Fidel Castro has died at 90 years of age. Obviously, a lot will be said in the coming days. Some will make him out to be one of the greatest monsters of history (with inevitable claims that he was “Cuba’s Hitler”). Others will make him out to be one of history’s greatest heroes. Many more people will claim to be experts on Castro when they aren’t.
I’ll make no such claims, but studying Latin America makes Castro an unavoidable subject, and one encounters numerous historical attitudes towards him. Suffice to say, when you read the “monster”/”hero” narratives in the coming days, both are simplistic and overwrought. LIke virtually everybody who holds power on the global stage, Castro’s record is far too complex, his effects on people far too heterogeneous, to fit into simple “good”/”evil” narratives. What cannot be denied, however, is that he had a major impact on World History, not just in terms of his relationship with the US or his place in our understanding of the Cold War, but in broader struggles in places like Africa, South America, and elsewhere. It will only be with the gradual settling of the historical dust that we’ll be able to fully appreciate his legacies, for better and for worse.