By Cartoonist Avinash
Fidel Castro has died. Few political leaders of modern times have been as iconic or as enduring as the Cuban revolutionary, who had turned ninety in August. He had been formally retired since 2008—he had handed power over to his younger brother Raúl two years before, after falling seriously ill—but he had ruled as Cuba’s jefe máximo for no less than forty-nine years, and he remained Cuba’s undisputed revolutionary patriarch until his death.
Fidel had been frail for some time. His last public appearance, in April, at the Cuban Communist Party Congress that was convened shortly after President Obama’s historic trip to Havana, had the air of a final leave-taking. In his address, a short, shaky speech in which he struggled to pronounce his words, Fidel mentioned his upcoming birthday and said that “soon I’ll be like all the others.” Many of the Communist Party delegates present wept as they listened to him.
Fidel’s allusion to his own death was significant—it was something that he had rarely ever discussed publicly before. For the decades he was in power, from January, 1959, when he ousted the dictator Fulgencio Batista, until his resignation, eight years ago, Cubans had followed his cue, cloaking the topic with euphemisms like “biological inevitability.” Fidel, more than any other political leader in recent memory, had the stature of a living myth in his own country. For many years, Cubans regarded him as something close to immortal.