The festive clanging of pots and pans resounded through the streets of Miami beginning on Friday night, from Little Havana to Westchester. The area’s high concentration of Cuban refugees flooded the streets in celebration. With many shouting “Libertad” and holding up celebratory signs, those who came out were celebrating what they believed to be a historic moment in their people’s history: the death of former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
Castro came to power in 1959 after leading a revolution against former democratically elected president-turned-dictator Fulgencio Batista. When he announced he was a Marxist in 1961, Castro found himself in the center of the Cold War. He ruled over the island for forty-seven years, before giving power to his brother Raul in 2006. Although he officially gave Raul the title of President in 2008, Fidel Castro remained a symbol of the revolution for the Cuban people, and a symbol of oppression for many who escaped from the island nation. Cuba’s government is still under communist rule.
However, that didn’t stop locals like Margarita Aguilar from joining the festivities. “We were thrilled, because it’s one step closer to our country being free,” Aguilar explained. “Maybe the people within Cuba will realize ‘hey, wait a minute, there is better’.”
Congresswoman Iliana Ros-Lehtinen, who was born in Havana and represents Florida’s 27th congressional district, expressed similar sentiments. “The reality is that Raul Castro is still in power,” Ros-Lehtinen acknowledged, “and that transition from Fidel to Raul happened years ago. But it is a psychological obstacle that has been lifted from the Cuban people.”
With this obstacle lifted, many Cuban-Americans are eager to pass on their knowledge and their heritage to the following generation. “I think this is an amazing day in history,” said Vivian Vega-Bolaños, who took her son to the celebrations outside Versailles Restaurant on Saturday morning. “My son has never seen anything like this, but he has grown up learning about his heritage in Cuba.”
Some hope that the next generation will carry on a fight against communism in Cuba. “I aspire that the new generation, the young, the ones that we have taught and know the idea of democracy, be the ones that take up the space,” said Rodolfo Frometa as a small crowd of the many celebrants outside Versailles gathered to hear him speak, and applauded when he finished.
Celebrations have continued throughout the weekend outside of Versailles and La Caretta in Little Havana and Westchester, respectively, as those affected by Castro’s regime recognize the end of one era and hope for the beginning of another.