The Clamor of Hope

Cubans in Miami sing the Cuban national anthem in celebration of Fidel Castro's death. Video by Bryan Cereijo at Versailles in Calle Ocho, Miami, Florida.

It was late at night when I found out. I had just arrived home when I checked my phone after unusually not having used social media for a few of hours. I couldn’t believe it when I saw all the reports saying that Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro, had died.

I immediately turned on the TV and saw my Cuban brothers and sisters out in the streets of Miami. They were celebrating. They celebrated for more than 24 hours. They continue to celebrate as I type this. They celebrate his death and they celebrate what his death represents to them.

It was late and I must embarrassingly admit that I was hesitant about picking up my camera and driving out to cover the celebrations. I was hesitant for a moment because it was very late and I was tired, but I knew that in the end I’d be thankful and happy that I did because this was a historic moment. I picked up my camera and headed out.

I arrived to 49th street at around 2AM. Cubans and Cuban-Americans of all ages flooded the streets of Miami at that time. All rejoicing. I heard and saw pots and pans clanking, cars honking, people joyously shouting and chanting. Compassion, solidarity, and unity is what it all represented. I always say though I’m a journalist, above all I'm a human being. In this moment, it was hard to keep my emotions in check. I was happy for my people and I was excited to be there with them.

Cuban Miami Residents celebrate Fidel Castro's death at 49th street in Hialeah on the night of November 25th, 2016. Video by Bryan Cereijo.

 

This, of course, was only the beginning of the celebrations.

 

Cuban Miami Residents sing Willy Chirino's famous song "Nuestro Dia" at Calle Ocho to celebrate Fidel Castro's death. Video by Bryan Cereijo at Calle Ocho, Miami, Florida.

The song, whose chorus says "Ya viene llegando," or "The day is coming," is about the hope that one day the day will come: the day Fidel and Raul are gone, the day that the cuban people are free, the day that Cuba is free.

The following morning, more people made it out to various parts of the city. I went to Versailles – “The World’s Most Famous Cuban Restaurant” – where already hundreds of people had gathered to continue the celebration. Versailles unofficially serves as an embassy for the Cuban exile. It has been a place where Cubans stay connected to their beloved island not only through the food but also through the people they meet that had a similar struggle and the stories that are shared. 

These stories are stories that I've been hearing for the past 20 years. Stories about the terrible struggles on the island, stories about having to leave family being and families being separated, stories about those who didn't make it while seeking a better life. Stories that I have lived through my parents and through all the people that have shared these experiences with me.

Cuban Miami Residents celebrate Fidel Castro's death at Versailles Restaurant on the night of November 26th, 2016. Video by Bryan Cereijo.

Various chants in this video: "Se fue, se fue, se fue," translates to "He left, he left, he left."

"Fidel, tirano, llévate a tu hermano," translates to "Fidel, tyrant, take your brother with you."

and lastly, "Libertad, Libertad, Libertad," translates to "Liberty, Liberty, Liberty."

Lastly, I shared a few anecdotes from others on Facebook that prompted comments talking about how powerful the first-hand accounts were... Well, here is what someone very close to me thinks about Fidel Castro's death:

"Me pregunta mi hijo que ha representado para mi la muertes de Fidel castro y pensándolo bien siempre pensé que esa noticia me iba a llenar de un gran regocijo y que iba a producir en mi una gran euforia, pienso que unos 10 años atrás así hubiese sido pero que ya, el no representaba nada y la exacerbación se fue apagando, Murio a los 90 años de muerte natural sin sufrir ningún largo padecimiento que que produjera dolor, dolor que el provocó a tantas familias por un capricho y ego hitleriano. Todo esto estaba ocurriendo pasivamente en mi mente hasta que vi una foto en face book que nunca olvidare de un sin fin de manos celebrando en el océano la cual me provoco un profundo dolor al pensar cuantos no pudieron lograr la libertad y cuan desesperados estarían al ser capaces de arriesgar sus propias vidas antes de continuar viviendo en su propio país el cual en posesión de un asesino le negaba lo mas preciado que tiene un ser humano que es la libertad, el derecho a soñar y de vivir decorosamente. Así que si estoy feliz, me siento liberada, vengada y aunque no me interesa regresar a Cuba quisiera algún día visitarla con mi hijo y enseñarle algunos lugares que fueron importantes para mi y poder pasear por el malecón totalmente liberada de resentimiento y odio."

“My son asked me what Fidel Castro’s death represented for me: I always thought that the news of his death would bring great joy --- 10 years ago, it definitely would have. But he hasn’t represented anything for some time now. He died at 90 years old of natural causes without having suffered and after being the cause of so much suffering and pain for so many families. The news of his death didn’t create as much emotion as I thought until I saw a photo on Facebook that I will never forget. In the photo, hands are rising from the ocean in celebration. It is an image that made me think and that did move me and made me feel pain. Just thinking of the thousands that could not experience freedom. These are people that were so desperate to leave their oppressive country that they risked their lives; they risked everything, because they couldn’t live in their country anymore. A country where a tyrant deprived them of what is most precious in life – freedom, the right to dream, and live a plentiful life. I am happy, I feel liberated. Although I don't plan on ever moving back to Cuba, I would like to visit the island with my son and show him some of the places that are important to me. I’d like to visit “El Malecon,” this time completely liberated from resentment and hate.”

 

Thank you.