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I looked up into the thick Havana air at the brightly-lit poster on the wall of an old, stone government building.

Viva Fidel 80

The old revolutionary was somewhere in this town in a compound contemplating his retirement announcement, which would happen just a few days later on my last day in Cuba.

The old man didn’t really even make it out for his 80th birthday celebration, and his thin and frail image on television barely registered in a country where his black-bearded and green fatigues image is as ubiquitous as the Cuban flag. 

I didn’t think he had ten years left in him. I figured cancer would take him out a few weeks or maybe months after he resigned the presidency.

But here we are a full 10 years after that trip to Cuba, a decade into Raul Castro, and the old man finally gave up the ghost.

You can’t travel to Cuba without thinking about Fidel. His presence is everywhere. I don’t know if a decade out of the limelight changed that or not.

But I doubt it.

He loomed large over every inhabitant of the White House for the last 50 years. Over Florida’s Cuban-American population. Over the remains of the Communist world.

I went to Cuba to find Hemingway, but you can’t find the old writer without acknowledging everything Cuba is under the long-ruling Castros. They colored everything for several generations.

Fidel is dead and Cuba soldiers on toward a future that is as uncertain as it was set when Fidel set booted feet in Havana.

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