The dancing and singing continued into early Sunday, well after crowds first spilled into the streets to celebrate as news of the 90-year-old Castro’s death in Cuba was announced on Friday.
Some two million Cubans live in the United States, nearly 70 percent of them in Florida. Of those, the vast majority live in Miami.
The revelry went on all day Saturday, and continued into the night.
“I’m not tired of celebrating because I can’t believe it, I never thought that this moment would arrive,” said a woman named Delsy who celebrated with a large crowd outside the Cafe Versailles, where exiles met for decades to plot the overthrow of the Castro regime.
Among the cacophony of car horns, drums, loud music and singing, a chant rang out: “Fidel, you tyrant, take your brother too!”
Fidel Castro may be gone, but his younger brother Raul, 85, remains in power as Cuba’s president.
Several blocks to the east, the popular Ball & Chain salsa nightclub offered discounts and a new drink: “Adios Fidel” (Farewell Fidel).
The place was bursting with people. The street, full of Cuban restaurants and bars, was packed with late-night pedestrians and customers, “much more than normal,” one restaurant waitress said.
At a nearby corner Cuban retirees sat outside, enjoying the warm and humid night as they discussed the future of the island.
“Now us Cubans have hope that without Fidel communism will fall, and if God allows it we can return to our free country,” said Vicente Abrez, 65.
Leticia Gallo, a 44-year-old therapist who arrived in Miami from Cuba seven years ago with a young son, doesn’t believe that Castro’s death will immediatly change much.
However “it’s light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.
– Pray for Cuba –
An especially large crowd gathered for mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, the patron saint of Cuba, where Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski led the Saturday service.
“Fidel Castro has died. Now he awaits the judgment of God who is merciful but also just,” Wenski said. He urged the faithful to pray “for peace for Cuba and its people.”
Politicians also lined up to mark the occasion.
Cuban-American Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado visited revelers Saturday afternoon, and told reporters that they “should not be criticized for celebrating” someone’s death. “Understand what it means” to them, he said.
Florida Governor Rick Scott said he was joining Cuban-Americans across the country “who are incredibly hopeful for the future of Cuba.”
“After decades of oppression, the Cuban people deserve freedom, peace and democracy,” the Republican added in a statement.
Cuban-American Florida Senator Marco Rubio called Castro an “evil, murderous dictator who inflicted misery and suffering on his own people” and turned Cuba into an “impoverished island prison.”
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, another Republican Cuban-American who represents the south Florida area where many Cuban exiles live, also hailed Castro’s death.
“A tyrant is dead and a new beginning can dawn on the last remaining communist bastion of the Western hemisphere,” she wrote on her website.
Cuban-born entertainers also got into the act, with musician, producer and entrepreneur Emilio Estefan, husband of singer Gloria Estefan, exclaiming, “for Cuba, one morning dawned with a new sun full of hope.”
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