Ángel Castro y Argiz
Ángel Castro y Argiz
Ángel María Bautista Castro y Argiz
5 December 1875
|Died||21 October 1956 (aged 80)|
|Occupation||Spanish military, farmer|
|Children||13, including Ramón, Fidel, Raúl, and Juanita|
He was the son of Manuel de Castro y Núñez (Láncara, c. 1853 – Láncara, 12 June 1903) and wife (m. Láncara, 16 August 1873) Antonia Argiz y Fernández (Láncara, 1857 – Láncara, 16 November 1887).
Ángel Castro was born in Láncara, in a small fieldstone house typical of the poor Galician peasants of that time.:25 When he was sixteen or seventeen, he was conscripted into the Spanish military, and came to Cuba during the second War of Independence. He was stationed in the tract of land between Júcaro and Morón.:26 Juanita Castro, Ángel's daughter, has contradicted this claim to assert that their father was merely an economic migrant to Cuba.
Following their defeat in 1898, Castro went with the army back to Spain and returned to Láncara. A cavalryman in the Spanish Army with no future he finally decided to emigrate to Cuba through the port of Havana in 1905, shortly after an uncle had done so. He arrived in 1906 with his brother Gonzalo Pedro "And without a cent he started to work,” Fidel remarked in one of many interviews later in life. At first Castro went to work in the nickel mines near Santiago de Cuba, where a capacity for hard labour led him to become a labourer for the Nipe Bay Railway Company, which was building the Preston sugar mill. He made his way eastwards to Oriente province, where slaves worked in a hostile and mountainous region 500 miles from Havana. Working for a subsidiary of the American United Fruit Company directing the loading of sugar wagons had some compensations.:27 At this time, American plantations in misiones were spreading throughout Cuba, and workers were being hired to cut down the hardwood forests and plant sugarcane. Castro organized a group of men and hired them out to United Fruit selling lemonade from a dealer's cart. Later he set up a shop in the town of Guaro selling equipment and supplies to the cane workers. The profits enabled him to leave the employ of United Fruits. He hired immigrant labour to load up wagons and fell timber. With the help of benefactor, Fidel Pino he opened a restaurant in Guaro fittingly called Progress, but it was not a success, and at last was forced to close. In 1910 he became the joint owner of a mine called The Desire, just one of a number of capital deals in land, livestock and timber businesses that made Castro's name in Cuba.
The businessman Don Angel
In 1914 he started a business with immigrants employed as woodcutters, felling trees. With their experience he began to make contact with Americans with the intention of purchasing some land, initially just 200 acres. The farm purchased at Biran was small at first, so in the dead of night he would move the boundary posts nearer the road and railway lines. He farmed sheep and poultry, which he sheltered under a house he built on stilts like those in Galicia. It had a wide verandah and large rooms. The land was suitable for sugar cane, but he also planted maize, kept poultry, and later cattle. He soon came to preside over a finca called Manacas which had its own stores, slaughterhouse and bakery. There were a total of 27 buildings, among them: the school, the teacher’s house, cockpit, movie theatre, store, bar, billiard, telegraph post office, workshop, Haitians’ house, and drugstore. Neighbors who failed to pay their debts might find themselves boxing for their lives in the Cockpit.
With a strong sense of business he was, despite no religious convictions, a strong-minded, but fair father. Still, he was sorely tried by his sons' bad behaviour at school. Because of this, he decided to send Fidel away to get an education at Dolores Primary school. Angel had a strong sense of obligation, was taciturn and hard working, but had begun life illiterate. He was therefore determined to educate his children with the money he had earned. They were brought up in the countryside on a rough agricultural ranch, that gave his son Fidel a resilient outlook.
Angel Castro once had 300 men working for him, and at the time of his death 400 workers on the estate.:28 Castro prospered and was eventually able to buy 1800 hectares and lease a further 10,000 hectares of land which yielded pine wood, livestock, and sugarcane. It is said that this prosperity was due in part to harsh treatment of his mostly Haitian workers, and various illegal exploits. Although perhaps slightly inaccurate in detail, there is a vivid description of late 1920s life, especially in reference to the plight of Haitian contract labour at Antilla and Banes in Bancroft (1983-pp. 36–44) in the northern part of what was then Oriente province. Later in life Fidel recalled his father's corruption, buying votes from the existing political classes, but by the standards of the day he was probably less harsh than many proprietors. During the winter he would hire redundant workers from neighbouring plantations to weed the ground. He was an obeisant man, kind to his children, spoiled them even, and rarely lost his temper, except at dominoes. By the 1950s Angel was worth about $500,000 (equivalent to $4,700,000 in 2018). Despite being a successful capitalist Castro hated the Americans for their conquest of Cuban's independence movement in 1898. From a sincerely conservative peasant family, Catholic by tradition, if not in practice, he harboured suspicions of extravagant luxury and American-style capitalism that he inculcated into his children.
Ángel Castro married María Argota y Reyes on 25 March 1911, by whom he had five children: Manuel Castro Argota (1913–1914), María Lila Perfidia (Lidia) Castro Argota (1913–1991), Pedro Emilio Castro Argota (1914–1992), Antonia María Dolores Castro Argota (1915–?) and Georgina de la Caridad Castro Argota (1918–?). His wife was a very different a character to his. Dubbed "Maria the wealthy" by her family, she wanted to buy rich clothes and gold jewellery and live in some style in Santiago City. By contrast Angel preferred to go climbing in the hills and the outdoors looking for new land.
The Ruz Gonzalez family arrived in 1917 from Pinar del Rio in west Cuba. Angel's friendship grew with Perfecto Ruz Vasquez who introduced him to his niece Lina Ruz Gonzalez. She was employed as a maid in his household just fifteen years old. A strong woman of Latin passions, she loved to go horse riding. She was brave, spontaneous and hard working. He sired seven more children, including Fidel, by Lina whom he made his cook. Born in Catalina, Guane, Pinar del Rio Province, Cuba on 23 September 1903, she was the daughter of Francisco Ruz Vázquez (1874–1961), a cart dealer transporting cane to the mills, and by Dominga González Ramos. They married on 26 April 1927, nonetheless the first three offspring were illegitimate: Ángelita María Castro Ruz (1923–2012), Ramón Eusebio Castro Ruz (1924–2016), Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz (1926–2016), there followed Raúl Modesto Castro Ruz (b. 1931), Juana de la Caridad (Juanita) Castro Ruz (b. 1933), Enma de la Concepción Castro Ruz (b. 1935) and Agustina del Carmen Castro Ruz (1938–2017). Angel Castro also had one other son, Martin Castro, born in 1930, the son of a farmhand named Generosa Mendoza. One son was an economist, another an engineer, the eldest took on the ranch. While the girls learned to play the guitar and dance. As children they learned to swim and celebrated New Year's Eve with a turkey dinner.
Castro y Argiz died in the village of Birán, 42 days before his son Fidel landed in Los Cayuelos on 2 December 1956. He died of an gastrointestinal haemorrhage at the age of 80. Fidel Castro is said to have received the news of his father's death in stoic silence. His wife, Lina, lies buried next to him at Biran.
Notes and references
- Ramonet, Ignacio, Fidel Castro: My Life. Penguin Books: 2007
- Ann Louis Bardach, Cuba confidential: Love and Vengeance in Cuba and Miami, (New York: Random House 2002) ISBN 978-0385720526, p.59
- Leycester Coltman, The Real Castro, (Thistle Publishing, 2014), p.2
- interviews with Frey Betto, author of Fidel and Religion, cited by César Hidalgo Torres. Translation by Isabel Domínguez Pifferrer based on the work of Antonio López, an historian of Birán.
- J.L. Anderson, Che Guevera: A revolutionary life, (Bantam, 1997) p.175
- Interviews with Frey Betto, author of Fidel and Religion, cited by César Hidalgo Torres. Translation by Isabel Domínguez Pifferrer based on the work of Antonio López, an historian of Birán.
- Coltman, p.12
- The Daily Telegraph, Monday 28 September 2016, p.27
- biographer Leycester Coltman claims that the year of birth was 1927. L.Coltman, The Real Fidel Castro, p.4
- GeneAll.net - Ángel María Bautista Castro Argiz
- Raisa Pagés (2003-12-29). "From Tuxpan to the Sierra Maestra". Granma International. Archived from the original on 24 November 2005. Retrieved 19 February 2008.