10 Things You Didn't Know About Fidel Castro

Castro was in power for 49 years. In that time, there have been 10 U.S. presidents.

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Compiled by the U.S.News & World Report library staff

1. Fidel Castro was born on his family's sugar plantation near Biran, Cuba. His father was an immigrant laborer from the Galician region in Spain but eventually became a prosperous landowner. In a 1992 interview, Castro said that "it doesn't sound too good to say I am the son of a landowner, so let us rather say I am the grandson of exploited Galician peasants."

2. Castro became a political activist while in law school at the University of Havana.

3. He married Mirta Diaz Balart, the daughter of a wealthy family tied to the Batista regime. They had a son, Fidelito (little Fidel), born in 1949. Mirta filed for divorce when Castro was still in prison after his love letters to another Cuban socialite, Natalia Revuelta, and Castro's letters to his wife were switched. Revuelta said in an interview that she believed the prison director arranged the switch.

4. Known for a fondness for Havana cigars, he quit smoking in 1985 for health reasons.

5. He started wearing a beard as a young revolutionary living in the mountains. It was not merely a symbol of the guerrilla fighter; Castro had practical reasons. "If you calculate 15 minutes a day to shave, that is 5,000 minutes a year spent shaving," he said, adding that he would rather spend his time on more important activities.

6. Castro was in power for 49 years. In that time, there have been 10 U.S. presidents.

7. He once said that one of his favorite books was Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls, which is set during the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s.

8. Although he has been known to give speeches lasting seven hours, Castro hasn't published much work during his long career.

9. As a younger man, his interests included spearfishing, cooking, and reading.

10. During a U.S. News interview in 1994, Castro was asked about the prospects of political liberalization and replied that Cuba can be ruled only by the revolution.

Sources:
Current Biography Yearbook
U.S.News & World Report
United Press International
Washington Post
Contemporary Authors Online
American Decades