San José State University
Department of Economics
Thayer Watkins
Silicon Valley
& Tornado Alley

The Castro Brothers, Fidel and Raúl

To understand the Castro brothers it is necessary to understand their father, Angel Castro. The desperate hunger for power and status of the Castro brothers is a direct inheritance from Angel and his life. Their communism is just a justification for for having total control. If socialism and communism had not existed as ideologies Cuba under the Castro brothers would still have been just as totalitarian. They would have adopted whatever ideology gave them an intellectual justification for total control of their society. The anti-Americanism stemmed from the treatment as inferiors of the father and sons by Americans in Cuba. The adoption of Stalinist socialism as the official ideology stemmed from the need to have a big brother in their conflict with the Colossus of the North. Otherwise they would have been just as likely to have adopted Trotskyite Socialism or the National Syndicalism of José Antonio Primo de Rivera, which became the official ideology of Franco's Spain.

Angel Castro was born in Galicia, Spain in 1875. Galicia is in the mountainous northern rim of Spain. The people there spoke a language that was more akin to Portuguese than to the Castilian Spanish of Madrid and for good reason; Portuguese is essentially Galician because Portugal was liberated from the Moors by the Galicians. For more on the relationship of Spanish and Portuguese.

The history of Galicia included also a Celtic element so Galicians differed from the Castilian ruling elements by being culturally and linguistically different; different enough to be considered a bit uncouth and peasant in character. But the people of Galicia, the Gallegos, were tough and proud.

In his very early twenties Angel Castro joined the Spanish army in the place of a rich man's son who had been conscripted. Angel Castro was put into the quartermaster corps and sent to Cuba. He was there at the time of the Spanish-American War in 1898. In the quartermaster corps he dealt with supplies and logistics for the army despite not being literate. He was obviously a man of considerable native ability and the experience with logistics in the Spanish army was good training for his later career. His witnessing America stripping Spain of the last remnants of its colonial empire was very likely the source of his anti-Americanism. With the defeat of Spain, Angel Castro being a Spanish soldier was evicted from Cuba and returned to Galicia in 1898. He had liked Cuba and returned as an immigrant in 1905, an immigrant with little or no wealth.

Angel Castro was thirty years of age when he returned. It did not take him long to acquire a wife and a farm. It is said that he arrived in Cuba by way of Havana and subsequently went seeking a distant relative who lived in the middle part of Cuba. When that relative proved to be of no aid in Angel getting a start Angel moved on to the more rural and primitive eastern end of Cuba.

From his hard life in Galicia Angel was by nature hard-working, frugal and austere. In the eastern province where Angel settled the American company, United Fruit, was acquiring a giant plantation for growing sugar cane. Angel prospered by providing services for the United Fruit Company. He became a labor contractor supplying cane cutters for the annual cane harvest. The workers Angel supplied were Haitians and Jamaicans of African descent. There were also Afro-Cubans among Angel Castro's workers. Angel extracted a bit more profit by paying his workers not in cash but in coupons that were redeemable only in his store. Angel also built a railroad line for the United Fruit plantation. Angel Castro was quite useful for the United Fruit Company but he, being a Cuban and an illiterate one at that, was not treated with respect. Angel got back at them by moving at night the fences that separated his land from the land of the United Fruit Company. Angel Castro ended up owning 26 thousand acres.

The American company owned a beach that only Americans had access to. Cubans accompanied by Americans could use it but no others. This rankled young Fidel Castro enormously.

Angel Castro's first wife was a Cuban woman with a penchant for dressing in fancy clothes. She was sometimes referred to as The Princess. By this time Angel could afford the fancy clothing that she desired, but he was a frugal man, even parsimonious. Her spendthrift ways poisoned their marriage.

The Princess was not the mother of Fidel. Fidel's mother was a teenage kitchen maid who served in Angel's main house. At fifteen she was tall and strikingly beautiful and, to all appearances, a full grown woman. Angel made her his mistress and provided a separate house for her. Fidel was born. For several years after the first wife died Angel did not marry Fidel's mother. Finally Angel married her and legitimized the relationship. Raúl was born in wedlock.

Angel did not officially recognize Fidel as his son until Fidel went to a boarding school.

(To be continued.)

There are some stories from Fidel's childhood that indicate his character. As a teenager he wanted to use the family car and was refused. He threatened to set the car on fire and burn it up. Before he became a driver he once, on a dare, road his bicycle downhill into a solid wall. He was injured but soon recovered. For stunts such as these he earned the nickname el Loco, the crazy one.

In highschool, while on a tour of the sites of the battles of 1898 that led to the defeat of Spain, he remarked to a fellow student, "Here is where we beat the Yankees." The fellow student retorted, "What do you mean? The Yankees were on our side!" What the story indicates is that Fidel, due to his father's influence, identified himself as more of a Spaniard than a Cuban.

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