Cuban exiles see only a glimmer of hope in Castro's funeral
By ADRIANA GOMEZ LICON
MIAMI (AP) - In the heart of Miami's Little Havana, Cuban exile Armando
Garcia said Sunday's funeral of Fidel Castro granted neither simple
closure nor optimism for immediate change, but was a glimmer of hope for
democracy in Cuba.
Garcia, 76, a retired electronics salesman who left Cuba in 1963, sipped
espresso as others smoked cigars at the Versailles restaurant, a hub for
exiles who fled political oppression or other hardships since Castro's
communist revolution of 1959. Huge, noisy crowds had gathered for days
after word spread last weekend of Castro's death, but had dissipated by
"It's a light at the end of the tunnel," Garcia said of Castro's death,
but he said he was not counting on moves toward democracy any time soon.
Garcia said it was painful to see leaders in some Latin American
countries praising Castro "'for supposedly liberating the poor, when in
reality he has enslaved the poor."
He joked that there was no sadness at the restaurant about Castro's
funeral. "It's the best funeral ever. Look at us. No one is crying,
everyone is happy, no need for handkerchiefs. It's a party," Garcia said.
Jose Llanes, 70, said nobody should be fooled by any images from Cuban
showing thousands of people mourning. "When people are oppressed, they
are told what to do."
Later Sunday, dozens of people gathered for a rally at the Cuban
Memorial in Miami's Tamiami Park in honor of people who were victims of
Castro's regime and those who died trying to overthrow him. People
searched for names of deceased relatives on a black marble wall beneath
an obelisk with a Cuban flag pattern.
It was important to gather here - Sylvia Iriondo, president of the group
of Mothers and Women against Repression in Cuba, told the group - to
remember those victims and to remember that, "Fidel Castro, the
dictator, was not a hero."
The older generations of Cuban exiles have generally backed a hard line
toward U.S. relations with the island, including an embargo and strict
limits on engagement until the island shows moves toward democracy, but
that view has softened among the younger generation.
Giancarlo Sopo, 33, founder of Miami-based CubaOne Foundation, which
arranges trips for younger Cuban-Americans to visit the island, said in
a telephone interview that for five decades Fidel Castro dominated the
way people viewed Cuba. "It is now my hope that when people now think of
Cuba they think of the hopes and dreams of the 11 million people who
live there," he said.
"Both younger and older Cuban Americans care about Cuba, but we express
that passion in different ways. My father was a Bay of Pigs veteran,"
Sopo said. "For his generation caring about Cuba meant supporting
sanctions. My generation has taken a different approach. My generation
wants to go to the island, meet their peers, reconnect with their
families and learn about the cultural affairs. The focus has broadened,
but we still very much respect their pain."
Aida Levitan, president of Artes Miami, a nonprofit organization that
promotes Latino artists, said that the funeral "instills a little bit of
hope for the Cuban people that this is the beginning of the end."
"Many people are not optimistic because Raul Castro still runs the
country, but Fidel was the mythical figure and so it feels there is a
difference," she said. "Like a Spanish expression goes: There's no evil
that survives 100 years."
This story has been corrected to fix the spelling of Sylvia Iriondo,
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