Word of Fidel Castro’s death creeps across Cuba causing sadness, joy
Revelers dancing and drinking rum on Havana’s famed seafront quickly dispersed and a popular club closed its doors on Friday night as news spread of the death of Fidel Castro, the revolutionary and Cuba’s “maximum leader” for half a century.
News rarely moves fast in Communist-run Cuba, where relatively few people have smartphones or mobile internet connections.
Most of the hundreds of people roaming along the “Malecon” seafront were not immediately aware that Castro had passed away at the age of 90.
A crowd of young men and women singing by the sea wall in the cool night air quickly turned somber when they learned that Castro‘s death had been announced by his younger brother, President Raul Castro, on state television two hours earlier.
“The whole word will remember this man,” said reveler Duncy Fajardo near the iconic National Hotel that hosted Ernest Hemingway and Frank Sinatra, and even known mobsters, before Castro‘s 1959 revolution led to its nationalization.
“He achieved things that nobody else did,” Fajardo said.
The nearby Gato Tuerto music venue, known for its romantic “bolero” style of music sung live, closed its doors early when the news broke.
Spanish tourist Maite Laza and her Cuban boyfriend said they and the other patrons were asked to leave out of respect.
Not everybody was sad to see Castro go.
Eliecer Avila, leader of the dissident group Somos Mas, watched state television broadcast a parade of archive images of Castro meeting with other world leaders and engaging in wholesome activities like harvesting sugar cane.
“I think this is the first step to a great change. I think that some were waiting for today with joy. Some are toasting with champagne, others are scared about what will happen and the vast majority of the Cuban people feel uncertain,” Avila said.
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The crowds dispersed as the night wore on, and Havana’s streets quickly fell quiet as people returned home to digest the historic moment.
Official mourning began on Saturday and will last nine days, the government said.
Flags will fly at half mast and public shows and concerts will be canceled. Castro‘s remains will be cremated, and his ashes toured around Cuba until his state funeral on Dec. 4.
“This is news that nobody is prepared to hear, especially not about Comandante Fidel,” said Havana resident Rosario Garcia.
© 2016 Thomson Reuters