Havana, Cuba

When Castro Ruled Cuba

As the Castro era comes to an end, a look back at life in Cuba.

For the first time in nearly six decades, Cuba will be led by someone not named Castro. In an historic move made official on Thursday, Raul Castro will step down as president of the island nation and make way for Communist party member Miguel Diaz-Canel to become the new head of state. Not only is Diaz-Canel the first person outside of the Castro clan to lead the country since the 1950s, he was not even born when Fidel Castro and his revolutionary forces succeeded in taking control of the island in 1959.


Here, a look back at Cuba in the years just before and after the revolution:

THEY CAME TO PLAY Ralph Morse THEY CAME TO PLAY American tourists gambling at the Nacional Hotel in Havana, 1957. FUN IN THE SUN Eliot Elisofon FUN IN THE SUN The Hotel Nacional, among other key Havana spots, became a playground for tourists and gangsters alike. PAPA AND THE SEA Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images PAPA AND THE SEA Author Ernest Hemingway, who had a home just outside of Havana, posing at the small Cuban fishing village that served as the inspiration for his novel "The Old Man and the Sea," 1952. WAVE AFTER WAVE Eliot Elisofon/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images WAVE AFTER WAVE The Malecon Boulevard, where Havana's residents stroll, 1946. ENTER THE REVOLUTION Grey Villet/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images ENTER THE REVOLUTION Fidel Castro, in 1959, being cheered by the crowds on his victorious march in Havana. The revolution had begun. TAKING TO THE STREETS Lee Lockwood/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images TAKING TO THE STREETS Jubilant throngs gather in support of Castro, 1959. AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE Lee Lockwood/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE Incredible crowds assemble in Revolution Square to hear Castro speak during the rebel victory celebration in 1959. AMONG THE PEOPLE Grey Villet/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images AMONG THE PEOPLE Castro in the streets of Havana, 1959. POSTER BOY Keystone/Getty Images POSTER BOY Images of Fidel covered the walls in Havana and the more rural communities, circa 1960. FIERY ORATOR Sovfoto/UIG via Getty Images FIERY ORATOR Castro was known for speaking, without notes, for up to eight hours under the blazing Cuban sun. CHE LENDS A HAND Alan Oxley/Getty Images CHE LENDS A HAND Ernesto Che Guevara, Castro's fellow revolutionary, helps workers build low-cost housing, 1962. SENSE OF PLACE Archive Photos/Getty Images SENSE OF PLACE A wide open avenue in Havana, circa 1959. OUTSIDE OF HAVANA Gilberto Ante/Roger Viollet/Getty Images OUTSIDE OF HAVANA Cuba's rural communities focused on farming and fishing, 1960. CASTING A NET Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images CASTING A NET A fisherman in 1960. HERE FOR FIDEL Hulton Archive/Getty Images HERE FOR FIDEL Dozens of rural workers stand in front of the Havana railroad station; they'd come to attend rallies for agrarian reform and to pledge their allegiance to Castro. WORKING MAN Gilberto Ante/Roger Viollet/Getty Images WORKING MAN TO THE FIELDS ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images TO THE FIELDS Workers in Santiago de Cuba on their way to the sugarcane plantations, 1964. A DAY'S WORK Gilberto Ante/Roger Viollet/Getty Images A DAY'S WORK ROLLING Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images ROLLING Expert cigar-rollers, 1960. CULTURE CLASH John van Hasselt - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images CULTURE CLASH A vintage Cadillac, from the free-spending days before the revolution, drives by a poster of guerrilla leader Che Guevara, 1972. BEAUTIFUL HAVANA Lee Lockwood/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images BEAUTIFUL HAVANA Dense, crumbling, beautiful Havana, circa 1965. FACES OF THE REVOLUTION Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images FACES OF THE REVOLUTION