There’s nothing that can take back the loss of 57 years. Nothing will bring back all of the Cubans who were executed under Fidel Castro’s power. The hundreds of Cuban families who lost their lands, their homes, their businesses, their loved ones, will never have another chance to live the life they wanted in their precious island.
Former President Castro’s death does not mean that communism in Cuba has fallen. Castro’s death does not mean that Cubans will be free. But you know what it does mean? It means a Dictator who ruined a prosperous country, who divided his country, who took lives, who oppressed his people into poverty and submission, who imprisoned anyone who went against his beliefs, who caused hundreds of thousands of Cubans to leave their homeland is no longer alive. He can no longer cause suffering to anyone. Castro is the symbolism of Communism. If the man who outlived generations of Cubans, who lived longer than my own grandparents has fallen, there is hope that communism will some day too.
This is the day my grandparents talked about. The day they wondered if they would ever see in their lifetime. My grandparents lived to see Fidel become frail, older, but still alive nonetheless. They used the Spanish idiom ‘bicho malo nunca muere’ which means the Devil looks after his own. Fidel outlived them, as he did so many Cubans who wanted to see this day. I thought of my grandparents when I got the news. I got chills as I read the words on a push alert to my cell phone. But the news could not have come at a better time. I got to be the one to deliver the ‘good’ news to one of the proudest, most patriotic Cubans I know and yes, it is good not because someone died, but because of what it means.
At 8 years old she left Cuba with her family to move to the United States. She, like so many other children, was taken out of a familiar world to a new country, new school to learn a new language. Her family, like so many that left Cuba after Fidel Castro took power, had nothing. But Cubans are a resilient people. Out of nothing, they create everything. Fast forward 21 years and that little girl named Gretel Martinez, my best friend, is now 29 years old, a Harvard Law graduate, and living proof of the American dream. The dream that hundreds of thousands of Cubans were robbed of achieving in their homeland. That’s why when I got the alert on my phone Friday night that Castro died at age 90, I was elated that I was with Gretel. I got to break the news to her and see the all of her emotions breakthrough; relief, happiness.
Why do we Cubans chant “¡Libertad!” (Freedom) after learning that Castro died? The Cuban people are not free. Castro’s brother, current President Raul Castro has carried on the communist leadership in the country and is very much alive. So why? We chant ‘Libertad’ because Cubans will never stop fighting for freedom and this is just another step to achieving that freedom.
That’s why the streets of South Florida flooded with Cubans and Cuban-Americans waving their flags. They banged on their pots and pans. They sang. They danced. They cheered. They came together as we Cubans do. I got to see my fellow Cubans in Hialeah cheer, honk, shout ‘¡Viva Cuba Libre!’ because after all, that’s why we are all here in the United States because Cuba was not free for our families. There is hope it will be one day. That is the day my parents prepare for. Maybe that will be the day they return to the country they too left as children. Hopefully they will see it in their lifetime.