Connect to share and comment

Cuba celebrates Fidel Castro's 84th birthday

Friday, Fidel Castro's 84th birthday, wasn't a national holiday, but the Cuban government is stretching out celebrations for the white-bearded Commandante over several days.

Children's choirs across the island paid tribute to Castro in song, and an outdoor concert is scheduled for tonight on the steps of the University of Havana, where Castro earned a law degree in the early 1950s before going on to win a guerrilla war.

The theme of the government-organized events is "For Fidel and For Peace." Castro has mounted a vigorous campaign since his return to the limelight six weeks ago, insisting that the United States and Iran are on a collision course that will drag the world to nuclear war.

State-run television has also been playing footage of Castro speaking at various stages of his nearly 50-year-rule, in a running montage set to sentimental music. There are early images in black and white, and of Castro in the thick horn-rimmed glasses he used to wear. Over time, his dark beard fades to gray, then white. He gains weight, then loses it. His olive-green military uniform mostly stays the same, along with the signature hand gestures and soaring oratory.

Castro's return has also brought back some of the old Fidel jokes that are spread across the island in whispers. Here's one I heard again the other day:

One of Castro's admirers comes to him with a gift, a pet turtle.

"How long do they live?" Castro asks.

They can live two hundred years, the man tells him.

"In that case, no thanks," Castro says, giving back the turtle. "I don't want to get too attached."