Hundreds of Cuban exiles are flooding the streets of Miami, not to mourn - but to celebrate - the death of Cuban figurehead Fidel Castro on Friday.
Castro, who was 90, died of undisclosed illnesses on November 25.
The streets were filled with celebrations and revelry, the Miami Herald reported, befitting something GOOD taking place, not the death of a figurehead as most might expect. For Cuban exiles to Miami, however, the death of Fidel Castro symbolizes more-so the death of a longstanding ideology of oppression.
"I don't think we've made any arrests and don't expect to have any violence due to this long awaited day," said Miami police officer Rene Pimental, a Cuban-American whose family attempted for nearly two decades to exile themselves from Castro's regime in Cuba.
"It was a great feeling to wake my dad and tell him that the day so many of us had been waiting for was finally here," said Pimental of the moment he received an early Saturday morning text message informing him of the death of the former Cuban Prime Minister and President. "[It took us] fifteen long years to get to this great country."
The plight of Pimental's family, who were Cuban exiles to Miami in 1975, unfortunately, mirror the stories told by many Cubans now living in Miami."Fidel Castro died, and Cuban Miami did what it does in times of community celebration: It spilled onto the streets of Little Havana — and Hialeah, and Kendall," remarked Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald, "to honk horns, bang pans, and set off more than a few fireworks, saved for exactly the sort of unexpected occasion worthy of their detonation."
Indeed, the death of the most famous Cuban in the world, Fidel Castro, has set off more than a few emotions from those exiles who were suppressed under his regime.One such person was Miami's own Mayor Tomas Regalado, one of the exiles who escaped to the U.S. after serving 14 years in a Cuban prison under Castro's regime.
The future U.S. politician has been considered a "hard-liner" on U.S.-Cuban relations, even opposing the placement of a Cuban consulate in Miami.
Mayor Regalado, in particular, feels that Cuban exiles were feeling a sense of unity in their jubilant celebration. Regalado, himself, went to the famed Versailles nightclub in Miami's Little Havana section after the announcement of Castro's death, mingling in with fellow Cuban exiles and talking excitedly about the groundbreaking news - and prospects for change in the country - until the sun came up.
"Everything has been spontaneous," said Regalado, 69, who came to the U.S.under the "Pedro Pan" program. Regalado believes that the spontaneous nature of the celebration meant that the city should avoid trying to organize an official event.
"The only thing that [Miami] has done is accommodate the [Cuban population]."
In more ways than one, Regalado's words can be considered truthful.
"What's happening right now is a sign of solidarity with the people of Cuba," added the Mayor, in reference to those who were left behind in spite of the country's oppressive Communist regime under Castro and his brother Raul.Ironically, Castro's death in Cuba also came on the 17th anniversary of the discovery of Elian Gonzalez, who, as noted by CNN, was one of the more prominent cases of Cuban exiles in U.S. news. Gonzalez, who was five years old at the time of his escape, was rescued from Cuba off of Florida's coast but ultimately returned home.
Back outside of the Versaille nightclub, however, Elian Gonzalez is the farthest thing from the minds of those Cubans celebrating on the streets. That case - little Elian's - represented a victory for Cuba. This case - Fidel Castro's long-awaited death - seemed to represent something far more promising.
Cubans continue to flood the streets into the early morning hours, amidst chants of "Fidel, tirano, llevate a tu hermano!"
In other words, "Fidel, tyrant, take your brother."
[Featured Image by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]