Most Americans assume that Fidel Castro burst fully formed onto the historical stage in January 1959 with the triumph of the Cuban Revolution: communist at conception, anti-American in utero, bilious at birth.
The truth is more ambiguous and more revealing. History is full of misfits (Hitler comes to mind) and criminals (Stalin) who became tyrants. The young Castro was neither. Amiable, athletic, and intellectually gifted, Castro grew up in a wealthy and doting family during a period of great political unrest, a product of personal gifts and foibles, surely, but of local, national, and global forces besides.
It is grandiose to say that the United States made Castro. But there is no denying that U.S. policies helped propel him toward the Soviet Union at a critical moment in the Revolution, making one wonder how things might have been different, and what his story holds for U.S. foreign policy today.