For better or worse, Fidel Castro is a key figure of Latin American history in the 20th century. The Cuban Revolution he spearheaded in 1959 was an example of the dignity that a small island nation could achieve in front of both the United States and its own tyrant, only to end up turning into a dictatorship for over 50 years.
Castro’s presence dominated the Latin American political landscape for decades. His successful guerrilla war, which toppled dictator Fulgencio Batista, attracted generations of youths yearning for social change. The triumph of the Revolution against a corrupt and decadent regime spread an idealistic fire throughout the continent.
Havana was much more than a model to follow; a number of guerrillas operating in Latin America were trained from there. This came about as a result of continental vision, but also of the Cold War. Cuba’s antagonism with the United States led it to align with the Soviet Union, a relationship of dependency in which the island went as far as sending its own soldiers to fight in a civil war in Angola.
However, in addition to soldiers and Marxist ideology, Castro’s Cuba exported doctors and educators to other countries. The Revolution transformed Cubans into one of the populations with the highest literacy rates in the world. Free medical attention and scientific advances were also among the regime’s significant achievements.
Fidel handed down Cuba’s management to his brother Raúl years ago, which is why it is believed that his death will not bring about big political changes. Still, the passing of the man who dominated the fate of the island with an iron fist for more than half a century undoubtedly creates uncertainty.
The future of Cubans is in the hands of the people who are on the island today, not the ones celebrating in Miami. The latter will be faced with the challenge of figuring out how to contribute to their country of origin. With Fidel Castro’s death, a long chapter is closed and a new one begins, in which we hope that freedom will prevail, respecting what has been achieved and improving the economy.
Hopefully, the new administration of the United States will respect this process by maintaining the important contact that President Obama restarted.
Fidel Castro wrote: “History will absolve me.” His trial has just begun.