Who doesn’t admire Fidel Castro for leading a hard-won guerilla campaign against Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, the manifestly corrupt U.S.-backed general who ran that exploited country from 1952 to ’59?  Castro campaigned, fought and organized against Batista’s government from ’52 on. He did nearly two years in jail, from ’53 to ’55. He left Cuba for Mexico, and then returned with 81 comrades in December 1956. But their ranks were quickly thinned by gunfire and whatnot, and so the Castro revolution began in the hills of Cuba’s Sierra Maestra mountains with less than 20 guys. Their numbers grew. They fought like motherfuckers for just over two years. As admirers of The Godfather, Part II will tell you, the Batista government fled the country right around New Year’s Eve 1958 along with Michael Corleone, Fredo Corleone, Hyman Roth, Sen. Pat Geary…they all got the hell outta there.

Then came Castro’s visit to the States, the seizing of elite Cuban property, the Cuban firing squads, the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in April ’61`, the ’62 Cuban Missile Crisis, the exile of the Marielitos that led to the arrival of Antonio Montana in Miami and the resultant deaths of Frank Lopez and Detective Mel Bernstein. Not to mention the constant taunting and defiance of several U.S. Presidents, Kennedy in particular. The years flew by and Fidel hung on with the beard and the cigars, the tenacity and the belligerence. Even with President Obama’s recent relaxing of relations and for all the music and all the classic ’50s autos, Castro’s Cuba is still is an impoverished, down-at-the-heels place with all kinds of repressive measures against gays and political dissent. 

And now Fidel is dead at age 90. He was undoubtedly a shit as well as a taskmaster, visionary and tireless propagandist. Quite the legendary figure. You can’t say he didn’t swagger around or that he didn’t have a steel pair. Communists are made, not born. Castro was on the right side of history in the ’50s, but after taking power in Cuba…well, remember the dictator in Woody Allen‘s Bananas who said that the new language of San Marcos would now be Swedish and that everyone would have to change their underwear every half-hour? Castro obviously wasn’t that bad but he wasn’t exactly Simon Bolivar either.