HAVANA – Sad but defiant, thousands of people, mostly from Havana but many from other towns in Cuba plus a number of foreigners, flocked on Tuesday to the Plaza de la Revolucion to pay their last respects to Fidel Castro before his ashes are taken Wednesday to Santiago de Cuba.
Since before sunrise, thousands of people came for the second day to the Plaza de la Revolucion in Havana to honor Fidel Castro, who passed away last Friday at age 90. Cuban authorities had prepared three rooms for the mourners in the Jose Marti Memorial.
Among the thousands of people was Fidel Castro’s son Tony, who after leaving the Memorial courteously declined to make a statement for EFE.
“I thought he would live forever! He’s the greatest man in the world!” sighed Mercedes Garcia, assisted by two people as she left the Jose Marti Memorial, after going to one of the rooms where a picture of Fidel Castro and been hung in tribute to the leader of the Cuban Revolution.
“If God existed, he would have been immortal. As he will be in my mind for the rest of my life, until my dying day,” the 71-year-old Havana native said, adding that she owes everything to Castro.
Nely de Chacon Carbayo, 84, traveled with Fidel Castro from Santiago de Cuba to Havana in 1959 in the so-called Caravan of Freedom.
Chacon, overcome by emotion, broke down when she arrived in front of Castro’s picture, repeating constantly “Ay Fidel, my boy. Ay, my Fidelito. My Fidelito, poor boy.”
Chacon joined the Caravan of Freedom as a nurse.
“Oh my God, with what joy we entered this city. He was the greatest in the world. Now Fidel has left us.”
But then she collected herself: “But he’s not dead, he’s alive. He lives among us.”
Melani, age 12, stands in line holding a rose and a letter.
“They’re just a few words for Fidel that I wrote this morning. I felt very gloomy for the loss of Fidel because he is our leader. The letter says that we Cubans are sad but at the same time happy since Fidel did so much for the revolution and so much to set Cuba free.”
Such feelings were repeated by many faithful followers who came to bid Fidel Castro their final farewell.
“Real Cubans, the Cubans that live here and in many other parts of the world, are in tears today because his body is no longer here – but his thoughts and his spirit will always be with us,” Acela Avila of Havana said.
Nor will Juan Luis, a lieutenant colonel of the Interior Ministry, accept that Fidel Castro has died.
“For those of us who followed him, for those who stayed with him, we are perfectly sure that he will not die because his ideas are still alive,” he said upon leaving the Memorial.
“It’s a true fact, and it gives us the strength to carry on as happened with the previous heroes Che and Chavez. He goes to them, they’re waiting for him, and he will join them in that place that is reserved solely for the great ones,” he said.