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Fidel Castro, the long-time Cuban leader who has died at 90, defined decades for his homeland—and, though he wasn’t always a man of such power, his charisma and drive were obvious from the beginning.
When TIME first mentioned his name, in the Dec. 10, 1956, issue, it was as a “wellborn, well-to-do daredevil of 29.” At that point, he had already been jailed after leading a 1953 uprising against Cuba’s then-leader, Fulgencio Batista; had gone to Mexico to pull together forces; had called their group the July 26 Movement after the date of the earlier failed uprising; and had issued an ultimatum to Batista. “In Havana,” TIME reported. “Castro’s followers painted ‘This is the year’ on walls.”/.../