MIAMI, Nov. 26 (UPI) — Thousands of jubilant Cuban exiles poured onto the streets of Miami to celebrate the death of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
Cuban-Americans across the Miami-Dade County area waved Cuban flags, banged pots and pans, honked car horns and set off fireworks in peaceful demonstrations in communities that included Hialeah and Kendall, according to the Miami Herald.
“I don’t think we’ve made any arrests and don’t expect to have any violence due to this long awaited day,” Miami Police Officer Rene Pimentel said.
One of the largest demonstrations forced police to shutdown South West Eighth Street, known locally as “Calle Ocho,” as some 3,500 people gathered near iconic Cuban restaurant Cafe Versailles, WSVN reported.
The thousands of revelers shouted for “Libertad!” or “Liberty!” as they called Castro a tyrant and yelled for his brother and current President Raul Castro to “go with” him.
Generations of Cuban exiles both young and old joined the celebration and happily spread the word to their family members who escaped from the island in hopes of creating a better life for their families.
“My mom started to cry. My grandfather has been ambassador to the United States for Cuba,” a woman named Maria told WSVN. “They had to leave with nothing on their backs, and they came and they rebuilt this country. America is great.”
She gathered in front of Cafe Versailles with her 15-year-old niece who acknowledged the gravity of the moment despite being far removed from her grandparents’ journey for freedom.
“For me, it’s this revolutionary moment in history when we can all [come together] as Latin Americans and Cubans to just witness this moment,” she said.
Some popped bottles of champagne in the hopes they would be christening a new era for Cuba after decades of pain built on broken families and dead loved ones.
“As a Cuban-American, I am part of this celebration,” Cuban-born City of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado said. “The reason that I am part of the celebration is because Fidel Castro hurt many generations of Cubans. It damaged the fiber of the Cuban people, not only in Cuba but here, in exile.”
Somber feelings crept in with the joy and excitement, as some remembered parents and grandparents who helped bring their families to the United States from Cuba and died before they could see the end of Castro’s reign, which they fought to escape.
“They passed away before they could see this day,” Vivian Trigo, 57, said while holding a photo of her parents. “I wish they could be here, but I know they are. And they can rest in peace now that the devil is gone.”
Others, like 80-year-old Elisa Martin, expressed concern for those who remained in Cuba under the younger Castro’s rule.
“I feel the worst for the people still living in Cuba,” she said. “He’s done so many bad things.”
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez shared a message joining in both the celebration of the dictator’s death and the less jubilant acknowledgment that his brother remains in power of the island nation.
“Early this morning, I learned of Fidel Castro’s death. His passing closes a very painful chapter for Cubans on the island and Cuban-Americans throughout the world, including for thousands of Miami-Dade County residents who were personally affected by his cruel and brutal dictatorship,” he wrote. “Despite this historic moment however we know that Fidel’s brother Raul continues to lead one of the world’s most repressive governments. My hope is that a free and democratic Cuba with the same freedoms we treasure here in the United States will soon emerge. It is what the Cuban people deserve.”