BUFFALO, N.Y. -- He was called a rebel and a revolutionary, a communist and a totalitarian. He was loved and hated. But no one will deny Fidel Castro was one of the most important political leaders of the 20th Century.
"He's a complex individual, he should not be pigeon-holed. Tremendous sympathy for the common man and for minorities, and opened up so many possibilities for Cuba," said Rene De La Pedraja, a history professor at Canisius College.
Born in Cuba, De La Pedraja specializes in Latin America and the U.S. He thinks Castro has often been unfairly portrayed in the U.S.
"I think the admiration was greater, both in this country and in the world, than those who actually reviled him. I think it was a very small vocal minority, particularly in the United States, supported by the U.S. government that fed all this kind of hatred against the regime because he refused to be a puppet of the United States. Any studying you do of Cuba, he wanted to have Cubans shape their own destiny and not be dictated by the United States," said De La Pedraja.
That defiance led to a more than half-century chilly relationship with the U.S. that included a trade embargo that nearly crippled the tiny island nation just 90 miles from Florida. De La Pedraja says that partially contributed to the flood of Cuban immigrants looking to come to the U.S.
"It's perfectly normal and logical for Cubans to want to come to the United States, but they're not political refugees, they're people looking for a better economic opportunity, which by the way the situation in Cuba is never as bad as the rest of Latin America," said De La Pedraja.
He says it now remains to be seen whether Trump, when he takes office, will return to many of the restrictions that were lifted under the Obama administration that have helped thaw relations with Cuba.
Ultimately, he thinks Castro will be remembered for standing up against the U.S and for the people of Cuba.
"He was a Cuban Nationalist devoted a hundred percent to improving the welfare of his people there in any way there," said De La Pedraja. "That's what he wanted to do, and his name is "Fidel" which means loyal in Spanish. He never wavered from these beliefs there."