Florida’s Cuban community celebrates what they hope will be a new day in Cuba
As the news that Fidel Castro, the last of the Cold War leaders, died last night at the age of 90 in Havana, it was greeted with joy throughout the Florida Cuban community from Ybor City to Miami. Speaking about Miami, in the neighborhood of “Little Havana,” people took to the streets with pots, pans and drums, pounding out their joy.
The joy that the dictator who ran many of them out of their homeland was a long time coming and the best news they could receive. Many were crying and overcome with knowledge that finally Fidel Castro was gone.
The heart of “Little Havana,” is at the corner of Southwest Eighth Street near 36th Avenue, in front Cafe Versailles, early Saturday morning, at around 2 a.m., the crowd grew and grew. Police were forced to temporarily close the road, about an hour later. The mood was festive as the growing crowd held up U.S. and Cuban flags and let the banging on pots and pans could be heard for blocks.
By sunrise many had gone home to bed, and the road reopened, but it didn’t last long. Crowds swelled again by the late morning, forcing officers to close the street again, just before 10 a.m.
During initial gatherings, not even rainy weather seemed to deter those in attendance as they chanted “liberty” and popped champagne bottles, as City of Miami Police said, the crowds swelled to more than 3,500 people.
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a longtime foe of Castro told the press early this morning was the day the people inside and outside the island had been waiting for.
“A tyrant is dead. Sadly, another tyrant has already taken his place and had taken his place for some years now but we hope a new beginning can dawn on what is really the last remaining communist bastion of our Western hemisphere,” said Ros-Lehtinen.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio said that Castro’s death doesn’t immediately bring freedom for the people of Cuba. Late last night Sen. Rubio issued a statement this morning with his thoughts of what the death of Fidel Castro means to Cuba – United States relations.
His statement read, “Sadly, Fidel Castro’s death does not mean freedom for the Cuban people or justice for the democratic activists, religious leaders, and political opponents he and his brother have jailed and persecuted. The dictator has died, but the dictatorship has not. And one thing is clear, history will not absolve Fidel Castro; it will remember him as an evil, murderous dictator who inflicted misery and suffering on his own people.
But he added, “The future of Cuba ultimately remains in the hands of the Cuban people, and now more than ever Congress and the new administration must stand with them against their brutal rulers and support their struggle for freedom and basic human rights.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott released a statement following the death of former Cuban Leader Fidel Castro.
“I join Cuban-Americans and Floridians across the country who are incredibly hopeful for the future of Cuba. After decades of oppression, the Cuban people deserve freedom, peace and democracy.”
He went on, “I have met so many Cubans who have come to Florida to flee the tyranny, brutality, and communism of the Castro brothers’ oppressive regime and now is the time to look at policy changes that will demand democracy in Cuba.”
It should be noted that Sen. Rubio and Gov. Scott have been against President Barack Obama’s move to try to – over time – to establish normal relations with Cuba. But as to how President elect Donald Trump will handle the issue remains to be seen.
Some quotes in this story came from ASSOCIATED PRESS and CBS Miami.