Fidel Castro passed away Friday at the age of 90. While most people know of the Cuban dictator, facts about his life remain a mystery to some. We’ve gathered the 20 most interesting facts about Fidel Castro that you probably don’t know.
20. There Were 638 Attempts To Assassinate Him
According to Vice, the 638 attempts included an exploding cigar. Despite the hundreds of attempts on his life, Castro outlived several US presidents, including John F. Kennedy
19. He Was A Lawyer
Castro attended law school at the University of Havana, where he became involved with politics and passionate about government reform.
18. He Quit Smoking In 1985
Some of the more well-known photos of Castro include a cigar in mouth, but the dictator gave up this vice in 1985. He claimed “The best thing you could do with a box of cigars is give them to your enemy.”
17. Castro’s Family Was Prosperous Land Owners
His father became prosperous after leaving Spain for Cuba as an immigrant laborer, and he even owned a sugar plantation near Biran, Cuba, where Fidel was born.
16. His Wife, Mirta Diaz Balart, Filed For Divorce After She Received Love Letters Meant For His Mistress
While in prison, Castro’s love letters to his wife were mixed up with his letters to Cuban socialite Natalia Revuelta, which resulted in his divorce.
15. Castro Didn’t Want To Waste Time Shaving
His beard, while symbolic in some ways, was also a way for the dictator to save time on shaving. He’s quoted as saying “If you calculate 15 minutes a day to shave, that is 5,000 minutes a year spent shaving.”
14. He Liked Giving Hours-Long Speeches
Castro was known for his insanely long speeches. He holds the record for longest speech delivered to the United Nations at over four hours, while one of his longest lasted just over seven hours.
13. One Of His Hobbies Included Reading
It’s said Castro spent part of his later years having his staff translate books for him that were not available in Spanish, according to Vice. While For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway is said to be Castro’s favorite novel, he was also known to have read President Obama’s Dreams Of My Father.
12. He Was A Talented Baseball Player
Castro was named “Cuba’s best all-round school athlete” for his accomplishments on the field.
11. He Collected Cooking Recipes
Among his hobbies was cooking, and Castro was said to collect recipes to turn into “practical dishes.” It’s said he also enjoyed discussing cooking methods with chefs and could make some amazing pasta, according to some sources.
10. He Claimed To Be Atheist, But Said Jesus Christ Is A Communist
Despite his claiming to be non-religious, Castro is quoted as calling Jesus a Communist: “Christ chose the fishermen, because he was a communist.”
9. He Was The Third Longest Serving Leader In The World
Castro was the third longest serving leader in the world after the Queen of Britain and King of Thailand. He ruled for nearly 50 years before handing power to his brother in 2008.
8. He Has At Least Eight Children
Fidel has a son, Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart, with his first wife, five sons with his second wife, and a daughter born out of an affair in the 1950s. However, he also has another son from an unknown relationship.
7. One Of Castro’s Projects Included A Cow Named In The Guinness Book of Records For Milk Production
In an attempt to make a good name Cuba’s agriculture industry in the 1980s, Castro took on a project involving a dairy cow named Ubre Blanca. The cow produced 29 gallons of milk in one day to win a title in the Guinness Book of Records.
6. He Launched A Campaign To Eliminate Illiteracy In Cuba
During his campaign which involved teachers and tutors, Cuba’s illiteracy rate fell from 23% to just 4% in the 1960s.
5. He Was Married Twice
The leader was married to his first wife, Mirta Diaz-Balart, from 1948 to 1955, and then later married Dalia Soto del Valle (pictured) in 1980.
4. Fidel Was The Product Of An Affair Between His Father And A Maid
Fidel’s mother, Lina Ruz, was a maid and cook in the Castro household. Fidel was the product of an affair between Angel Castro and Lina Ruz, who was Angel Castro’s wife’s maid at the time.
3. He Received His Doctorate Degree
Castro received his doctorate degree in 1950 from the University of Havana.
2. He Made Cuba The First Communist Country In The Western Hemisphere
According to CNN, Castro turned Cuba into the first Communist country in the Western Hemisphere.
1. Despite Social Reforms Under His Control, Castro Oppressed Human Rights
Thousands of Cubans sought refuge in the United States during Castro’s reign to escape the harsh human rights violations.