MIAMI (CBSMiami) — As dawn broke over Little Havana, a thin crowd remained outside the Versailles Restaurant to mark the death of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
It was a very different story in the early hours as the news of Castro’s death spread.
Thousands flooded the street, cheering, dancing and waving Cuban flags. Cuban Americans in the street hugged each other; it’s a day many people in the crowd have waited for a very long time.
People in cars honked their horns, banged pots and pans and set off fireworks.
“It’s a momentous occasion, not only for my family but for Cuban Americans and Cubans in general,” said Franklin Machado. “It’s the end of a dictator, a tyranny that’s been oppressive to the Cuban people for over 50 years now.”
“Some people say we are not supposed to celebrate anybody’s death but we have to because has done to many things against the Cuban people,” said Emilio.
“It’s a feeling of one that’s real, happiness was in the air, love was in the air, freedom is in the air. It’s something that has always been there but maybe the Cuban people forgot what it really means to feel that because of the lies dictated by a certain individual,” said Alejandro Rodriguez.
Southwest 8th Street is closed between 35th & 37th Avenues in both directions. Motorists are being asked to avoid the area.
Another large crowd gathered outside La Carreta on Bird Road and SW 87th Avenue.
CBS4’s Marybel Rodriguez spoke with some of the hundreds gathered outside the restaurant including the daughter of a Cuban political prisoner who identified herself as Ana.
“I am feeling so many emotions. I just want to clarify that we are not celebrating anybody’s death. We are celebrating the beginning of something very new, a new beginning for a country that felt such oppression for so many years,” said Ana. “I feel very proud that my 80-year-old father can witness this day today.”
“This is a day of history. My grand kids, my great grand kids, I have my grandchildren with me, you have to come and celebrate this because your grandmother suffered a lot,” said another woman holding a Cuban flag.
CBS4’s Tiani Jones was in Hialeah near W 49th Street and 12th Avenue where dozens were also gathered in celebration.
The scene is the same at all locations; large crowds of Cuban Americans cheering, chanting ‘Cuba Libre’ which means Free Cuba.