Local Cubans React To Fidel Castro's Death

Posted at 10:29 PM, Nov 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-26 23:38:45-05

The announcement of Fidel Castro's death has drawn mixed emotions from current and former Cuban residents.

The City of Miami electrified as Cuban exiles and Castro opposers lined the streets banging pots and pans to celebrate the news.

Castro's brother, Raul Castro, announced his passing on Friday. Raul assumed power after his brother's surgery and declining health in 2008. 

Several local Cubans said it's not about celebrating one's death, but what the future holds. 

"We are celebrating because there is freedom in us," Alejandro Martinez, Back To Cuba Cafe owner, told NewsChannel 5. "With him not being there, we're now going to see more changes."



Nevertheless, Sheyla Paz could not help but wake up with glee. She lived in Santiago de Cuba for 28 years before moving to Nashville in 2000. 

"My husband woke me up saying he died," Paz recalled. "The first thing I did was open a bottle of champagne."

Paz said living under Castro's leadership was a difficult time because of the immense control, lack of growth, and continued uncertainty to supply food and basic resources. 

The dictator was viewed as ruthless, abolishing multiparty elections and censoring media. 

"There was no way to grow," Paz said. "You had to do what they said."

Paz, a journalist and business woman, also had the chance to fly with President Barack Obama as part of the press when he visited the island nation in March. 

Diplomatic relations were re-established in 2005 paving a way for a presidential visit, scheduled air service, re-opening of embassies, direct transportation of mail, and internet and telecommunications. 



However, celebrations were also met with grief. The communist leader had a nearly 50-year reign, leaving Cubans with the sense of losing a father and founder.

"There is a lot of crying in Cuba," Paz said. "He did a lot of good, we have free education, free healthcare, and we have one of the best medical industries in the world."

During NewsChannel 5's interview with Paz, a Castro supporter who moved to the U.S. 25 years ago voiced her opinions saying Fidel helped her family out. 

The big question has been what Raul Castro will do next with his brother no longer in the picture. While there have been differing opinions of the nation's leadership, many have been hopeful an era without Fidel will be a prospering one. 

"Now we're going to see more changes," Martinez believed.