Born and dispatched into this world with the engine of an athlete, Castro has the discipline of a warrior, the intellect of a chess master, the obsessive mania of a paranoiac, and the willfulness of an infant.
— Ann Louise Bardach
Whatever you think of his politics, Fidel Castro is unquestionably one of the most remarkable and enigmatic figures of this century, thriving on contradiction and paradox like a romantic character from the fiction of his Colombian novelist friend Gabriel García Márquez.
Fidel Castro Ruz, child prodigy, was born on August 13, 1926, at Manacas finca near Birán in northern Oriente, the fifth of nine children of Ángel Castro y Argiz. Fidel’s father was an émigré to Cuba from Galicia in Spain as a destitute 13-year-old. In Cuba, he became a wealthy landowner who employed 300 workers on a 26,000-acre domain; he owned 1,920 acres and leased the rest from the United Fruit Company, to whom he sold cane. Fidel’s mother was the family housemaid, Lina Ruz González, whom Ángel married after divorcing his wife. Fidel weighed 10 pounds at birth—the first hint that he would always be larger than life. Fidel, who seems to have had a happy childhood, likes obfuscate the true details of his illegitimacy and early years.
As a boy Fidel was extremely assertive and combative. He was a natural athlete. He was no sportsman, however; if his team was losing, he would leave the field and go home. Gabriel García Márquez has said, “I do not think anyone in this world could be a worse loser.” It became a matter of principle to excel at everything.