Cuba

Remembering Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution

Elderly Cubans who lived through the revolution share their memories of Fidel Castro.

It has been two weeks since the Cuban president, Raul Castro, announced the death of his brother and predecessor, Fidel Castro.

We went out on to the streets of Cuba, and heard from those who remember the 1959 Cuban Revolution he led.

'Fidel is Fidel'

'I still love Castro very much,' says Caridad de Benitez [Alejandro Cegarra/Al Jazeera]

Caridad de Benitez is 83. She was 25 when she learned that Fidel Castro's forces had arrived in the city of Santa Clara, where on December 31, 1958, the Battle of Santa Clara, a key moment in the revolution, would take place.

Excited by the news, she went out to cheer on the revolutionary forces before realising that soldiers close to her home were loyal to the president, Fulgencio Batista.

Now, she says: "I lived better with Fulgencio. I have done nothing else for all these years than to live in need. But Fidel is Fidel - and in spite of everything, I still love him very much."


'I joined the revolution' 

Emilio Castillo, 90, is a retired officer who joined the revolution [Alejandro Cegarra/Al Jazeera]

Ninety-year-old Emilio Castillo is a retired police officer who switched allegiances and joined the revolution.

"I was afraid, of course. I thought I could get killed, but I still joined," he says. He gave up his work as a police officer only 10 years ago.


'Fidel and the revolution are everything to me'

Vlas Sile, 66, was nine when he saw Fidel Castro [Alejandro Cegarra/Al Jazeera]

Sixty-six-year-old Vlas Sile has worked on sugar cane plantations since he was a child. He was a nine-year-old boy when he saw Fidel Castro pass by. 

He remembers how, before the revolution, the foremen on the sugar plantations would hit him for eating the raw sugar cane.

"My whole family now has a university degree, my children are agronomists, and we all work in sugar cane fields," he says.

"Fidel and the revolution are everything to me. Fidel gave us everything - education, security, food. We owe him everything. I will take care of the revolution with my life if need be, and we should all do this."


'Fidel was like a father' 

Carlos Valdes says he considered Fidel Castro to be like a father [Alejandro Cegarra/Al Jazeera]

Carlos Valdes, 66, is a farmer who used to live in Santa Clara. He says he "works in the countryside every day", not simply as a way to make a living but because he believes it is his duty to produce food for the revolution. 

"Fidel was like a father, and his death feels like the death of a father," he says. "I lived almost all my life seeing him, and now to know that he will not be here any more, that he died, it is very strange. I do not believe it yet."


'To see him return only in ashes is something I do not want to see'

Julio Alvarez was 15 when he saw Castro's forces marching [Alejandro Cegarra/Al Jazeera]

Seventy-three-year-old Julio Alvarez, who runs a shooting range, was 15 when he saw Castro's revolutionary forces marching towards Havana.

"It was epic," he says. "Fidel was standing in a Jeep, greeting the people who came to meet him. Now, to see him return only in ashes is something I do not want to go to see."

Source: Al Jazeera News