Cuban Americans Celebrate Fidel Castro's Death

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The death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro prompted celebrations among the country's exiles in the United States.

Within half an hour of the Cuban government's announcement Saturday of the death of the 90-year-old revolutionary leader, cheers were heard in Miami's Little Havana. Thousands of people banged pots, waved Cuban flags and whooped in jubilation. "Cuba si! Castro no!'' they chanted, while others screamed "Cuba libre!''

Castro's death had become something of a joke -- mostly because it seemed to happen so frequently.

This time, it was real. Folks banged pots with spoons, rapped on cowbells and whooped in jubilation on Calle Ocho early Saturday. Cars honked horns, and police blocked off streets.

fidel castro miami Cuban Americans celebrate upon hearing about the death of longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

"Feels weird,'' said Gabriel Morales, a 40-year-old financial executive in Miami, whose parents left Cuba after Castro came to power.

"Been waiting to hear this news all my life. Seems unreal,'' Morales said in a text message to an AP reporter.

As dawn broke in Florida, stragglers celebrating the death of Fidel Castro remained on the streets of Miami's Little Havana neighbourhood.

"Been waiting to hear this news all my life. Seems unreal."

Some had been there for hours, while others came when they tuned to the morning news.

Gone were the drums, fireworks and people banging on pots with spoons. A handful of people carried both U.S. and Cuban flags. The mood was decidedly more subdued.

Calle Ocho, the main street through Little Havana, remained closed, and Miami Police said they expected the road to remain closed throughout Saturday because they anticipated more revelers.

People congregated near Cafe Versailles, a go-to establishment for Cuban exiles, politicians and locals alike.

fidel castro miami
Miami residents celebrate the death of Fidel Castro in Miami. (Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images)

"I'm very proud that the devil's going home,'' one woman told a reporter on live television. Earlier in the night, people were enthused to be marking a historic event.

Alex Ferran headed toward the gathering in front of Versailles with three friends early Saturday morning. The 21-year-old's mother and grandmother had called him with the news of Castro's death, and he was beside himself with excitement.

"We're here to celebrate. This is history in the making. This is insane, dude. Someone died and there's a parade. This could only happen here.''

"We're here to celebrate. This is history in the making. This is insane, dude. Someone died and there's a parade. This could only happen here.''

While thousands revelled in the streets of Little Havana, other Cuban-Americans sat in their homes, reflective of the moment that seemingly all of Miami had waited on for so long.

Jorge De Mena, a 41-year-old chief financial officer of a catering company, was awake early Saturday, after the announcement of Castro's death. His grandfather Carlos Leon was a Cuban Naval attache to the US government for the government of Fulgencio Batista.

His mother's family left in 1962 due to danger of imprisonment and possible execution. They did not return due to a hostile environment of anyone associated with the Batista regime.

De Mena expressed "disbelief and regret'' at Castro's passing.

fidel castro miamiPeople celebrate after the announcement of the death of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, in the Little Havana district of Miami. Photo: REUTERS/Javier Galeano

"Regret that people in my family that are no longer with me cannot revel in this moment,'' De Mena said in an email to an Associated Press reporter. ``Disbelief because he became this larger than life enemy that couldn't be vanquished by even the U.S's greatest attempts on his life. This is a great day for anyone that wishes for a better life in any circumstance. Nothing is permanent, even ideas.''

Meanwhile, three Cuban-American congressional members from Florida issued a joint statement early Saturday morning after hearing the news of Fidel Castro's death.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo said in a news release that a new chapter in Cuba's history must be written and political reforms are essential for helping with free elections and human rights on the island.

"Fidel's apologists around the world can help to restore freedom and human rights for Cuba by joining the call for the new regime to free the hundreds of freedom fighters and pro-democracy activists still locked in Castro's prisons,'' wrote Ros-Lehtinen.

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