By Ted Scouten


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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Monday was quite different on Calle Ocho after thousands had stormed the streets over the weekend celebrating the death of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

It was a quiet morning in front of the Cuban restaurant ‘Versailles’ where many in the Cuban exile community had joined in the celebrations on Saturday and Sunday.

Traffic went on as usual with no street celebrations Monday but the morning ‘cafecito’ conversation had something that’s been the topic for years.

“The people know what’s going to happen,” said one man while drinking coffee with others. “There’s going to be a big revolution in Cuba against the Castro regime.”

For Ernesto Paz and his family, this is a moment they will never forget.  He’s from Cuba but lives in Aruba. They just happened to be in Miami when news broke of Castro’s death. He joined the crowd of thousands who celebrated in the street.

“I hope it’s a new moment for all de Cuba, in Miami, people in Havana,” he said.

Gallery: Miami Celebrates The Death Of Fidel Castro

Tom and Sarita Lastrebes were visiting from Tampa. They were on Calle Ocho too over the weekend. On Monday, they had to return to Little Havana one more time. Castro’s death reminded them of the fear many felt during the height of the Cold War and Cuban missile crisis.

“I can remember the duck and cover during the Cuban missile crisis,” Tom recalled. “If you see that flash, get underneath your school desk.”

Even though the Lastrebes are not Cuban, they said the day Castro died will be one those days in history that will always be significant for them.

“Just one of the moments you remember in your life. Where were you when Fidel died? Well, I happened to be in Miami,” said Sarita.

After learning of Castro’s death, many said they were not celebrating the death of a person but rather that a dictator is gone and all the possibilities that lie ahead for Cuba.

Teresa Coan left everything in Cuba 50 years ago. She didn’t know what was ahead for her but she’s glad she came.

“I think it’s the best country in the world and I travel a lot so I can compare and nothing can compare to this. In this country, you can say whatever you want and you can do whatever you want. You can be what you want,” said Coan.

The scene was the same Saturday and Sunday in Westchester at Cuban restaurant ‘La Carreta.’

“I wouldn’t want to just pass up on spending this time with the family, bonding with everybody here, representing really what this all means which is one step closer to freedom for the Cubans and the Cuban citizens in Cuba,” said first generation Cuban-American David Rodriguez.

His parents left Castro’s Cuba just after he took over. They came to Miami to build a better future for themselves and their family.

Now there are first and second-generation Cuban-Americans in Miami who have yet to go to Cuba but plan to as soon as it’s free.

“I’ve never been there before,” said Sophie Rodriguez, a second-generation Cuban-American who plans on going.

“I want to go one day and see where my parents came from. See the origin and everything the way it was,” said Rodriguez.

Related: Cubans Crowd Havana’s Revolution Plaza, Mourning Fidel Castro

Crowds thinned out between Saturday and Sunday at both Cuban restaurants and Calle Ocho. Many people said they had to get back to work but it’s very likely crowds will come out again to celebrate.

The celebrations by the Cuban exile community in Miami counter the memorials and ceremonies that will take place in Cuba this week as Cubans on the island nation are under a period of mourning until December 4th. Castro’s remains will be buried that same day.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: THE DEATH OF FIDEL CASTRO

Ted Scouten

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