MIAMI- Alberto Paradela and Victor de Zarraga stood near the bakery section of Versailles, the famed Cuban restaurant that serves as an anchor point for the diaspora forced out by the brutalities of Fidel Castro.
The two young men, both 23, took deep puffs from cigars while staring out in awe of the scene before them.
“This is our generation’s Berlin Wall,” Paradela said.
They both looked out on SW 8th St, better known as Calle Ocho in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami.
Around them were thousands of people. Some young, many old. Most were Cubans, and everyone seemed to be in a joyous mood.
A constant melodic buzz of car horns, mixed with the occasional vuvuzela burst, drum line tap, and air horn squeal made the street sound like a sporting event.
But for Paradela and de Zarraga, this was personal.
Not only are there the descendants of one of the first flights from Castro’s despotism in 1961, they both also graduated from Belen Jesuit Preparatory School in southern Miami.
Castro was himself a grad from Belen when it was located in Havana.
But when he came to power, Castro forced the Jesuit religious community from the island. They relocated to Miami where the school became a breeding ground for anti-Castro thought and action.
“Fidel was taught the same things as us but he used it for evil,” Paradela said. “This is a night where we can move past that history.”
“It’s still a journey but a giant motivating for progress [moving forward,” de Zarraga said of the impact on Castro’s death.
While this younger generation of Cuban Americans feels excited about Castro’s death, there is also a level of surrealness.
“It’s very hard for us because our families talk about a Cuba that doesn’t exist anymore,” Paradela said.
Mauricio Pons was born and raised in Miami like Paradela and de Zarraga. He is very politically active, serving as the president of the FIU college Republicans.
“Most of us have been waiting for this for a very long time,” Pons said. “We’ll go out and celebrate the death of a tyrant and the opportunity for the process for Cuba to become a democratic state.”
Some of the young Cuban Americans in the crowd wore pro-Trump shirts and “Make America Great Again” hats.
However, one recent college graduate whose parents were born in Cuba, and didn’t want his name published, said that he felt a bit uncomfortable about the celebration of a man’s death. He said that he is a member of the Green Party.
A few hours later as the steady rain slowed, Paola and Carla Llaneza banged on pots and pans in front of the entrance of Versailles. Sisters, their parents were born in Cuba.
Paola heard the news of Castro’s death while watching Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them in a theatre. She jumped up and came to 8th Street.
“We’ve been waiting for years,” Paola said. “We thought it was going to be like this.”
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