Little Havana Happy But Guarded
by Jennifer Jordan
It might not be The Wizard of Oz, but Cuban refugees in Miami suddenly find themselves singing “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead.” Well, not dead exactly, but at least retiring. Fidel Castro gave his resignation on February 19, 2008. Cuba will no longer have him as leader.
This news undoubtedly comes as a relief, particularly to those residing in Miami’s Little Havana. But, reactions are guarded: even with Castro out of power, Cuban refugees don’t expect any drastic changes. At least, not any time soon. Fidel Castro may be retiring, but he made if clear he isn’t ready to get out of the picture just yet.
Little Havana, located just west of downtown Miami, is a community largely made up of those who fled Castro and his communistic reign. It includes those who built businesses, only to have Castro sweep in with his nationalistic views, people who survived the Bay of Pigs Invasion and those tortured at the hands of Castro’s government. Most of the 650,000 members of this neighborhood greatly oppose what their former country has become.
While the reaction of Castro’s resignation left many in the Little Havana community elated – as people celebrated by honking their horns, waving flags, and shouting hoots of elation – some of those who hold Cuba near and dear don’t believe Castro will simply disappear. He, they think, will still have a hand – possibly a large one – in the Cuban government.
At 81 years old, Fidel Castro has been in poor health for quite some time. Several reports, in fact, have circulated that – on more than one occasion – he was near death. Still, he has lived on. However, he hasn’t appeared in public for quite some time.
When Fidel officially surrenders his power (or at least his title of power) on Sunday, his brother Raul will take over as president. Raul Castro has been acting as interim president since July 2006, when poor health forced Fidel out of the spotlight and into the shadows.
Though still a Castro, Raul is generally much better liked than his older brother. Ruling with a softer fist, under Raul there is hope of structural changes. Cubans are optimistic that they will be able to own businesses and homes.
Still, Raul is not a spring chicken: at the age of 76, he is only four years younger than his brother. This makes reform particularly imminent. It also opens up the possibility that much of Cuba’s future won’t fall on Raul Castro’s shoulders, but on the shoulders of the next generation.