This combination of two file photos shows Fidel Castro smoking a cigar in Havana on April 29, 1961, left, and his brother Raul Castro, right, in an undisclosed location in Cuba in 1959. Picture: AP
This combination of two file photos shows Fidel Castro smoking a cigar in Havana on April 29, 1961, left, and his brother Raul Castro, right, in an undisclosed location in Cuba in 1959. Picture: AP
In this March 14, 1957 file photo, Fidel Castro, the young anti-Batista guerrilla leader, centre, is seen with his brother Raul Castro, left, and Camilo Cienfuegos, while operating in the mountains of eastern Cuba. Picture: Andrew St. George/AP
In this March 14, 1957 file photo, Fidel Castro, the young anti-Batista guerrilla leader, centre, is seen with his brother Raul Castro, left, and Camilo Cienfuegos, while operating in the mountains of eastern Cuba. Picture: Andrew St. George/AP
Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro, right, President Osvaldo Dorticos, centre, and Armed Forces Chief, Commander Raul Castro, watch a military parade commemorating the 7th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution in Havana on January 2, 1966.  Picture: AP
Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro, right, President Osvaldo Dorticos, centre, and Armed Forces Chief, Commander Raul Castro, watch a military parade commemorating the 7th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution in Havana on January 2, 1966. Picture: AP
In this April 21, 1981 file photo, Cuba's Defense Minister Raul Castro, from left, front, his brother President Fidel Castro and Daniel Ortega, coordinator of the Junta of National Reconstruction of Nicaragua, attend a celebration marking the 20th anniversary of the failed military invasion Bay of Pigs, in Havana. Picture: Charles Tasnadi/AP
In this April 21, 1981 file photo, Cuba's Defense Minister Raul Castro, from left, front, his brother President Fidel Castro and Daniel Ortega, coordinator of the Junta of National Reconstruction of Nicaragua, attend a celebration marking the 20th anniversary of the failed military invasion Bay of Pigs, in Havana. Picture: Charles Tasnadi/AP
In this November 2, 1983 file photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro and his brother Raul, head of the Cuban Armed Forces, watch as the first group of Cubans returns home from Grenada. Picture: Charles Tasnadi/AP
In this November 2, 1983 file photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro and his brother Raul, head of the Cuban Armed Forces, watch as the first group of Cubans returns home from Grenada. Picture: Charles Tasnadi/AP
President Fidel Castro, left, joins hands with his younger brother Raul Castro, chief of the Cuban Armed Forces and first vice president, after the two were reelected in the Third Cuban Communist Party Congress session on February 8, 1986. Picture: Charles Tasnadi/AP
President Fidel Castro, left, joins hands with his younger brother Raul Castro, chief of the Cuban Armed Forces and first vice president, after the two were reelected in the Third Cuban Communist Party Congress session on February 8, 1986. Picture: Charles Tasnadi/AP
President Fidel Castro and his brother, Defense Minister Gen. Raul Castro, left, escort Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev during a welcoming ceremony at the airport in Havana on April 3, 1989. Picture: J. Scott Applewhite/AP
President Fidel Castro and his brother, Defense Minister Gen. Raul Castro, left, escort Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev during a welcoming ceremony at the airport in Havana on April 3, 1989. Picture: J. Scott Applewhite/AP
President Fidel Castro and his brother Raul Castro, first vice president and head of the Cuban Armed Forces, wait for heads of state at an official lunch for visiting leaders of the Group 77 Summit in Havana on April 13, 2000. Picture: Jose Goitia/AP
President Fidel Castro and his brother Raul Castro, first vice president and head of the Cuban Armed Forces, wait for heads of state at an official lunch for visiting leaders of the Group 77 Summit in Havana on April 13, 2000. Picture: Jose Goitia/AP
Cuban leader Fidel Castro delivers a speech seated next to his brother, Defense Minister and first Vice President Raul Castro, during a final session at the National Assembly in Havana on December 20, 2001. Picture: Jose Goitia/AP
Cuban leader Fidel Castro delivers a speech seated next to his brother, Defense Minister and first Vice President Raul Castro, during a final session at the National Assembly in Havana on December 20, 2001. Picture: Jose Goitia/AP
President Fidel Castro, left, seated next to his brother Defense Minister Raul Castro and first Vice President, speaks during the inauguration of the ninth session of the National Assembly, in Havana on November 2, 2002. Picture: Cristobal Herrera/AP
President Fidel Castro, left, seated next to his brother Defense Minister Raul Castro and first Vice President, speaks during the inauguration of the ninth session of the National Assembly, in Havana on November 2, 2002. Picture: Cristobal Herrera/AP
Cuba's acting President Raul Castro sits next to the chair usually occupied by his older brother Fidel Castro, at a parliament year-end session in Havana on December 22, 2006. Picture: Javier Galeano/AP
Cuba's acting President Raul Castro sits next to the chair usually occupied by his older brother Fidel Castro, at a parliament year-end session in Havana on December 22, 2006. Picture: Javier Galeano/AP
Fidel Castro attends a National Assembly session in which his brother Cuba's President Raul Castro accepted a new presidential term with the caveat that it would be his last, on February 24, 2012. Picture: Ismael Francisco/Cubadebate via AP
Fidel Castro attends a National Assembly session in which his brother Cuba's President Raul Castro accepted a new presidential term with the caveat that it would be his last, on February 24, 2012. Picture: Ismael Francisco/Cubadebate via AP
A rare public appearance by Fidel Castro, supported by Cuban President Raul Castro, right, and second secretary of the Central Committee, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, at the closing ceremonies of the 7th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party on April 19, 2016. Picture: Ismael Francisco/Cubadebate via AP
A rare public appearance by Fidel Castro, supported by Cuban President Raul Castro, right, and second secretary of the Central Committee, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, at the closing ceremonies of the 7th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party on April 19, 2016. Picture: Ismael Francisco/Cubadebate via AP
Women in Santiago hold a portrait of the late Fidel Castro, and of his brother Cuba's President Raul Castro, as they wait to see the arrival of the caravan transporting Fidel's ashes from Havana. Picture: Ricardo Mazalan/AP
Women in Santiago hold a portrait of the late Fidel Castro, and of his brother Cuba's President Raul Castro, as they wait to see the arrival of the caravan transporting Fidel's ashes from Havana. Picture: Ricardo Mazalan/AP
President Raul Castro receives the ashes of his older brother Fidel Castro from an honor guard before placing them into a niche in his tomb, at the Santa Ifigenia cemetery in Santiago on December 4, 2016. Picture: Marcelino Vazquez Hernandez/ACN via AP
President Raul Castro receives the ashes of his older brother Fidel Castro from an honor guard before placing them into a niche in his tomb, at the Santa Ifigenia cemetery in Santiago on December 4, 2016. Picture: Marcelino Vazquez Hernandez/ACN via AP
A man watches President Donald Trump's inauguration speech on television, backdropped by a wall adorned with images of Cuba's President Raul Castro, top right, Fidel Castro, top centre, and Camilo Cienfuegos January 20, 2017. Picture: Ramon Espinosa/AP
A man watches President Donald Trump's inauguration speech on television, backdropped by a wall adorned with images of Cuba's President Raul Castro, top right, Fidel Castro, top centre, and Camilo Cienfuegos January 20, 2017. Picture: Ramon Espinosa/AP

Havana — The men who have run Cuba for nearly six decades began life in a remote, rural part of the island known as Biran, sons of a wealthy farmer.

Both Fidel and Raul Castro turned to radical politics at a young age as they went to school first in the eastern city of Santiago, later at the University of Havana.

They burst into prominence in 1953 leading a quixotic, failed attack on the Moncada military barracks in Santiago hoping to topple the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. Both were imprisoned, were freed in an amnesty and went into exile in Mexico, where they organized a guerrilla band that returned to Cuba by boat, the Granma, in 1956.

Despite initial setbacks, the bearded guerrillas operating in the eastern mountains steadily gained support across the country. On Jan. 1, 1959, Batista fled and Fidel Castro became the unquestioned leader of Cuba, with his younger brother put in charge of the armed forces.

Fidel Castro's government initially executed or imprisoned many foes, and veered to Soviet-backed socialism in the early 1960s. Cuba backed revolutions across Latin America, and while most of those failed, the Castros' resistance to US domination inspired millions across the continent and beyond.

Fidel Castro's control survived repeated U.S. plots to overthrow or kill him and even the hardships that followed the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, which had kept the island's economy afloat. But illness finally forced Fidel to turn over power in 2006 to Raul, who formally became president two years later.

Fidel died in 2016 and Raul, who turns 87 in June, has announced that he will step aside as president this month — though he plans to remain in what is probably a more important position: head of Cuba's lone permitted party, the Communist Party.

AP