Ouch! It’s too late for Castro but let’s hope others see this and realize what he did was wrong. Let’s keep it from happening again. Just look at how people are reacting. No one is missing him.
Fidel Castro died, and Cuban Miami did what it does in times of community celebration: It spilled onto the streets of Little Havana — and Hialeah, and Kendall — to honk horns, bang pans, and set off more than a few fireworks, saved for exactly the sort of unexpected occasion worthy of their detonation.
The scene across Miami-Dade County, the cradle of the Cuban exile community, was one of pure, raw emotion. This time, after decades of false alarms, Castro’s death was real.
“I wish my dad was here to see this,” 27-year-old Abraham Quintero cried just before 2 a.m. Saturday.
— David Ovalle (@DavidOvalle305) November 26, 2016
Wearing an “I love Hialeah” T-shirt, he stood on West 49th Street and Ludlam Road, where police quickly set up watch posts to make sure impromptu revelers stayed safe.
“Beautiful madness,” 29-year-old Christopher Sweeney said, describing the scene.
Passing cars honked incessantly. People waved huge Cuban flags. Parents carried their children and puppies. A few people appeared clad in pajamas and, in one case, flamingo slippers, jolted out of bed — and out of their homes — by the late-night news.
Shortly after midnight, Cuban leader Raúl Castro announced on state television, his voice trembling, that his older brother had died at 10:29 p.m.
“Toward victory, always!” he said.
— Carlos Frías (@Carlos_Frias) November 26, 2016
The streets in Havana, where a nine-day mourning period was announced, appeared to remain quiet. Not so in Miami, the city across the Florida Straits shaped by exiles who fled Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution.
Calle Ocho remained closed to traffic, from Southwest 35th to 37th Avenues, to accommodate the elated crowds gathered at Versailles Cuban restaurant, the iconic exile hangout, to cheer and wave signs — no matter how unseemly it might be to revel in an old man’s death.
Some even yelled profanities about Castro.
“Fidel, tirano, llévate a tu hermano,” they chanted outside Versailles. Fidel, tyrant, take your brother. There was also a variant: “Raúl, tirano, vete con tu hermano” (Raul, tyrant, go with your brother).
Someone outside the restaurant brought a portable karaoke system, and the crowd sang Cuban star Willy Chirino’s exile anthem, “Nuestro día ya viene llegando” (Our day is coming), as the scent of long-saved Cuban cigars burned at last.
“Libertad!” young and old yelled. Liberty.
— Joey Flechas (@joeflech) November 26, 2016
People were still popping champagne bottles in the middle of the street after 4 a.m. — an eruption of jubilation that remained peaceful throughout the night and into Saturday morning.
“I don’t think we’ve made any arrests and don’t expect to have any violence due to this long awaited day,” said Miami Police Officer Rene Pimentel.
Pimentel, a Cuban-American whose family tried for 15 years to leave the island, said he awoke early Saturday to text messages alerting him of Castro’s death — news he was eager to share with his father, who moved the family out of Cuba on Sept. 29, 1975.
“It was a great feeling to wake my dad and tell him that the day so many of us had been waiting for was finally here,” he said. “Fifteen long years to get to this great country.”
In Little Havana in Miami, the crowd celebrating after Fidel Castro's death sings La Bayamesa, the Cuban national anthem. Quite a moment. pic.twitter.com/1WvSnscfqV
— Vera Bergengruen (@VeraMBergen) November 26, 2016
Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado deployed himself to Versailles after midnight and was there when the sun came up, chatting up the crowds and conducting interviews in what has become the unofficial media staging ground for capturing Miami’s reaction to major Cuban news.
The Cuban-born mayor, whose father served 14 years in prison under Castro, said there was little use in trying to steer the celebration toward any sort of official venue or event.