HAVANA TIMES — Today, August 13th, Fidel Castro reaches 88, an event celebrated in all of Cuba’s official media.
Castro, who officially left office due to serious illness in July 2006, is still the top advisor to the government of his younger brother Raul, 83.
Although many of his ministers were dismissed for corruption or incompetence, Fidel’s influence remains strong in Cuba’s foreign policy and he often meets informally with presidents and other high level dignitaries visiting the country.
The following report from Café Fuerte informs us of the repairs being done at Fidel Castro’s birthplace/museum in Biran, Holguin and includes some anecdotes about his early years.
Biran Historian: Fidel Castro Liked to Give Gifts at Age Three
Stories about Fidel Castro’s childhood and native home in Biran, Hoguín, are making headlines on the occasion of the former leader’s 88th birthday.
Last week, Cuba’s two major television broadcasters visited the home of the Castro family, part of the Biran Historical Complex (CHB), and gathered information on the restoration efforts underway there, as well as anecdotes about Fidel Castro’s childhood told by local historian Antonio Lopez.
Lopez talked at length about Biran’s beauty and the “generosity of the Castro family.”
It was then that the historian offered a surprising revelation about Fidel Castro’s personality in his early childhood.
“I believe this place shaped, in good measure, the personality of that child who, as of the age of three, liked to give things to his friends as gifts whenever they headed down to the river. I have proof of this, testimonies from childhood friends to whom he gave his shoes or sailor shirt, stories about how his mother, Lina, saw a child wearing one of Fidel’s garments and found out he had given it away,” Lopez told reporters, moved.
They Never Turned their Backs on Anyone
Offering other details about the family, Lopez added that, even though the Castros attained a comfortable financial situation, they never turned their backs on anyone in the community.
“Why? Because that’s the environment they were born into, the place they grew up in. These kids had the values of that the children of farmers and Haitian immigrants, that was their upbringing,” the historian said.
The restoration work at the historic site includes the reconstruction of nearby huts, where Haitian immigrants who worked on the farm of Angel Castro Argiz, father of Fidel and Raul Castro, supposedly lived.
These huts are being rebuilt with yagua and guano leaves, though testimonies from locals who knew the place insist the Haitian farmhands lived in bunkhouses with tin roofs.
The historian said he felt proud of his work in Biran.
Sugar Cane Plantations and Mountains
“Visitors go away feeling satisfied. They leave with an immense feeling of satisfaction, thinking that these men who had a huge impact, not only on Cuba but also on all of humanity, were raised among sugar cane plantations, rivers and mountains,” Lopez remarked.
Construction work was undertaken in November of last year by local workers and experts from the Puerto Carenas construction company, attached to Office of the Historian in Havana run by Eusebio Leal.
According to Lazaro Manuel Castro, the director of the CHB, they had initially planned on replacing the roof and ceiling of the house, but the degree of deterioration of the floors and walls forced them to extend repair efforts to the entire house.
The Castro’s bedroom – including the roof, ceiling, walls and floor – had to be refurbished completely.
The restoration of 800 museum pieces and the expansion of the family graveyard, where the remains of Angel Castro Argiz and Lina Ruz Gonzalez currently lie, are part of current construction efforts. Dominga Gonzalez and Francisco Ruz, Fidel Castro’s maternal grandparents, are also buried in the lot.
Restorations Around Town
The restoration work should be completed in 2015, when an old hotel in the area and the former homer of Angela Maria Castro, Fidel and Raul Castro’s older sister (who passed away in 2012 at the age of 88), have been refurbished.
The report televised this past Monday also announced that, a mere two kilometers from the place, the town of Biran is undergoing major repair and restoration work.
The town has been reinvigorated with the building of a small bus terminal, bakery, shopping center, cultural center, library and computer club. A high school, dentist’s office, family clinic and hundreds of residences have also been restored.
“Every renovation prompts joy among the neighbors of Fidel, that builder of dreams, born not very far from here exactly 88 years ago,” journalist Abdiel Barmudez Bermudez affirmed at the close of his report.
One of the more-than-four-minute reports includes remarks by Fidel Castro, made during his last visit to the Biran home in 2003, on the occasion of Lina Ruz’ 100th anniversary.
“Everything I’ve managed to do in life, I owe my mother,” Castro said then.
Cover photo of Daniel Ortega and Fidel Castro taken by Alex Castro 30/1/2014.