Thousands of Cubans were lining up to pay tribute to the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro, two days after he died at the age of 90. Some Cuban-Americans, however, embraced the idea of change following the death of the longtime leader.
For the hundreds of thousands of children born of Cuban exiles — some two and three generations removed from the island — Fidel Castro’s death potentially opens a door to a world long off-limits. Or at the least, it seems to bring it within closer reach.
Millennial Cuban-Americans say Castro’s death at the age of 90 symbolically offers hope for improved dialogue between the countries. Some thought the dialogue had begun under President Barack Obama, who visited Cuba in March. But with President-elect Donald Trump, the future of diplomacy between the two countries is uncertain.
CASTRO - Cuban Americans react
“Young Cuban-Americans really want engagement on the island,” said Guillermo Grenier, a professor of sociology at Florida International University in Miami and a lead investigator of the FIU Cuba Poll, an annual poll of Cuban-Americans co-sponsored by the Cuban Research Institute.
Despite a warming of relations between the United States and Cuba, thousands of Cubans—46,635 specifically—entered the U.S. in 2016, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data. Those numbers are compared to the 24,278 Cubans who entered the U.S. in 2015, according to the same data.
For so many both in Cuba and around the world, Castro was a revolutionary force. Following his death and cremation, the Cuban government declared a nine-day period of mourning.
Thousands of Cubans filed through a memorial in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution on Monday as the nation plunged into a week of services bidding farewell to the man who ruled the country for nearly half a century.
One of the first in line was Tania Jimenez, 53, a mathematician who arrived at 4 a.m. carrying a rose.
“Fidel is everything to us, the soul of this country who gave everything, all his life,” Jimenez said.
Castro earned a name for himself after leading his bearded rebels to victorious revolution in 1959, embracing Soviet-style communism and defied the power of 10 U.S. presidents during his half-century of rule in Cuba.
Fidel Castro overcame imprisonment at the hands of dictator Fulgencio Batista, exile in Mexico and a disastrous start to his rebellion before triumphantly riding into Havana in January 1959 to become, at age 32, the youngest leader in Latin America. For decades he was a source of inspiration and support to revolutionaries from Latin America to Africa, even as Cubans who fled to exile loathed him with equal measure.
Castro’s reign over the island nation 90 miles from Florida was marked by the U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis a year later that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. Castro, who outlasted a crippling U.S. trade embargo as well as dozens, possibly hundreds, of assassination plots, died 10 years after a life-threatening illness led him to turn over power to his brother, Raul Castro.
Reporting from The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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