Schoolchildren in Havana on Nov. 30 await passage of the military vehicles carrying Castro’s ashes on a threeday journey to Santiago, Cuba

BY NEARLY EVERY AVAILABLE MEASURE, FIDEL Castro lived just a little too long. His was a death foretold by nearly everybody for decades, a demise anticipated for the political change it was widely assumed would surely follow. The prospect of Cuba without the man who turned it into a Soviet satellite so tantalized the U.S. government that its darker sectors set up a cottage industry aimed at hastening the day: according to a 1975 Senate investigation, the CIA set out plan after plan to assassinate Castro, most notoriously by poisoning a box of his favorite cigars. All any of it did was make him seem invincible—a swaggering dictator whose continued presence on the planet served as a rebuke to a Washington once so sure of its dominion over the hemisphere. The longer Castro lived, it seemed, the greater the legend grew.

But by the time Castro finally died, on Nov. 25, he had been out of power for a decade, and almost entirely overtaken by events—especially the cascade of changes that began in December 2014, when his kid brother and successor, Raúl, made peace with President Obama. Though Fidel grumped about trusting an archenemy in the rare speech and opinion column, the elder Castro was powerless to stop a U.S. ambassador from returning to the embassy on the Malecón, or to keep U.S. tourists from filing down the gangplank of cruise ships at Havana Harbor or to

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from TIME

TIME3 min read
Making It Up, On Broadway
WHEN LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA WAS IN REHEARSALS for his breakout theatrical production In the Heights, he—along with his cast and crew—would break up the grueling schedule by sneaking off and improvising, spitting bits of rhymes and jokes. “We did it as a
TIME14 min read
Finding Kamala Harris
Sometimes Kamala Harris wakes up in the middle of the night because there’s something on her mind. Did anybody get back to so-and-so? How is my stepdaughter adjusting to her apartment in New York City? Sometimes those early-morning moments are her on
TIME2 min read
WHAT YOU SAID ABOUT ... ‘I WOULD LIKE YOU TO DO US A FAVOR . . .’ The Oct. 7 cover stories on the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump sparked debate among readers. Molly Ball’s feature on the inquiry led Chase Webb of Portland, Ore., to d