"We learned a lot from Fidel": Supporters defend Castro's legacy

Kcho, 45, stood outside his studio and exhibition hall, a former repair shop for buses in Romerillo. The neighborhood, he said, used to be one of Havana’s worst. Then he and other residents got together and started cleaning it up. They built parks where trash dumps once stood.

Castro stopped by one day and wrote the artist a note: “For Kcho, genius of culture and education, for the kindness with which he dedicates his life to the happiness of others.”

Kcho played down the compliment, saying, “I’ll tell you one thing: The genius is Fidel.”

“He went from being a lawyer to becoming a defender and savior of an entire country and an entire people,” he said. “The world needs people like Fidel who have the ability to teach people to dream and to make their dreams reality.”