El Viejo se fue. Or is he?

I thought yesterday I was going to be in the unique position of simultaneously witnessing a historic event and not really knowing why it was happening.

Rumors about the death of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro have circulated since he turned over power last year to his brother, Raul. Things reached a fever pitch yesterday afternoon. One of the people with whom I regularly deal at work came in saying, “Castro is dead, Castro is dead.”

He’s the sort of Cuban guy whom I suspect is somehow linked to those nebulous Cuban networks I suspect exist here in Miami. (Disclaimer: I am a white guy, born and raised outside of Florida and have no knowledge of anything about anything Latin.) Within an hour or so, he had convinced my coworkers and the most of the other Cubans and Latins around us that Castro was indeed dead. Somebody had a friend who had a friend whose brother is a police officer and the police were being recalled in expectation of the upheaval in Miami’s Cuban sector. “They” were withholding official word until schools closed for the day.

Perez Hilton reported (and still insists) that Castro is dead. Yesterday, he wrote that police were waiting until after rush hour is over to announce the death officially. Maybe that’s why we still haven’t heard.

The Miami Herald this morning reported on the rumors in a small story under the fold, writing about the exile community’s “roller coaster of emotion.” The paper didn’t draw any conclusions, taking the position that this is yet another in a yearlong line of unconfirmed rumors.

When I first heard the rumor I checked online, trying to determine if there was any truth behind this guy’s claims. CNN had nothing. At that point, the Herald had nothing. Finally, I found a single sentence at the very bottom of Castro’s Wiki entry: An unverified rumor of his death was being reported by a Swedish news agency. The Swedes were claiming someone at the University of Miami as their source. Within an hour, that sentence and the source had been removed. Today, there is a short entry addressing the rumors, which the U.S. State Department now claim are false.

Seeing firsthand the giddiness of the Cubans has left me puzzled. The majority of the people in and around my workplace are second- or third-generation Americans. Their parents or grandparents may have been born in Cuba, but most of them have never visited the island and know about Castro only from the stories they hear. Why the excitement over his death, if in fact he has died? Were they going to leave America and return home to property Castro seized some 40 years ago? Doubtful, as that property long ago was divvied up and resettled. Do they hope that family members, stuck in Cuba, will be able to join them here? Maybe, but I hate to think of the impact on Miami’s already reeling economy as tens of thousands of Cubans come ashore. Think back to the Mariel Boatlift in 1980 when 125,000 Cubans landed on Florida’s beaches.

It’s hard for me to understanding the emotion that seems to overtake the Cubans at the idea of Castro dying. When I asked my coworkers about it, they responded with generic answers about how evil Castro is. Generally, they dismissed my confusion as they dismiss my lack of understanding about most things Latin: “Ah, he’s a gringo....” Honestly, I suspect most of them don’t really understand it themselves. It’s just something they’ve heard repeated so often that it must be true: Life will be great when el Viejo se fue.

Sister Havana.mp3 Urge Overkill
Havana Affair.mp3 Ramones
Havana Affair (Ramones cover).mp3 Red Hot Chili Peppers

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At 12:01 AM , Blogger Randy said...

Many families lost businesses and property confiscated by the Cuban government. They can dream of getting back their assets, just like stolen Nazi loot goes back to its original owners.

See the film "Before Night Falls" about imprisonment of intellectuals, artists (and gays) who disagreed with Fidel.

Families will be reunited, whether for visits or some people moving.


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