This post is not about investing.  It will not have witty anecdotes.  Feel free to skip this one if you’re looking for that stuff today.

Fidel Castro is dead.

It can feel like this is a news blurb about a place so far away about a people who are not like us.  Why is this such a big deal?  Not everyone’s family was as lucky as mine.  On the way out of Cuba, my great-grandfather merely suffered through the indignity of having a soldier paw through his bag, keeping anything that looked valuable.  Others risked the open water.  Some didn’t make it off the shore.  It’s not my place to tell their stories, but I can tell you the short version of my family’s tie to Cuba and why Castro’s death is a big deal to me.

I do not look Cuban.  I don’t speak Spanish.  My grandmother was born there, though.  Her father was British and managed a sugar plantation.  Her next door neighbor was Fidel Castro.  I have a picture of my grandmother with Fidel.  The tallest subject in the picture is the donkey they were posing with.  So when I say she grew up next door to him, I mean next door.

My grandmother grew up and moved to the United States and married an Air Force officer.  After Castro came to power, my great-grandparents sought asylum here.  They fled with the one bag they were allowed to take with them to Dayton, Ohio, where my grandparents lived (my grandfather was at Wright-Patt).  My great-grandfather was devastated.  He had gone from being a strong, independent patriarch to depending on his son-in-law overnight.  My great-grandparents passed away soon after they arrived in America and my family (who are now scattered from New Orleans to Puerto Rico) laid the blame squarely on Castro.

I cannot bring myself to celebrate the death of any human being.  Every creature deserves death with dignity.  I also don’t begrudge the parade-goers in Miami.  There was always a kind of heat to the words my relatives used when talking about Cuba that I, fortunately, will never understand fully.  I don’t rejoice in Castro’s death, but I certainly do not mourn him.  The obituaries lauding the man as some sort of hero do not reconcile with the reality he inflicted upon the citizens of Cuba.