Former Cuban president Fidel Castro recalled being struck dumb when he heard the news of John F. Kennedy’s assassination that afternoon Nov. 22, 1963.

“I put on the radio, and just at the moment there was a chilling report informing us that the president had been assassinated in Dallas,” Castro wrote in a recent newspaper column. “For all intents and purposes there was nothing that we could talk about.”

Like Castro, much of the world learned of Kennedy’s death within minutes, and 50 years later it still feels the loss.

In Cuba, Kennedy was reviled for authorizing the Bay of Pigs invasion and perceived as bellicose during the missile crisis that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.

"Every Cuban felt like that president was attacking us. You couldn't have the slightest good will for him," said Manuel Rodriguez, a 74-year-old former bank employee and militia member who was mobilized during the Bay of Pigs attack and the missile crisis.

He remembers that Kennedy's assassination shocked Cuba and provoked fears that new tensions would roil the island. Once again he was called up for military duty.

His view of Kennedy has softened somewhat over the years; today Rodriguez believes the hostile U.S. policy toward Cuba was set by Kennedy's predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower, and that Kennedy had to "keep up the pace."

In Bogota, Colombia, Maria Cristina Reyes remembers exactly what she was doing when Kennedy was shot.

He had touched her life.

Reyes was 16 and newly married when JFK pulled up in a black limousine with his wife and Colombia's president on Dec. 17, 1961. She and her husband were among people building simple one-story red brick houses financed by Kennedy's "Alliance for Progress" initiative.

One of the homes would be the Reyes family's, in a district which would be named Barrio Kennedy.

"We felt great joy to see someone who was not from our country come and give something to people who were really in need," said Reyes.

Neighbor Martha Garay, now 77, remembers Kennedy's impact: "He was dashing, attractive, impeccable, and so was his wife."

JFK lingered, visiting a lot of the houses, "and spoke some Spanish though it wasn't anything that was very understandable," Garay said, chuckling.

Reyes said she was housecleaning when word of the assassination reached her. "We turned on the radio when they announced the terrible news."

Today, having lived through Bogota's violent decades, she sounds fatalistic when she thinks back to Kennedy's murder.

"When a person like President Kennedy comes around and tries to help, they always cut him down," she said.

Across six continents, in sports grounds, statues, scholarships, streets, hospitals, bridges, parks and schools, the name of John F. Kennedy is preserved in perpetuity, nowhere more keenly than in the hearts and minds of the Irish.

There he is widely recognized as the nation's most famous son, whose great-grandfather Patrick emigrated to Boston in 1848 from a 14-hectare (35-acre) farm near the River Barrow in Dunganstown, County Wexford.

That farm in Ireland's southeast corner has become a focal point for tens of thousands of JFK pilgrims annually since June 1963, when Kennedy visited his ancestral homeland. His four-day tour inspired unparalleled excitement in a then-impoverished land that had never before seen an American president.

In the nearby town of New Ross, a bronze podium bearing microphones and the presidential seal marks the riverside spot where Kennedy spoke. A flame taken from his burial plot in Arlington Cemetery burns at the center of a globe-shaped sculpture dedicated to Ireland's emigrants.

Carmel Delaney, a New Ross native, was 11, singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" with a crowd of Catholic schoolgirls when JFK's helicopter landed.

"We wouldn't have seen a helicopter before. That was something fabulous altogether," she said. "We knew he was somebody extremely important. We knew he was a god."

The day after Kennedy's funeral, Ireland observed a national day of mourning. Tens of thousands queued to sign the U.S. Embassy's condolence book, and businesses closed so employees could attend Masses in JFK's memory.

Jacqueline Kennedy gave the president's Irish relatives the rosary he had in his jacket when he died. It is on display at the Kennedy Homestead.

At the homestead, JFK's closest living relative in Ireland, fourth cousin Patrick Grennan, says the family is planning no special occasion for the 50th anniversary.

"We Kennedys choose to commemorate life, not death," Grennan, 38, said while showing a visitor around the homestead. "We celebrate the triumph of his visit to Ireland, his inspirational words. We try not to dwell on the horror of what happened later."

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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