Fidel fell: Americans react to the death of Cuba’s long- lasting dictator


Fidel Castro, Havana (1978). Photo by Marcelo Montecino, Flickr.

Almost every day in the news this week there has been reporting on the death of Fidel Castro; how it is affecting Cubans, mourning or celebrating; how it will affect the U.S. and other political and economic powers; how everything down to the culture in Cuba may change.

“It’s a really sad event, because I think he did [good things] for a lot of people,” Kai Bovik (10) said. “And while he needs to be criticized like any leader, he still did a lot of good, and so it was a pretty tragic event.”

Many people are surprised at some Cuban’s reactions to Castro’s death- he is depicted as a ruthless dictator, and yet Cubans are grieving his death. Bovik was not super educated on Castro before his death, but took the opportunity to learn more about him after seeing so many people in mourning.

“I found that he was very controversial: He did a lot of good for the third world people, he increased literacy rates and health care,” Bovik said. “But he also, for example, had strict policies on freedom of speech and things like that. Also, he apparently had some homophobic policies. So while he definitely needed to be criticized, and there were some things that I did not agree with, overall I think he did a lot of good.”

People may especially think of Castro as a negative figure because of the influence of Cuban- Americans

“I read somewhere that a lot the Cuban people in America were people who were exiled by Castro, or family of people who were exiled by Castro,” Bovik said. “So I think that those people might be happy about [his death], or may be glad that the person who tore apart their family is gone.”

A Venezuelan perspective comes from Spanish teacher Mr. Carlos Ruiz who grew up admiring Fidel Castro and Che Guevara for their ability to stand up to the most powerful countries in the world, like the United States. Now he is glad that Castro is gone and Cuba has a chance to change, because of the negative things Castro did in office such as: controlling information on the internet in Cuba, hiding starving Cubans from the public eye, suppress the freedom of speech.

“I think that Raul Castro- [Fidel’s] brother, who is just five years younger (85 years old)- is more open to new ideas,” Ruiz said. “And he understands better the economic system that they created is not working, and it has not worked for years. So he’s going to be more open to have better relationships with the United States, and with other countries.”

Carlos Lopez, 93, grew up in Cuba and left just before Castro’s dictatorship. Lopez believes that it was time for Castro to die because he had been dictator for too long, and had been sick for five or so years.

“Right now Cubans in America are celebrating the end of Fidel’s days and his power in Cuba,” Lopez said. “Of course, his brother Raul is still in charge of governing the country- although he has said he plans to retire during the next year. I think the Cubans in Cuba are hoping that when Raul leaves office, the US will help Cuba recover economically and establish a true representative government.”

Ruiz said that under Castro, Cuba was continuing an economic parasite of communist dictatorships, drawing inspiration from Russia and Venezuela and spreading the broken system further. When Venezuela was going through trouble, they could not ask Cuba for help because Cuba had followed their footsteps. So, Venezuela turned to the U.S. for help.

“But right now it’s unclear how the USA will deal with Cuba,” Lopez said. “We will have to wait and see what incoming President Donald Trump will do and how his government will treat Cuba. My fear is that the Cubans will be disappointed with what this country offers and does.”