Fidel Castro has passed away. The enigmatic, controversial and much debated leader of the first communist country in the western hemisphere died on Friday, November 25, 2016. His death sparked mixed reactions around the globe. While most mainland Cubans appear to have regarded Castro as a cultural icon and freedom fighter, many Cuban Americans saw him as a maniacal dictator and perpetrator of alleged human rights abuses.
Cubans and Cuban-Americans in the Little Havana section of the city of Miami, Florida took to the streets this weekened in celebration after hearing the news. Some celebrated because of alleged abuses committed against family members and themselves, while others simply celebrated the end of one the longest periods of influence in the modern world.
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz was born to Spanish parents on August 13, 1926. After becoming political in his formative teenage years he went on to lead the Cuban revolution along with others such as Che Guevara who were aligned with Castro’s Marxist ideologies. After battling the U.S. backed Batista regime and consolidating power in 1959, Castro imprisoned, executed, and exiled those found or believed to be associated with western ideology. This put him directly at odds with the capitalist system practiced by the majority of western hemisphere governments. After a tenuous relationship with the United States government which ultimately lead to sanctions and embargos, the two countries had recently begun a reconciliation period.
For over fifty years Castro ruled the small Caribbean island just ninety miles off the coast of Florida. In that time, he is alleged to have tortured, imprisoned, and executed many dissidents, leading up to what became known as the “Mariel Boatlift” on April 20, 1980. This regime’s decision to allow anyone wishing to leave the island to do so, resulted in over 100,000 Cuban refugees landing on the shores in and around metropolitan Miami, Florida. Since that time the Cuban community of Miami has bloomed to over one million.
Many of those Cuban-Americans came out over the weekend to celebrate the death of a man who in their eyes was a cold and calculated dictator. The neighborhood of Little Havana in central Miami became the scene for many impromptu gatherings of people who by some means whether personally or through relatives had been affected by the man nicknamed “El Comandante”. With Castro’s funeral set for December 4, 2016 it is possible that more celebrations could possibly be in store.