Profession: Cuban Revolutionary and President
Why Famous: Castro led the Cuban Revolution and in 1959 established the first communist state in the Western Hemisphere. As either prime minister or president, he governed Cuba from 1959 until he transferred power to his brother Raul Castro in 2008.
He became politically active while studying at the University of Havana. He first attempted to overthrow the right-wing government of Fulgencio Batista in 1953 but failed and spent a year in prison. After his release he formed the 26th of July Movement with Raul Castro and Che Guevara; they returned to Cuba and launched the Cuban Revolution, overthrowing Batista in 1959.
Cuba thus became the first communist state in the Western Hemisphere. The United States reacted strongly to his presence, attempting to assassinate him hundreds of times, as well as trying to overthrow him in 1961 at the Bay of Pigs invasion. In response Castro formed an alliance with the Soviet Union, which deployed nuclear weapons in Cuba as a countermeasure, leading to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. This is generally regarded as the closest moment at which the Cold War turned into a nuclear war.
Domestically Castro introduced state economic planning and expanded Cuba's medical and educational infrastructure, while destroying dissent. He was active internationally, sending Cuban troops to the Yom Kippur War, the Ogaden War and the Angolan Civil War. He also sent Cuban medical expertise overseas. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba's economy drastically declined.
In ill health he transferred power to his brother Raul in 2008, leaving as the longest-serving non-royal head of state in the 20th and 21st centuries.
- 1948-10-11 Fellow students Fidel Castro and Mirta Diaz-Balart marry (divorced 1955)
- 1953-07-26 Fidel Castro leads a failed attack on the Moncada Barracks, intended to spark a revolution in Cuba
- 1953-08-01 Fidel Castro arrested in Cuba
- 1953-10-16 Fidel Castro sentenced to 15 years (Havana)
- 1955-08-08 Fidel Castro forms the "26th of July Movement", a Cuban vanguard revolutionary organization
- 1956-12-02 Fidel Castro lands with "Granma" on coast of Cuba
- 1958-02-23 5-time F1 world drivers champion Juan Manuel Fangio is kidnapped by Cuban rebels from Fidel Castro's 26th of July Movement; released soon after Cuban GP
- 1958-04-03 Fidel Castro's rebels attacked Havana
- 1958-05-24 Cuban President Batista opens offensive against Fidel Castro's rebellion
- 1958-08-18 Fidel Castro makes a speech on Cuban pirate radio Rebelde
- 1959-01-07 US recognizes Fidel Castro's Cuban government
- 1959-02-06 Fidel Castro is interviewed by Edward R Murrow
- 1959-02-07 Fidel Castro proclaims new Cuban constitution
- 1959-02-16 Fidel Castro becomes the 16th Prime Minister of Cuba after overthrowing Fulgencio Batista
- 1959-04-15 Fidel Castro begins US goodwill tour
- 1960-07-01 Fidel Castro nationalizes Esso, Shell & Texaco in Cuba
- 1960-09-26 Cuban leader Fidel Castro delivers a 4 hour and 29 minute long speech at the United Nations
- 1960-10-13 Opponents of Fidel Castro executed in Cuba
- 1961-04-17 1,400 Cuban exiles land in Bay of Pigs in a doomed attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro
- 1961-04-30 Premier Fidel Castro of Cuba receives Lenin-Peace Prize
- 1961-05-01 Fidel Castro announces there will be no more elections in Cuba
- 1961-05-17 Fidel Castro offers to exchange Bay of Pigs prisoners for 500 bulldozers
- 1961-12-02 Fidel Castro declares he's a Marxist & will lead Cuba to Communism
- 1961-12-23 Fidel Castro announces Cuba will release 1,113 prisoners from failed 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion for $62M worth of food & medical supplies
- 1962-01-03 Pope John XXIII excommunicates Fidel Castro
- 1962-07-02 Fidel Castro visits Moscow
- 1962-11-19 Fidel Castro accepts removal of Soviet weapons
- 1963-04-27 Cuban premier Fidel Castro arrives in Moscow
- 1976-12-02 Fidel Castro becomes President of Cuba, replacing Osvaldo Dorticós Torrado
- 1978-09-12 Fidel Castro visits Addis Abba
- 2002-05-12 Former US President Jimmy Carter arrives in Cuba for a five-day visit with Fidel Castro becoming first President of the United States, in or out of office, to visit the island since Castro's 1959 revolution.
- 2004-10-25 Fidel Castro, Cuba's President, announces that transactions using the American Dollar will be banned by November 8
- 2008-02-24 Fidel Castro retires as the President of Cuba due to ill health after nearly fifty years
- 2011-04-19 Fidel Castro resigns from the Communist Party of Cuba's central committee after 45 years of holding the title.
- 2015-09-20 Pope Francis meets Fidel Castro in Havana, on the 1st day of his tour of Cuba