LIZANDRA PORTAL: On November 25th, 2016, the Cuban government announced the death of their former President, Fidel Castro.
For many Cuban exiles living in Miami, Friday was a day to rejoice after more than 50 years of oppression on the island.
Hundreds of Cuban exiles marched down the famous Calle Ocho in Miami waving Cuban flags and chanting in celebration of the leftist dictator’s death.
Henry Marinello, 60, shared the emotions of the historic moment, and what it meant for his family.
MARINELLO: I remember quite a bit. In fact, I remember the day that I was told that my father had been shot by firing squad in Cuba. I was 11 years old. My father was against the Castro regime. He fought against it for a long time. He was imprisoned in 1966 and shot by firing squad in 1967. The only thing I regret is that the death of Fidel Castro was not suffered by my own hands, as I would have wanted to vindicate the death of my father.
Alma Vega tells the story of her grandmother who was part of the Revolutionary Movement of the White Rose, which was lead by the father of Lincoln Diaz-Balart, who is a former US congressman.
VEGA [translated from Spanish]: We came with my grandmother, and my grandmother already died. But my grandmother was tortured for 20 years in the prison “Dos Bocas” in Santiago de Cuba. She was a part of the Revolutionary Movement of the White Rose. My grandmother used to take food and weaponry for the people who wanted to bring down Fidel. My grandmother’s name is Nerida Sanchez. She has already passed, and she couldn’t see this marvelous thing. My husband is around with tears pouring out because he came when he was a baby. And now he is a man. And his tears stream down his face because he says that his sister couldn’t see it, his father couldn’t see it. But this is marvelous.
Dr. Darsi Ferret, an ex-political prisoner living in the US for a little over four years, talks about how many Cubans, in Cuba, are no longer afraid to speak up about their discontent with the Cuban government.
FERRET [translated from Spanish]: Yes, I was a leader of the internal opposition in Cuba. My job was as a doctor until they fired me, and took away my right to be a doctor because I was against the government. Practically all of my family is in Cuba. We spoke just a few hours ago, and of course the reaction is that of much joy and celebration to know that this dictator is dead. Cubans have lost a lot of their fear. And in the case of my family, they lost their fear many years ago.
PORTAL: Although change will not come over night for the island, Fidel Castro’s death means the start of a new chapter that gives hope to those Cubans who have fled his regime for more than 50 years. It is the small beacon of hope that many never got to see within their lifetime.
This is Lizandra Portal reporting for the South Florida News Service.