They fled Cuba under his dictatorship. And on Friday night, Cuban-Americans took to the streets of Miami to celebrate the death of Fidel Castro.
Honking horns, banging pants, and setting off fireworks, the Cuban community in Miami overwhelmed the streets of Little Havana, Haileah and Kendall, the Miami Herald reported.
“This is Maimi’s Berlin Wall-moment,” Enrique Pollack told the paper. “This is the end of a dictatorship of a murderer who has killed so many people. The Cuban Stalin is dead. And we’re going to shut down this city. Miami is going to be celebrating like the fall of the Berlin Wall.”
“Remember this date — it will go down in history,” he added.
Castro, who died on Friday at the age of 90, took power in 1959. The controversial leader persecuted his political rivals and dissidents — executing and imprisoning many of them. Thousands of Cubans left the island in the years after Castro rose to power with many of them settling in the United States like Estefan’s family.
“We’re all celebrating, this is like a carnival,” Cuban-American Jay Fernandez, 72, told the Associated Press. “Satan, Fidel is now yours. Give him what he deserves. Don’t let him rest in peace.”
The emotion of the crowd Friday night was seen in videos posted to social media, where residents waved Cuban flags and denounced Castro and his brother and current Cuban President Raúl Castro in cheer and song.
“Fidel, tirano, llévate a tu hermano” and “Raúl, tirano, vete con tu hermano” they chanted outside Versailles — translating to “Fidel, tyrant, take your brother” and “Raúl, tyrant, go with your brother,” respectively.
Others sang the lyrics to Willy Chirino’s exile anthem, “Nuestro día ya viene llegando” — or “Our day is coming” — and the popular football chant “Olé,Olé, Olé.”
Steam’s “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” could also be heard being sung in videos.
Police departments blocked off roads, USA Today reported — allowing people to have their moment.
“We’re not celebrating the death of a person. That would be morbid,” Virginia Perez Nunez told the paper. “We’re celebrating the beginning of the end of a dictatorship, of a genocide.”
Her 86-year-old mother Carolina Nunez Plasencia left Cuba with her two daughters in 2000, after the death of her husband who has spent 25 years as a political prisoner. The three of them smuggled out of the county on boats — and celebrated Castro’s death on a street corner in Little Havana Friday night.
While many world leaders mourned Castro’s death, Americans of Cuban heritage and several politicians were far more frank about what Castro’s death meant to thousands of Florida’s residents.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba before Castro’s rise to power — criticized Castro and his legacy. “History will remember Fidel Castro as an evil, murderous dictator who inflicted misery and suffering on his own people,” the Republican tweeted.
“Sadly, Fidel Castro’s death does not mean freedom for the Cuban people or justice for the democratic activists, religious leaders, and political opponents he and his brother have jailed and persecuted,” he added in a statement. “The dictator has died, but the dictatorship has not.”
He continued: “The Future of Cuba ultimately remains in the hands of the Cuban people, and now more than ever Congress and the new administration must stand with them against their brutal rules and support their struggle for freedom and basic human rights.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott also looked to Congress and the new administration — urging President-elect Donald Trump to support a pro-democracy movement in Cuba.
“I join Cuban-Americans and Floridians across the country who are incredibly hopeful for the future of Cuba,” the Republican said in a statement. “After decades of oppression, the Cuban people deserve freedom, peace and democracy. I have met so many Cubans who have come to Florida to flee the tyranny, brutality, and communism of the Castro brothers’ oppressive regime and now is the time to look at policy changes that will demand democracy in Cuba.”
“Today’s news should usher in an era of freedom, peace and human dignity for everyone in Cuba and the State of Florida stands ready to assist in that mission,” Scott said.
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“This is the moment that so many in our community have been waiting for since I can remember, since I was a child,” Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo told the Herald. The Republican official’s parents fled Cuba before he was born.
“Everyone’s been waiting for this moment because they believed it would be the beginning of the end of the nightmare, and I think that’s exactly what this is: the opening of a door to a brighter future,” Curbelo continued.
Miami-Dade County’s mayor Carlos Gimenez, meanwhile, asked residents to demonstrate peacefully while denouncing Castro’s reign.
“[Castro’s] passing closes a very painful chapter for Cubans on the island and Cuban-Americans throughout the world, including for thousands of Mami-Dade county residents who were personally affected by his cruel and brutal dictatorship,” he said in a tweeted statement. “Despite this historic moment however, we know that Fidel’s brother Raul continues to lead one of the world’s most repressive governments. My hope is that a free and democratic Cuba with the same freedoms we treasure here in the United States will soon emerge. It is what the Cuban people deserve.”
“May God bless the people of Cuba, Miami-Dade County and the United States of America,” Gimenez wrote.
Demonstrations in Miami are expected to continue throughout the weekend. Police had not made any arrests or broken up any violence, the Herald reported.