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Fidel Castro may have the most famous beard in the Caribbean, but he was not the first Latin American historical figure to have a signature look involving facial hair. The list is long and distinguished and includes Pablo Escobar, Venustiano Carranza and many more.
Fidel Castro, the Most Famous Beard in the CaribbeanFidel Castro in 1959. Public Domain image
Well, you just knew he'd be on this list, didn't you? Fidel's scruffy beard, grown during his rebel days and kept as a reminder of the struggle, is recognizable worldwide. It allegedly is also the only beard in history to have been the target of an assassination attempt: rumor has it the Kennedy administration considered somehow coating Fidel with a chemical that would cause his beard to fall out.
Venustiano Carranza, Santa Claus of the Mexican RevolutionVenustiano Carranza. Public Domain Image
Venustiano Carranza, one of the four mighty warlords who fought it out between 1910 and 1920 in the bloody Mexican Revolution, was pedantic, boring, stubborn and dour. His lack of any sense of humor was legendary, and he was eventually killed by one of his former allies. How, then, did he manage to go so far in the Revolution, even becoming President for a time (1917-1920)? Perhaps it was his beard, which was certainly most impressive. Carranza stood an imposing 6'4" and his long, white beard gave him the appearance of someone who knew what he was doing, and in the chaotic days of the revolution, perhaps that was enough.
Maximilian of Austria, Emperor of MexicoMaximilian I of Mexico. Public Domain Image
In the late nineteenth century, Mexico was reeling from massive debt and a series of disastrous wars. France had just the solution: a nobleman from an Austrian royal family! Enter Maximilian, then in his early thirties and younger brother of Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph. Maximilian could barely speak Spanish, most of the people were against him, and the French army, which was in Mexico to support him, bailed out to fight wars in Europe. His ace in the hole, naturally, was a formidable set of whiskers, which breezed away from his chin in such a way that made it look like he had just been riding a motorcycle. Even this beard could not save him from forces loyal to beardless Benito Juarez, who caught and executed him in 1867.
José Martí, Cuban Patriot and Fashion PlateJosé Martí. Public Domain Image
José Martí was a trailblazer who fought for Cuban independence from Spain in the late nineteenth century. A gifted writer, his essays got him kicked out of Cuba and he spent most of his life in exile, telling anyone who would listen that Cuba should be free from Spain. He backed up his words with actions, and in 1895 was killed leading an invasion of former exiles to re-take the island. He also set an important precedent with his glorious handlebar mustache, raising the bar for later Cuban rebels such as Fidel and Che.
Emiliano Zapata's HandlebarEmiliano Zapata. Public Domain Image
So, why has the handlebar mustache, so popular in the nineteenth century, never come back into style? Maybe because there are no longer men like Emiliano Zapata around to wear them. Zapata was the Mexican Revolution's greatest idealist, who dreamed of land for all poor Mexicans. He had his own mini-revolution in his home state of Morelos and he and his peasant army lent a severe beating to any federales who dared come onto his turf. Zapata himself was somewhat short in stature, but his outrageous handlebar mustache more than made up for it.
Pablo Escobar's Gangster 'StachePablo Escobar. Oscar Cifuentes
Pencil-thin mustaches seem to be as popular to organized crime as machine guns. Legendary drug lord Pablo Escobar carried on this proud tradition, as he and his mustache built up a billion-dollar empire in the 1980s only to see it all crumble. He was killed by police in 1993 as he tried to escape, but he and his gangster mustache have since passed into legend.
Antonio Guzman Blanco, Venezuela's Forked MarvelAntonio Guzmán Blanco. Public Domain Image
Sure, he was a crook who pilfered Venezuelan state funds. Okay, he would take long vacations to Paris and rule his nation by telegram. And yes, he was infamously vain and loved nothing more than sitting for dignified presidential portraits. But how can you not appreciate a man whose stately bald head and long forked beard made him look like a cross between a high school math teacher and a viking?
Jose Manuel Balmaceda, the Chilean PushbroomJosé Manuel Balmaceda. Public Domain Image
Jose Manuel Balmaceda was a man ahead of his time. Presiding over Chile during an economic boom (president 1886-1891), he sought to use the new wealth to improve education and infrastructure. His spendy ways got him in trouble with Congress, however, and a civil war broke out, which Balmaceda lost. His pushbroom mustache was ahead of its time as well: almost exactly 100 years before Ned Flanders first appeared on TV.
Edward "Blackbeard" TeachEdward "Blackbeard" Teach. Artist Unknown
Here's the only one on the list whose beard is so famous he was named after it! Blackbeard was a pirate, the most famous of his day. He wore a long, black beard (naturally) and during battle, he would wind lit fuses into it, which would sputter and smoke, giving him the appearance of a demon: most of his victims simply surrendered their treasures when they saw this fearsome devil approaching.