As a child, he saw him as a promising young man. Energetic, as boys tend to be, Raúl would only receive criticism, but Fidel felt that there was something more in him, a future; that is why he took him under his protection, not to pamper him or applaud his hazing, but to see him grow as a good man.
And he grew, or rather, they grew, from Moncada Barracks to Granma yacht, from prison to exile, from Alegría de Pío to the Sierra Maestra mountain chain, from defeat to the definitive victory in January 1959 and, in that walk, with danger always on their backs, an indissoluble bond beyond blood, based on love and respect founded between them.
"Being Fidel's brother is a privilege. He has always been my hero, since I was child. I’m the fourth brother. There is a sister, the eldest one, then there is Ramon, a year later, then Fidel, and five years later, there is me. In other words, he was my immediate older brother, five years ahead. And he was always my hero and my closest companion, despite the age difference".
History collects anecdotes of that mutual affection, especially told by the Commander in Chief, but what about Raul? What did the Army General think of his brother? What did he see in that giant that motivated him to follow him in all his endeavors and even assume the risk and the high responsibility of continuing his legacy as President and Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba?
Raul is not a man of praise, but there is no doubt he admired Fidel. He made it clear in his revolutionary message at the House of the Americas on September 11, 1959: "If Fidel Castro is the most popular leader today; the best known and the one who arouses most enthusiasm and adhesions throughout Latin America, it is due not only to the armed struggle of years, but also, and mainly, to the fact that the revolutionary power instituted under his leadership will resolutely and firmly vindicate national sovereignty."
Fidel and Raul faced together the dangers and challenges of the Revolution. Photo: Granma Newspapers Archive
"He severely punished torturers, murderers and war criminals. He disqualified the venal and treacherous politicians, the corrupt union leaders, accomplices of tyranny, and confiscated their property stolen from the people. He dissolved the organs of reactionary power, immediately undertook radical measures of popular benefits and, above all, he passed the radical Land Reform Law."
Those measures marked a milestone in the history of Cuba. National Hero José Martí’s maxim "with all and for the good of all" was beginning to be visualized and that was what Fidel was for, Raúl would validate it in 1959, at the peasant rally to commemorate the sixth anniversary of the assault on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Barracks, and in support of the Land Reform:
"Fidel is here because he is needed, because the ship of the Revolution needs a helmsman like him, so that the traitors cannot stop the machinery of the Revolution, so that the traitors cannot divert the course of the ship of the Revolution. To fulfill the mission of our Revolution, Fidel is needed".
"The most illustrious son of Cuba in this century," Raul would say on July 26, 1994, a difficult year, in which, thanks to the historic leader and his close relationship with the people "the heroic resistance of the country was achieved (...), the gross domestic product fell by 34.8% and the food supply of Cubans deteriorated significantly; we suffered blackouts of 16 and even 20 hours a day and much of the industry and public transport was paralyzed. In spite of this, we managed to preserve public health and education."
Then and now, Cuba continued to defend the banners of socialism in the face of the special period, the imperialist blockade, the media campaigns aimed at spreading discouragement among the citizens. "Our people gave an unforgettable lesson of firmness and loyalty to the principles of the Revolution under the leadership of Fidel," he said.
Fidel taught the Cuban people it was possible to defeat the mercenary invasion of Playa Girón in 72 hours; to eradicate illiteracy in one year, to proclaim the socialist character of the Revolution 90 miles from the empire, to firmly maintain the principles of our sovereignty without fearing the nuclear blackmail of the United States in the Missile Crisis, to send aid in solidarity to other peoples against colonial oppression, external aggression and racism.
"Fidel's permanent teaching is that it is possible to do anything, that man is capable of overcoming the toughest conditions if his will to overcome does not falter," added Raul in the historic farewell speech to our Commander in his passage to immortality.
At that time, he also evoked how Cuba became a medical power, became a great scientific pole in the fields of genetic engineering and biotechnology; developed tourism and resisted, yesterday and today, without renouncing the principles and achievements of socialism under Fidel's ideal.
From brother figure to almost father, Fidel was and is the reference for all Cubans, especially for those of us who keep part of him in our hearts. Fidel is Fidel, and that is why his legacy is immortal, the same legacy that Raul Castro explained on several occasions.
His brother Raul defined his eternal presence, as early as September 5, 1959, when he said that "the people will continue his work when he is no longer physically present because Fidel is wherever work is done (...), wherever the Revolution advances. Fidel is wherever an intrigue is destroyed, wherever a Cuban is working honestly, wherever a Cuban, whoever they may be, is doing well. Wherever a Cuban is defending the Revolution, whoever they may be, Fidel will be there".