MIAMI (WSVN) - The crowds may have gone down in size, but the sense of euphoria and hope remained intact as Cuban-Americans and other well-wishers took to the streets for a second day following the death of former leader Fidel Castro.
Monday morning, celebrations continued at Cafe Versailles, where dozens of Cuban Americans gathered, including Florida Congressman Carlos Curbelo. “I was just in the area, so the first thing I wanted to do was have some coffee,” said Curbelo. “I also wanted to be in solidarity with the community.”
Cuban-born Yanet Samora and her 9-year-old daughter also made a stop at Cafe Versailles, Monday morning, right before their flight back home to New Jersey. She told 7News she was only in Miami for the Thanksgiving holiday, and had no idea she would be in Miami on such a historical weekend. “It’s not a celebration of Castro’s death,” she clarified. “We’re celebrating a new era.”
Less than 72 hours have gone by since Cuban President Raul Castro announced his older brother’s passing on state TV, but the excitement and emotions were still raw in Little Havana, Sunday, as hundreds continued to gather in front of Cafe Versailles.
“He is no human being. He is a monster. He was a monster,” said Beatriz Yllama. “That is why I’m here, to celebrate.”
Sunday brought out Cuban-American families, like 11-year-old Adrian Fernandez Ramos, who took in the festivities with his father. “When I was playing FIFA with my dad, and we were chilling, and he told me, ‘Machi, Fidel Castro died, and,’ I said, ‘Are you serious?’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah, he died,'” he said. “I wanted to come here so people could hear my voice, an 11-year-old, and what he thinks about Fidel Castro.”
Also on hand were the Ladies in White, who waved Cuban flags and chanted “libertad” as they marched down the streets of Little Havana. They said they’ve had husbands and sons jailed and even killed by the Castro regime.
One man said he has been celebrating for more than 24 hours alongside his dog Flaca, who was wearing a Cuban flag. ” I feel happy today,” he said.
The crowds were smaller than on Saturday, but large enough for police to block Southwest Eighth Street between 35th and 37th streets. “It continues to be peaceful, and we have closed off the street to allow people to continue peacefully manifesting their First Amendment rights,” said Miami Police Officer Kenia Fallat.
Two parents who brought their 7-month-old daughter to the celebration said they are hopeful about the future. “I really hope that his death will bring a change to the island,” said one of them.
The child’s father captured the occasion on his smartphone. “I took a selfie. For the reason being, I will explain the significance when she can better understand it,” he said.
Revelers said they understand that freedom is not to be taken for granted. “I want the Cuban people to know that we are free here,” said artist Halan Lopez. “I am representing all the painters in Cuba, the ones who can’t paint because they’re afraid they will be censored.”
Another artist dressed up a mannequin up like a prisoner to symbolize the Cuban people being imprisoned by a communist regime.
The crowds were just as spirited in front of La Carreta on the corner of Bird Road and Southwest 87th Avenue, in Southwest Miami-Dade. Passing drivers honked their horns as revelers waved U.S. and Cuban flags and pounded on pots and pans from the sidewalks.
For Cuban-American Delia Cadi, it’s a bittersweet occasion because she’s unable to share it with her loved ones. “Unfortunately, a day like today, I would like to have my mother, my father, and my grandmother and my grandfather, because they died hoping to see a free Cuba,” she said.
Jesus Diaz Pacheco told 7News he was imprisoned by Castro’s regime when he was 17. “He needed an execution,” he said.
Joshua Perez said he wants to use Castro’s death as a history lesson for younger generations. “I wanted them to realize how much we lost,” he said.
“We’re celebrating the end of an era of the oldest dictator in the world,” said Omar Hernandez. “He destroyed his country, he destroyed our youth.”
“From the beginning, it started with a firing squad,” said Jesus Diaz Pacheco, a former political prisoner who escaped the island nation.
William Torres, his face painted in the colors of the Cuban flag, said it’s time for the Castro regime to end. “Raul has to be removed from government, too, whether he dies or the people remove him,” he said. “The younger generations are going to take over, and the change will come.”
After sundown, police reopened Southwest Eighth Street to traffic and moved people onto the sidewalk.
There’s no telling how long they’ll stay. “I’m here basically for my mother, grandmother,” said Orlando Lopez. “People who are are not around anymore and can’t celebrate and have been waiting almost six decades for this.”
Now, Diaz Pacheco said, it is time to think about what comes next for the people of Cuba, and to wonder whether or not they will be able to see a free Cuba in their lifetime. “The people have hunger for freedom. The people are hungry for liberty and a democratic system,” he said. “The people are hungry to [be able to] practice their religion. The people are hungry for respect for human rights. In Cuba, at this moment, there are no rights.”
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