HAVANA – Tourists visiting Cuba at this time say that they can sense sadness of local residents over the death of Fidel Castro, adding that they feel privileged to be able to be witnesses to this historic period.
The death of the Cuban Revolutionary leader coincided with the start of the island’s high season and tourists, attracted by the warm Cuban winter temperatures, are exploring the streets of Old Havana or the seaside promenade known as the Malecon.
Cubans “are sad, they feel sad, and one can see that,” Wesley, a Canadian who has visited the island several times, told EFE, adding that on this occasion he landed in Havana on Saturday, one day after Castro’s death at age 90.
“I found the people to be very sad over the death of the ‘comandante.’ They are very pained at his departure,” said Hugo Villa, an Argentine, as he looked out over the plaza where Havana’s Cathedral stands.
Arriving in Cuba with him on board a cruise ship was his friend Liliana Farias, and she emphasized that Cubans are very troubled over Castro’s passing and “they say so” when you speak with them.
Farias was one of the “fortunate ones” who was able to follow the unexpected event from within Havana, given that an undetermined number of tourists were moved from their luxury hotels there to the seaside resort city of Varadero, 200 kilometers (125 miles) away, to make room for the international delegations traveling to the island for Castro’s funeral.
“They love (Castro) with all their heart,” said Farias, adding that her cruise companions thought they were “going to a place where there’d be dancing, and it hasn’t been possible.”
Because of the nine days of mourning decreed by the government, no public music is allowed, alcohol sales have been banned and regular tourist venues and shows have been closed.
Not to hear music on the streets or from within the homes is “very strange,” Wesley noted, adding, “You definitely feel that something big and historic has occurred.”
He added that he was able to view part of Castro’s funeral procession through the streets of the city.
Other tourists, such as Chilean Jaime Espinosa and his wife, said that they came to Cuba specifically to “pay homage” to Castro, telling EFE that “we changed our vacations to come to Cuba” after hearing word that he had died.