasn’t hearing that. He resisted. He fought on. He smoked on. He never surrendered. His beard kept growing. He bravely, boldly, waived that majestic beard from mountaintops as a beacon of Revolutionary promise to a world in short supply of hope. He’s still there, old as sin now and no longer in power, waving that beard--the crazy, beautiful motherFer. And, despite U.S. propaganda that characterized him as a dictator, Fidel never lost the support of the Cuban people. If you don't believe it, read or watch news reports about Cuba from any other country in the world other than the United States, where the Miami lobby has put a five-decade muzzle on the truth.
Of course, Cuba today is not the Socialist paradise that Fidel envisioned, but for a long time it came pretty damn close. Boring context is important here if you’re going to see through the propaganda of wicked Miamians: after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba was isolated and alone, left to fend for itself against the United States. At the same time we increased our pressure to starve the Cuban people into submission. The very fact that Cuba survived this isolation is testament to the continued strength of the Revolution. Though no longer officially the leader of Cuba, Fidel remains widely popular among Cubans. Perhaps this is because they know that they are still better off than the majority populations in so-called “free market” Latin American countries, thanks in large measure to Fidel. The Revolution continues.