By Peter D'Oench

Follow CBSMIAMI.COM: Facebook | Twitter

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The atmosphere around Miami’s La Carreta restuarant was festive and similar to a carnival a night after the controversial Cuban leader Fidel Castro passed away at the age of 90.

Hundreds spent Saturday celebrating a change — one that many have been hoping to see for a very long time.

“Wonderful. It’s like a miracle,” said Enrique Leon. “I got rid of the hatred I’ve lived through all my life.”

The death of Castro prompted celebration across South Florida, including along Little Havana’s S.W. 8th Street, or Calle Ocho, as well as Westchester.

“We came to this country when we were very young. Everything we know is what our parents and grandparents told us and unfortunately they are not with us to see this great day,” said Juan Bravo. “We celebrate not the death of a human being but the death of a dictator, a killer, a murderer, that caused so much separation of families.”

While many Cuban-Americans heard the stories, others had first-hand experience.

“For this and them and all the prisoners, for everyone killed by firing squads who was separated from families, this really represents for us the hope that things will get better, that my parents will someday see a free Cuba,” said Desiree Elias, the daughter of political prisoners.

Jose Gonzalez, who says he was a political prisoner for 10 years, has mixed feelings.

“I feel happy on one side and on another side, there are too many people in Cuba spending bad times over there,” Gonzalez said.

His daughter Monica was born and raised in the U.S.

“I feel more Cuban than anything else and it’s a moment here I am very happy to celebrate this moment because of everything he made any people go through, like my father being a political prisoner,” she said.

GALLERY: Cuban Americans Take To The Streets After Fidel Castro’s Death

Gerardo Soto wondered if he would outlive Castro. Soto turned 94 two days earlier.

“The best birthday present I ever had,” he said, who was also asked how he felt. “Wonderful. I can die quietly now.”

Betty Roca’s parents fled Cuba before Castro became the nation’s leader.

“I have a lot of mixed emotions,” she said. “My parents came here 60 years ago. I thought this was a day they would never see. It’s the end of a regime of a cruel dictatorship.”

So what does this mean to the younger generation?

“We’re happy because we know how much our grandparents suffered and so we see how happy they are,” said Alissa Roca. “It says a lot. They told us stories about what they went through in Cuba and seeing what they went through is what really matters.”

Gallery: The Death Of Fidel Castro 

Some say they are cautiously optimistic.

“We know things may not change,” said Roca. “But at least maybe this is the beginning of the end.”

A new beginning for a new generation — and a final message for Raul Castro.

“I think if he wants t go down in history, he needs to do something and not just be in the shadow of his brother,” said Antonio Diaz.


Peter D'Oench