We spoke to Cuban-American students celebrating Castro’s death

‘My family was thrown in prison for trying to leave the country’

vocbanner

Last night, Cubans in Miami’s Little Havana and around the world were just learning of the death of their longest-serving leader and dictator, Fidel Castro. He was 90. Castro’s younger brother and successor of his death at the age of 90 on Cuba’s state television.

“The commander in chief of the Cuban revolution died at 22:29 hours this evening (03:29 GMT Saturday),” he said. “Towards victory, always!”

In cities like Miami, crowds of Cuban-Americans were rejoicing of his passing with chants of ‘Cuba Libre’ and dancing throughout the late hours of the night in the streets of Little Havana.

However, for many Cuban-American students who have families who either fled or experienced the hardships of Fidel Castro’s dictatorship–his passing came as a new hope for the future of Cuba. The Tab asked these students how they felt after learning of Fidel Castro’s death last night and what this meant to them and their families.

Gabriela Trujillo, Miami-Florida, 23

fullsizerender

“I feel very conflicted saying that I am happy about this mans death but that’s the only emotion I can recognize. I myself am Cuban, my family managed to get me out of the country when I was 3. I’ve been living in Miami ever since. Fidel took our freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, a lot of our jobs, he forced people into his belief system and anyone who disagreed would be imprisoned. My family is relieved that he’s gone, it seemed like he had nine lives. We know that this doesn’t mean that Cuba is free now, but we hope it’s a big step toward a free Cuba.”

Renee Sophia Otero, Mater Lakes Academy, 17

A photo of Renee’s grandmother, her grandmother’s brother and her nephew in Cuba.

“For me, it’s a huge sigh of relief. My entire family is Cuban; I’m thankful my grandparents are still alive to to witness his death and get to celebrate it. All of the celebration coming from his death says a lot about the type of person he was. He was a sadistic murderer. Although his death doesn’t signify the end of the dictatorship, it’s the end of nearly five decades worth of torture. On my mother’s side, my grandfather was forced to kneel for hours on end and stare at the sun as a form of torture for speaking against the government.

“On my father’s side, a month after he was born, my grandfather was incarcerated for being one of the many people physically revolting and protesting against the communist government. My grandmother and father were allowed to visit his my grandfather by leaving their home a day before, packing bags trying to smuggle food for him in, and taking several buses, just to see him for a maximum of two hours. They were required to form ginormous lines in the sun due to the large amounts of incarcerations. When my grandfather was released, almost eighteen years later, my father was drafted into the army. It took a really large toll on my family.”

04aw9z40-jpg-large

Renee’s grandmother was featured in a Cuban newspaper decades ago.

Vanessa Marquez, Florida State University, 19

15218589_10211355664113319_121856111_n

Vanessa in her Quinceañera dress with her grandparents.

“I found out really late last night that Fidel had passed away and my jaw actually dropped. I couldn’t wait to see my grandparents reactions the following morning when they found out the awful man who made them leave their home had finally died. My grandfather, especially, is thrilled about Fidel’s death.

“He was thrown in a Cuban jail when he tried to leave for the US and was starved and almost killed. I think I speak for all, if not most Cubans, when I say that I couldn’t be happier about his passing and can only hope that the state of Cuba improves, even just a little bit.”

Jasmine Fontaina, Fordham University, 19

15204096_1179768255409624_1955350909_o

Jasmine shares a photo of her Cuban family

“My dad is Cuban but when my sister told him the news he couldn’t believe it. He once told me that he would not return to Cuba until Fidel Castro was dead. He feels that the end of his system is inevitable now that he is dead, and that Cuba is go to be going through a dramatic change soon. My aunt says that they are happy but that they were waiting a long time for it to happen. Now that he’s dead they don’t feel the need to celebrate, they were tired of waiting and they were happy it happened.

“They went through a lot before they left Cuba. My family was thrown in prison for trying to leave the country. They suffered a lot under Castro’s Cuba and have relatives still living in Cuba that are suffering under the system. So I think they are hopeful and this is a huge relief for them.”

Samantha Armenteros, New Jersey City University, 19

14938092_687052591470271_1076475290394874104_n

“I feel like this has been a long time coming. I literally am texting my family members right now. People in Miami right now (that’s where a lot of my family live) are partying in the street. We know that it’s probably not going to change anything too much in Cuba (at least not for a long time) and his death doesn’t take away the years of suffering that my family and other families had to go through–but its still pretty satisfying.”

Kaitlynn Rose, Kearny, 19

Kaitylnn and her Cuban grandparents.

Kaitylnn shares with us a photo her late great grandfather to The Tab.

“To be honest, I’m having mixed feeling. I’m angry. My great grandfather passed away just over a year ago, and this is something he deserved to see. He was physically beaten by Castro after trying to flee. He worked off all of his debts in the sugar cane fields, sent his whole family to America, and worked his ass off to be allowed to leave legally.

“I wish he could be alive to feel this. On the other hand, I’m happy to feel that sense of vindication for him. My family has no regrets about coming to America. They call it heaven on Earth. They’ve stated that they will never go back, with or without Castro. I feel like it’s a weight lifted off our shoulders, but not a truly happy moment because what’s done is done in Cuba.”

More
Temple University