As the news of his death has begun to sink in, I’ve thought about my parents, both of whom Fidel outlasted. If they were still alive, I’m pretty sure they would have joined my cousins celebrating in Miami. My father knew Fidel from childhood, and because he knew him, he’s one of the few of his generation who never, not once, flickered with favor toward Fidel’s revolution. My father loathed him, unequivocally and with a singular fury because, in his mind, Fidel interrupted his life, forced him into exile and ruined his country.
But when he talked about how Fidel had outsmarted so many American presidents, and how Fidel had cunningly dodged all those assassination attempts, it was not just a smidgen of admiration he betrayed, but an identification.
Fidel embodied the best and worst of us. We loved his smarts. And his defiance. And when he imagined our tiny little island as a continent, we shared his delusion. We hated his ambitions and loved that he had them. Hang out with a bunch of Cubans, and the minute someone gets imperious, someone else will call her out for “the little Fidel” in her; in all of us, really.