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10 Most Surprising Facts about Fidel Castro – Beyond the Beard

As soon as you hear the name Fidel Castro, you are instantaneously transported to a time teeming with political struggle and dramatic ideological battles. Fidel Castro, a figure that stirs a wide range of emotions, was without a doubt one of the most influential world leaders of the 20th century.

So who was this man, beyond the larger-than-life political persona? The truth is, understanding Fidel Castro is much like navigating an intricate maze. Nobody can deny his unyielding spirit, consistent resilience, and magnetic leadership, which have etched a lasting impression on Cuba and the global stage.

Born as Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, he was a Cuban revolutionary and lawyer. He served as the Cuban President from 1976 to 2008. He took over after his brother Raul Castro’s rule. He’s famous with leading the 1959 Cuban Revolution. This revolution resulted in a socialist state under the Communist Party of Cuba.

His governance was marked by stringent adherence to socialist and communist principles, often stirring international controversy and criticism, especially from the United States. Despite a turbulent tenure, Castro has admirable quality for many for his anti-imperialist stance and his tireless efforts to advance healthcare and education in Cuba.

To truly grasp the essence of Fidel Castro, his vision, and his leadership, we need to scratch beneath the surface. In the upcoming sections, we’ll reveal ten surprising Fidel Castro facts that paint a fuller, more human image of the man who was also a world leader. We’ll peel back layers of history and propaganda to expose the man fondly known as “El Comandante.”

10 – Fidel Castro’s Was Fond of Famed American Novelist Ernest Hemmingway

Sukarno and Fidel – By Cuban press (Cuban press) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons – Facts about Fidel Castro
Fewer names in literature hold as much weight nor mystique as Ernest Hemmingway who for the better portion of twenty years called Cuba home. Fidel Castro was reportedly very much a fan of the novelist and his exploits; even going as far as to enter a fishing competition held in Hemmingway’s honor.

09 – As Leader of the Cuban People Castro Held Two Titles After Coming to Power

Fidel Castro  UN General Assembly
Fidel Castro UN General Assembly – By Warren K. Leffler [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
When Fidel Castro seized power in 1959, he didn’t limit himself to just one title. He took on the roles of both Prime Minister and First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, maintaining these positions for nearly five decades. In effect, he was both the head of government and the leader of the country’s sole political party, consolidating his control over Cuba.

Castro’s dual roles underscore the extent of his influence and power in Cuba. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the workings of the Cuban government under Castro and a reminder of the considerable sway he held over the nation’s affairs.

08 – Fidel was one of the Youngest Prime Ministers to Come to Power in Latin America

Fidel Castro and Camilo Cienfuegos in Havana - Facts about Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro and Camilo Cienfuegos in Havana – By Luis Korda [Copyrighted free use or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Castro gained control of the Cuban government after his predecessor Jose Miro Cardona unexpectedly resigned. The young revolutionary was only 32 years of age when he officially became the new PM of Cuba.

07 – Castro’s Previous Attempts at a Coup Ended in Prison Sentence

Fidel Castro y Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner
Fidel Castro y Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner – Presidencia de la Nación Argentina [CC BY 2.0 or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
The young Castro was imprisoned and faced a 15 year prison sentence for his role in the infamous attacks on the Moncada Barracks. He was later freed having only served the better portion of year in the well-known Presidio Modelo.

06 – Castro Survived an Extraordinary Amount Attempts against His Life

Fidel Castro Ruz in Varna - Facts about Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro Ruz in Varna – By Лъчезар (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The Cuban revolutionary made powerful enemies in his rise to presidency, none more so the United States government with the country attempting to subvert his leadership with numerous assassination plots. Castro reportedly survived well over 600 failed assassinations during his time as Cuban President.

05 – For a Brief Period Castro Banned the Beatles from Cuba

Fidel Castro 02
Fidel Castro 02 – By Ricardo Stuckert/ABr. [CC BY 3.0 br], via Wikimedia Commons
Not completely unheard of within regimes, often musicians and artist considered to be set against government policies face bans on record imports and performances. In 1964 Castro effectively banned “Beatle-mania” throughout Cuba calling for their music to not be sold nor played within the nation’s borders.

04 – The Revolutionary’s Beard was more than Just a Symbol

Fidel and Raul Castro
Fidel and Raul Castro – By Anonymous (Estudios Revolución Consejo de Estado de Cuba) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
The signature beard worn throughout Castro’s life was synonymous with Latin America Revolution. More so than a fashion statement the beard was a product of utility. The late leader was quoted as to saying keeping a beard allowed him a significant amount of saved time to handle more pressing issues than shaving.

03 – Fidel Holds the Record for the Longest Speech Addressing the UN

Fidel Castro visiting Romania
Fidel Castro visiting Romania – By Not credited [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons
Not just a record holder in terms of his leadership span, Castro also holds the record for the longest speech ever delivered at the United Nations. In 1960, he delivered a whopping four-and-a-half-hour address. Can you imagine that? It’s the equivalent of watching two full-length movies back-to-back!

In his trademark style, Castro didn’t shy away from voicing his opinions during this marathon speech. He critiqued U.S. policy, championed the cause of developing nations, and staunchly defended the principles of communism. In this light, it’s clear to see that he was not just a man of actions but also a man of many, many words.

02 – His Beard was once the Target of an Assassination Plot

J Paul Austin in Cuba
J Paul Austin and Fidel Castro in Cuba – By GAhistoryfan2 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
In one the more bizarre attempts to overthrow the Cuban leader, the CIA once plotted to chemically poison Castro in an effort to cause his beard to fall out. The CIA surmised the sudden loss of hair would have hopefully caused a decline in trust and subsequent power for the revolutionary known for his hairstyle.

01 – Castro Holds the Title as the Third Longest Serving Head of State in the World

Fidel Castro 1950s
Fidel Castro 1950s – By Unknown (Mondadori Publishers) ([1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Surprised? Well, it’s true. Fidel Castro was in power for an astonishing 49 years, from 1959 until his retirement in 2008. Only two other heads of state in modern history can claim to have held onto power longer – Louis XIV of France, who reigned for 72 years, and King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, who ruled for 70 years.

This means that Castro saw eleven U.S. presidents come and go during his time at the helm of Cuba, surviving numerous assassination attempts and managing to stay in power through economic embargoes, the collapse of his Soviet Union allies, and tumultuous social changes. No matter your viewpoint on his leadership, it’s impossible to deny the tenacity that this fact demonstrates.

Fidel Castro – The Man of Paradoxes

Having explored these surprising Fidel Castro facts, it’s clear to see that the man was more complex than the single narrative often told. He was as much a product of his time as he was a force that shaped it, marking an era in Cuban history and leaving a legacy that continues to generate a heated debate.

His story serves as a window into the dynamics of the Cold War, the struggles of a developing nation, and the human capacity for resilience in the face of incredible odds. It brings into sharp focus the tectonic shifts of 20th-century politics and the lasting impacts of ideology and power.

Fidel Castro, the revolutionary, the leader, the man of paradoxes, will forever remain an enigmatic figure in world history. He exemplifies the age-old adage that heroes and villains are often two sides of the same coin. His influence reaches far beyond the shores of Cuba, reminding us that the individuals who shape our world are as multifaceted as the events they set in motion.

In the grand theater of history, Fidel Castro played many roles – revolutionary, dictator, survivor, and icon. Despite any personal opinion one might hold of him, his impact on Cuba and the wider world is undeniable. His story, marked by extraordinary triumphs, controversial decisions, and surprising quirks, continues to intrigue us, prompting us to question, learn, and delve deeper into the complex tapestry of human history.

And there it is, the tale of Fidel Castro, stripped of its trimmings, inviting us to reflect on the power of a single life to sway the course of history.