Fidel Castro passed away last Friday. It was announced by Castro’s brother and current President Raul. His death could mark the beginning of a new chapter in Cuban history. As his brother Raul, promises he will step down from power in 2018, it might bring the possibility of a democratic election of his successor.
His death means so much for thousands of people. People are grieving or celebrating like the Cubans in little La Habana in Miami. Fidel was a polarizing figure to say the least, loved and hated in equal parts.
Fidel Castro came into power in 1959, in a popular revolution overthrowing Cuba’s then dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. Castro promised democracy and to end the suppression but instead he ruled Cuba over 40 years with iron fist, into his version of a Communist society.
Many Cuban’s have expressed their opinion on his passing “Although the death of a human being is rarely cause for celebration, it is the symbolic death of the destructive ideologies that he espoused that, I believe, is filling the Cuban exile community with renewed hope and a relief that has been long in coming,” Cuban-born artist Gloria Estefan, who had to leave the country, due to political reasons, when she was a child, wrote on Instagram.
When Castro started nationalizing land, factories and companies in 1960, many families had to flee the country, even his own supporters, and my family included. Like my great uncle Eugenio Soler a journalist, who fought on the Spanish Civil War with the International Brigades) and his wife Maruxa Nuñez de Villavicencio (Journalist for Life Magazine) were Ambassadors of Cuba in India, they renounced their position. My Great Aunt Laura left the country thinking she would go back soon, she never went back.
My mum, Olga Nuñez de Villavicencio, was born in La Habana and left Cuba with my grandparents and my aunt in 1954, due to political reasons. Years later she wouldn’t be able to go back for the same reasons, not even as a tourist. “My father had to leave Cuba because he fought against Batista, he wanted a democracy. Then Fidel came promising a democracy and instead we still have a communist dictatorship” Her feelings about his death are clear “I don’t wish death on anyone but his, was a long time coming. I don’t think it will mean any change unless there is a democracy, even if Raul says he is going to step down. I honestly believe it will become a family dictatorship.”
Fidel’s worldwide impact is clear. His policies have influenced many Latin American Countries such as Nicaragua, Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela. All of these countries have embraced the 21st Century Socialism largely inspired by Cuba’s policies, bringing more issues and demises for many families in Continental Latin America.
His life is being celebrated all over the world. Personally I do not understand this because Cuba still has food rations, political prisoners, and limited access to the internet and to information, limited movement for Cuban citizens; he sentenced many of his opponents to death. But in recent years, under Raul’s Government there has been some political changes, creation of small businesses, giving out loans have slightly improved Cubans lives, especially since Barack Obama opened negotiations with Cuba and eased the embargo, allowing commerce of rum and cigars.
In the end Fidel Castro’s life was a big and important chapter in the 20th century history (Cold War, Pigs Bay, Cuba’s Missile Crisis, Angola’s War and the Apartheid), but as any chapter it has to come to an end. We hope this means a new and brighter chapter for Cuba and its people.