BY GABBY RAYMOND '20
On Nov. 25, 2016 Fidel Castro died. He was best known as the leader of the Cuban Revolution in 1959. Castro was regarded as a national savior and icon by his supporters, and a dictator who disregarded human rights by his critics. The nine days of state mourning that began with the announcement of his passing concluded with his ashes being buried at Santa Ifigenia Cemetery on Sunday morning.
There was quite a contrast in reactions to Castro’s death between the city of Havana, Cuba and the city of Miami, Florida, both of which have large Cuban populations. While Havana has been somber since the news of the former leader’s death, Miami streets have been filled with celebrators. According to CNN, many were gathered outside the Versailles restaurant in Little Havana holding signs that stated, “Satan, Fidel is now yours.” Virginia Guerra ’19, a Cuban American student at Mount Holyoke was just as relieved as many of the revelers in Miami. “For me, this event was a day of victory, freedom and happiness for my family, for those who have similar stories to my grandparents and for those who gave their lives to escape Cuba,” she said.
In Cuba’s Revolutionary Square the reactions were much different. A crowd of thousands of citizens gathered on Saturday night to mourn. A loud chant of “Yo Soy Fidel” broke out, as many mourned their leader. BBC spoke to one Cuban woman, Luiza Rodriguez, who said, “I actually think I’ve cried more for Fidel than I did for my own father when he died.” Others who gathered at Castro’s memorial were very sure the country would continue to improve with the memory of Castro’s ideals in mind. Guerra thinks the current pro-Castro sentiment among Cuban citizens is not conducive for change.” Since the regime has grown so large and many residing citizens of Cuba believe in the Revolution, which means that Fidel’s vision will still be carried on, there will still be detrimental effects upon the people and government of Cuba,” she said.
While the moods of Cuban dissidents and supporters of Castro have been very different, both groups share the belief that not much will change in terms of the Cuban government. Right now, Raul Castro, Fidel Castro’s younger brother, is the current President of Cuba. There have still been arrests of dissidents in the week following his death, and many in the human rights camp consider the fight against Castro’s government ongoing despite Castro’s death. According to NPR, Berta Soler, the leader of Cuban dissident group “the White Ladies” stated, “But Fidel and Raul are the same. They are both dictators. They are tyrants. Nothing is going to change just because Fidel is physically gone.” However, Isa Zuluaga ’19, thinks Castro’s death can change the country’s political direction. She said, “Castro’s death is symbolic as he was the figurehead of a period in Cuban history that brought tyranny, oppression, and much pain to el Pueblo Cubano. I think that while he was already retired, there is an argument to be made about the feeling that it is an end of an era and that Cuba can look to emerge on better days for herself and her people.”
Many in Cuba are now waiting to see where the politics of the country will be headed now that the man who lead their country for 49 years is gone.
Zuluaga has hope the Cuban people can come back from Castro and keep their values.“I think that Castro was part of a legacy of socialism in Latin America. He was one of many armed rebels that sought to undo oppression but in all actuality, he recreated it. Cuba today is not a free Cuba. Cuba under Castro was a repressive, authoritarian state. I think it is possible to denounce imperialism and liberalism while also denouncing the lies of Castro and his ilk. Under his leadership many Cubans suffered and that is indisputable,” she said.