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The Matanzas-born Fidel defected to South Florida in the early '70s, bringing his parents with him. He got a job driving semitrucks and wasn't exactly ashamed of his name: His rig's CB radio code was "El Comandante," and he bought the matching license plate.
But there were myriad unexpected disadvantages of being named after a notorious despot. In the mid-1980s, he was driving a truck through Texas when a state trooper pulled him over. The stone-faced cop reached for his cuffs as soon as the truck driver told him his name. He spent a few hours in jail, the family lore goes, before cops discovered that their prisoner really had lost his license as he had claimed.
In 1990, the truck driver and his wife, Maria, had their first son. At the time, Oilda Castro was dying of cancer, so she was given the honor of choosing her nieto's name.
She struck again. Fidel Denny Castro was typed into official existence at Mount Sinai Medical Center. The kid even shared a birthday, August 13, with the Cuban dictator.
Now age 19, Fidelito recalls attending Barbara Goleman Senior High School, where he was elected everything from homecoming king to best-dressed. "Kids that didn't even know me would vote for me," he recalls, "just to be funny."
But there are the drawbacks. "I applied for months to a Starbucks where my friends were working," he says. "The managers always threw out the applications, thinking it was a prank."
Worse, his Facebook account was abruptly deleted last year. Site administrators demanded documents proving his identity. Rather than deal with the invasion of privacy, he changed his online name to Fidel Castro-Germanotta — adopting Lady Gaga's surname.
Castro has bounced between Florida International University and Miami-Dade Community College as a journalism major. He thinks his byline might help a career in print. "If you were reading a newspaper where there was a story written by Fidel Castro next to one by, say, Sarah Rodriguez," he ruminates, "you'd probably think, Let me see what Fidel Castro has to say."
But, he adds, the name stops here: "I would never curse another child with this stigma."