Since the age of twenty-seven, Fidel Castro has been a revolutionary. Born on August 13, 1926, he attended Catholic schools and graduated from the University of Havana with a degree in law. Castro joined a social-democrat party, which strongly criticized the dictatorship government of Fulgencio Batista.
On July 26, 1953, Fidel Castro led an attack against the government. Most of those involved in the uprising were killed or captured. Castro was captured and tried. At his trial he made his famous speech, "History Will Absolve Me." He received a pardon after serving two years of a fifteen-year prison sentence.
Castro did not stop there. He went into exile in Mexico. There he plotted and trained followers for an invasion of Cuba. When he and his revolutionaries returned to the island, they hid in the Sierra Maestra Mountains and gained the support of peasants. In 1959, Batista fled Cuba, and Castro took over. He has been president ever since.
Many Cubans fled to the United States when they realize that Castro's government was communist. Castro seized all American property in Cuba in the name of the Cuban government. The United States government tried to get rid of Castro in various ways, including assassination and economic isolation. The CIA even supported an invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in 1962, but this ended in disaster.
Castro sold large amounts of sugar to the Soviet Union, and the Soviets supplied Cuba with economic and military assistance. Soviet money funded many of Castro's social programs, such as fighting illiteracy and giving free health care to all Cubans. In 1962, Castro allowed the Soviet Union to place missiles on the island aimed at the United States. In the Cuban Missile Crisis, the United States and the Soviet Union had a show-down, which resulted in the Soviet Union turning back its ships carrying the missiles.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuba has experienced serious economic problems, but Castro remains in power.