MIAMI – Southwest 8th Street – known locally as “Calle Ocho” – in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood erupted into a round-the-clock party after word of the death of Fidel Castro.
Music and bongo drums played over loudspeakers at full volume and people poured into the streets ready to party “until dawn.”
“I’m going to work from here,” Giraldo Alvarez told EFE, adding that he’d been at the street party since the news of Castro’s death, stopping only to “eat and sleep a bit” to recover his strength so that he could continue partying the next evening.
Some 200 people kept up the revelry, even after the thousands of others had turned in.
The announcement of the Cuban revolutionary leader’s death spurred thousands of Cuban exiles in Miami, many of whom fled Cuba to escape the communist system imposed by Castro, to dance in the streets and party starting about midnight on Friday.
Like many others, Alvarez said that he was celebrating for his grandmother, “who died at age 100 waiting” for Castro to die, and for his father, who is a “balsero” (rafter) who fled the communist island on a homemade raft.
Playing constantly at the street party was Willy Chirino’s anthem for Cuban exiles “Nuestro dia (ya viene llegando)” (Our day is coming), and when the singer showed up at Versailles restaurant on Calle Ocho on Saturday, he attracted an avalanche of people to the eatery, which overflowed all day with people and excitement.
There, one of the employees, exhausted from serving the hundreds of customers, said “Today was really tough. We’re always full here but we’ve sold more than normal (today).”
“Let’s hope nobody else dies,” added a colleague, also exhausted from being on her feet for hours attending to customers.
Miami police officers told EFE that on Sunday Calle Ocho would be closed to vehicle traffic, just as it was on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Carlos, who carried a handful of Cuban flags to sell, expressed disappointment because the day “could have been better. He said that “too many sellers, seven or eight, showed up,” and he didn’t sell as many flags as he’d hoped even though he spent 12 hours working.
“It’s normal for there to be so much partying,” said another man, Claudio, “because (Castro) kicked them, he threw them in prison and mistreated them a lot,” although he said he personally had never hoped for Castro’s death, considering him to be “a religious man.”