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Is Fidel Castro dead? Anatomy of a trending Twitter meme

Javier Galeano/AP

Fidel Castro made a surprise appearance at the 6th Communist Party Congress in Havana, Cuba, held April 19, 2011.

Is Cuban leader Fidel Castro dead?

That rumor dominated a large part of the Twitterverse on Wednesday.

If true, Castro's death would be one of the biggest stories of the year, and perhaps the biggest ever for older Cuban Americans who have been waiting decades for the day to arrive.

But even if the longtime Cuban dictator isn't dead, there's still a story: How Twitter — especially Spanish-language Twitter — gives life to rumors of death.

Rumors have been spreading all afternoon about Castro's death, mainly via Twitter — perhaps spurred by a Miami blogger's post in Spanish that spoke of Castro's supposed dementia and rapidly failing health. 

Wednesday's rumor-mongering was only the latest incarnation of the Castro-is-dead meme. Long before Twitter, rumblings about Castro's demise have surfaced so often that many of those tweeting Wednesday about the 86-year-old longtime Cuban leader would likely have a hard time believing it if it were true.