Fidel Castro, the leader of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 that brought down then Cuban President Fulgencio Batista, died Friday November 25 at the age of 90. A larger then life figure, Fidel Castro was a polarizing force, drawing sharp criticism from some and great praise from others, within his native island nation of Cuba and around the world. The great complexity of a figure like Fidel Castro can be illustrated by the vast range of responses to his passing, as world leaders and average citizens alike debate the legacy of the man who ruled the Caribbean island of Cuba from 1959 until 2006, when he yielded a great deal of his political power (if not his symbolic power) to his brother, Raul Castro.
It was Raul Castro that first informed the world of Fidel Castro’s death. According to CNN, Raul Castro addressed the Cuban people in a televised statement.
“I say to the people of Cuba, with profound pain I come here to inform our people, our friends of America and the world, that today, 25 November, 2016, at 10:29 pm, died the chief commander of the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz,” he said.
World leaders where quick to weigh in on the issue, including a guarded and largely neutral statement from United States President Barack Obama, under whose administration the long strained relationship between the two countries has seen a new promise of reconciliation.
“We know that this moment fills Cubans — in Cuba and in the United States — with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation,” he said. “History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.”
President-elect Donald Trump, by contrast, seemed to be jubilant at the death of Fidel Castro, sending a message from his Twitter account declaring “Fidel Castro is dead!” after hearing the news. According to The Herald, Mr. Trump has stated in the past that he was opposed to the new Obama administration policies toward Cuba, despite allegations that he had business dealings with the country during the long United States economic embargo.
Mr. Trump, however, was not alone in celebrating the death of the Cuban Marxist leader. Many Cubans and Cuban-Americans in the seat of the Cuban exile community, Miami, went into the streets to celebrate the death of Fidel Castro. Many more people, however, on both sides of the issue, took to social media to express their views and make sense of the passing of someone many had come to believe would live forever.
Many people of Cuban heritage, however, whether in Cuba itself or elsewhere in the world, have expressed frustration that non-Cubans are so engaged with the internal political matters of their nation.
The issue becomes more complex when it is considered that many in Leftist political circles, who are the most likely to sympathize with the socialist tendencies of Fidel Castro and his regime, have also been wildly divided on the issue themselves. On the social media platform Reddit, members of the main forum for Communist users and the main forum for users of the anarchist ideological tradition discussed the passing of Castro in numerous, often very heated, comment threads, showing that even among the radical Left, Castro was a polarizing figure.
If anything can be drawn from the massive reaction to the death of Fidel Castro on social media, it is that regardless of the opinions one had of Castro, nearly everyone who heard of his passing felt the need to express their thoughts on the event.
The future of Cuba is uncertain, and indeed, the future of much of the world seems uncertain as we come closer to the end of an incredibly eventful year, 2016. What is not uncertain is that Fidel Castro, for good or ill, has passed on with a legacy and reputation that looms far larger then his physical form, and will outlive the 90 years he spent on Earth. The conversation about the nature of that legacy will likely continue far longer than today.
[Featured Image by Charles Tasnadi/AP Images]