Cuba Libre!

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Why you should care

It’s a small, neighboring nation with a very big mythology — one that’s all about to change.

Of the many things that you world-watching politicos would have predicted to happen over the past half-century, the endurance of noted baseball fanatic Fidel Castro is probably not one of them. The fact that we can mark February 16, 1959 — the day Castro was sworn in as prime minister of Cuba after successfully chasing Fulgencio Batista out of the country — by trying to suss out how an alive and kicking 88-year-old Castro will figure in President Obama’s plan to realign U.S.-Cuba relations is nothing short of, well, surprising.

Surprising and surprisingly mixed, since we can’t deny how well Cuba has filled its long-standing role of good “enemy.” The thought of that role fading fills us with what Brazilians call saudade: an ineffable sense of sadness and loss. And yet we know that an open Cuba may mean something very different for Cuban-born Americans who still have scores to settle “back home.”

Wounds like those can outlast even Castro’s legendary longevity, especially when they span more than half a century. Fidel, we hardly knew ye. But as Cuba looks to a new future without you, we expect to learn much more about you than just your secret to a long life.