Cubans rejoice and celebrate after Fidel Castro’s death

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Thousands Cuban Americans have flooded the streets of Miami to celebrate the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Key points:

  • Thousands celebrated in Little Havana, Miami, where many Cuban exiles and their descendants live
  • Large numbers of Cubans fled to Miami after Castro took power in 1959
  • World leaders addressed Castro’s death on social media with mixed reactions

Within half an hour of the Cuban Government’s official announcement of the former ruler’s death, thousands of people in Miami took to the streets in jubilation.

There were loud celebrations in the Little Havana district of Miami, where a large population of Cuban exiles and their descendants live.

Festive crowds marched down the streets, chanting, banging pots and pans, and waving Cuban flags into the early hours of Saturday morning (local time).

Honking and strains of salsa music blared from car stereos and echoed against stucco buildings. Fireworks lit up the humid night sky.

Police blocked off streets around Cuban American hotspots where strong cafecitos sweetened espresso were as common as a harsh word about Fidel Castro.

“Cuba si! Castro no!” they chanted, while others screamed “Cuba libre!”

The news was long anticipated by the exiles who left after Castro took power, and in the decades since.

Celebration, not grief, permeated the atmosphere. Castro has cast a shadow over Miami for decades, and in many ways, his policy and his power have shaped the city and its inhabitants.

Cubans fled the island to Miami, Tampa, New Jersey and elsewhere after Castro took power in 1959. Some were loyalists of Fulgencio Batista, the president prior to Castro, while others left with the hope they would be able to return soon, after Castro was toppled. He never was.

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Many others believed they would not be truly free under Castro and his communist regime.

Thousands left behind their possessions, loved ones, and hard-earned educations and businesses, traveling to the US by plane, boat or raft. Many Cubans died on the ocean trip to South Florida.

The ones that made it to Miami took a largely, and vehemently, anti-Castro stance.

“I don’t celebrate. Nobody does. You can’t celebrate somebody’s death. I just hope for democracy,” said Arnold Vidallet, a 48-year-old financial adviser who was woken by relatives with the news and who went to Domino Park, in the heart of Little Havana, to witness history unfolding.

A couple of blocks away, at the Bay of Pigs memorial, Antonio Hernandez, 76, rode his bicycle up in a light rain and stood at the eternal flame that honours the men who tried, and failed, to wrest Cuba from Castro’s grip in 1961.

“Everybody’s happy. Now this guy won’t do any more damage,” said Mr Hernandez, who came to Miami on the Mariel boat lift in 1980.

“His brother will now go down, too. But the world has to pay attention to this, not just we Cubans.”

Many Cubans made a successful living and raised families in Miami despite having to learn a new language and start their lives over.

Exiles who arrived as teenagers with no money in their pockets became millionaires, political leaders, clergy members, and teachers.

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Miami has a majority Latino population, of which more than half is comprised of Cuban-Americans, according to statistics from Pew Research Center.

World leaders address Castro’s death

Meanwhile, leaders around the world have addressed Castro’s death on social media, giving mixed responses.

Some US politicians, including Florida representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo expressed solidarity with the Cuban people, saying Castro’s death marked a “new beginning” for Cuba and its people.

However Indian President Rashtrapati Bhavan, Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto and Pakistani leader Imran Khan were among some of the world leaders to express their sorrow at Castro’s death.

 

 

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