“What will happen to us now?” was the cry of 26-year-old Ermi a Cuban house maid after she heard the news of the Cuban Leader’s passing. “What are we going to do now Fidel is gone?”
On Friday November 25, 2016, Fidel Castro, the leader of the Cuban Revolution passed away peacefully at the age of 90 in his beloved Caribbean Island of Cuba. His passing was no real shock as his health had deteriorated over the years and his frailty was quite noticeable in recent appearances.
Cuban dictator Fidel Castro was born near Birán, Cuba, in 1926. Beginning in 1958 Castro and his forces began a campaign of guerrilla warfare which led to the overthrow of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.
As the country's new leader, Castro implemented communist domestic policies and initiated military and economic relations with the Soviet Union that led to strained relations with the United States that culminated in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
Under Castro, improvements were made to health care and education, while he maintained a dictatorial control over the country and brutally persecuted or imprisoned anyone thought to be enemies of the regime. Thousands of dissidents were killed or died trying to flee the dictatorship. Castro was also responsible for fomenting communist revolutions in countries around the world. However, the 1991 collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and its negative impact on Cuba's economy led Castro to relax some restrictions over time.
In failing health, Fidel Castro officially handed over power to his brother Raúl Castro in 2008, but still wielded some political influence in Cuba and abroad.
On Saturday, flags across Cuba were seen flying at half-mast as the country began nine days of mourning.
Cuban students could be seen waving flags as they marched in the streets chanting "I am Fidel" to salute Fidel Castro the Cold War icon, who dominated the island's political life for generations.
Alcohol sales and musical entertainment at shows, concerts and clubs were suspended until December 5th.
Giant rallies are planned in Havana's Revolution Square and in the eastern city of Santiago to honour Castro, who died at age 90, six decades after the brothers set out from Mexico to overthrow the government of Fulgencio Batista.
Newspapers on the island of 11 million people were printed in black ink to mourn Fidel, instead of the usual red of the official Communist Party daily Granma, and the blue of Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth), the paper of the Communist youth.
There was no heightened military or police presence to mark the passing of the epochal revolutionary leader, and at Havana University, Castro's alma mater, hundreds of students gathered to wave huge Cuban flags and shout "Viva Fidel and Viva Raul".
On Monday hundreds of thousands of Cubans formed orderly lines as the congregated at the “Plaza de la Revolucion” to sign attendance registers and pay their respects.
Visitors to the island during the next few days will find a tranquil Cuba but will be able to boast that they were present during the world event of the celebration of the passing of the Cuban leader.
Fidel Castro had his share of enemies and many were overjoyed with the news of his passing, but for those loyal Cubans, a great leader has passed and will always be their leader, for as they said over and over again, “Siempre Fidel” or in English “Always Fidel”.
Ermi, her family and friends will have to wait and see what will be the outcome of their lives but international onlookers are already preparing for the huge change that will sweep over Cuba soon.
It appears that a sleeping giant will soon awaken with the passing of a revolutionary leader and the largest island in the Caribbean Sea may once again take its position among the top tourist destinations in the region.