Calm, silence and not much hope for change in Cuba after Fidel Castro's
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD AND MIGUEL PIEDRA
Quiet resignation and muted emotion seeped across this city Saturday as
Cubans began to come to terms with the death of former strongman Fidel
Flags across the island flew at half-staff in memory of the island's
Although Cubans are usually quite vocal — and no longer hesitate to
complain about food prices they see as too high, or about the trials of
daily life — few wanted to speak publicly about the death of a man who
ruled Cuba for nearly half a century.
"We've been expecting this for over a decade," a middle-aged tour guide
said. She, like most others, declined to give her name. "For almost 10
years, [Fidel's] been out of the public eye, so for us it's always been
a matter of when and not if. In fact, for years, we always joked that he
is probably already dead."
In Havana, most Cubans calmly went about their daily business or just
stayed home. The iconic street squares were eerily still, devoid of the
heavy foot traffic normally found on a Saturday afternoon.
Clubs and other entertainment venues were closed or empty. The sale of
alcoholic beverages was prohibited. Music that usually blares from car
radios, bars and restaurants was silenced, and many of the brightly
colored vintage cars that squire tourists around Havana were parked.
The one exception: the Museum of the Revolution in Old Havana, which was
There were no organized public displays of mourning, although official
events are scheduled to begin on Monday. However, students and other
mourners gathered on the steps of the University of Havana where a
makeshift memorial was set up.
Students at the university, Castro's alma mater, held a giant Cuban flag
aloft. Others shed tears as they held portraits of a man they knew as
"Because your people love you, they weep for you," the government run
Granma newspaper posted on Twitter with photos of the university students.
In Matanzas, just east of Havana, one resident described the mood as one
of "total tranquility — not even a fly buzzes."
In the far eastern city of Santiago de Cuba, where Castro launched the
revolution, the mood was much the same. But several residents there also
described stepped-up security in the city where Castro will be laid to
rest on Dec. 4 at the Santa Ifigenia Cemetery.
"Save for the fact that some have taken the news as another excuse for
skipping work, it looks as if nobody dares express true feelings
openly," said the Rev. Luis del Castillo, a retired Uruguayan Catholic
bishop who now tends to the flock at Sacred Family Church in Santiago.
"Everyday activities seem to go on very carefully as usual except that
police are more visible in public buildings and flags are at half staff."
In Baracoa, also in eastern Cuba, a young biologist said that a sense of
fear was prevalent.
"People won't even talk about what has happened," he said.
Cubans' feelings toward Castro are complicated, and for some, the first
day without him was unknown territory.
While some Miami exiles expressed hope that Castro's death would serve
as a decisive moment and a turning point in the history of Cuba, many on
the island saw things differently.
"For us, nothing really changes," said a 52-year old baker who was
visiting the capital city from the western provinces. "It's more of the
same. We continue to struggle but find ways to keep going to do what we
need to do."
SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR MIGUEL PIEDRA REPORTED FROM HAVANA. CUBA
CORRESPONDENT MIMI WHITEFIELD REPORTED FROM MIAMI WITH CONTRIBUTIONS BY
ABEL FERNÁNDEZ AND MARIO J. PENTÓN.
Source: Somber mood takes hold in Cuba following Fidel Castro's death |
Miami Herald -