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North Florida Reacts To Fidel Castro's Death

Catherine Buckler

Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro died Friday at the age of 90. That’s turned the spotlight on Florida’s Cuban population. Those in North Florida have a varied response.Florida State student and second generation American Olivia Baez says her family is celebrating the death of Fidel Castro. She says her only regret is not being home for the street side celebrations happening, with Cubans hitting their cazuelas and waving flags of their homeland.

"I’d always said, you know, ‘oh, when Fidel dies I’ll for sure be there, for sure I’ll  do that.’ And it was upsetting that I missed it," Baez said.

Despite current celebrating, Baez acknowledges Cuba’s story is not over yet. Raul Castro is in power, and Baez believes the country needs change, but she doubts Fidel’s brother can provide it.

"I do hope for a free Cuba," Baez said. "I don’t know though, I don’t know that it’ll happen. I do see that, you know, that embargo was lifted and people are traveling more. And people are becoming a lot more aware of Cuba as a country, and Cuba as an impoverished country. I don’t know that Raul Castro will open those doors like he needs to. I don’t think he has an interest in letting go of Cuba, to be honest."

Although Cubans celebrate across the state, Maria Eugenia Jimenez Ordoñez says she finds herself torn.

"I took it a little bit differently, if you will, in that, it’s kind of hard for me to celebrate someone’s death, necessarily," Ordoñez said. "And also, because I know, that although Fidel Castro has died, the people in Cuba are still suffering under the same regime."

Ordoñez left Cuba under Operation Peter Pan, an anti-Castro initiative in the early 60s that flew unaccompanied minors out of the country for safety. Meanwhile, Eddie Agramonte owns Tallahassee Cuban restaurant Gordo’s. Agramonte says Castro took his father’s property and freedom. He is celebrating and says it makes sense, considering Castro’s impact on families.

"You know, three people going to get on the plane, but only two can get on, so the son and the mother get on the plane," Agramonte said. "But the father stays behind. Or, the two daughters go and they’re, you know, 13 and 15 coming into a country, but their parent can’t come with them. And they’re stuck behind. And they’ve been there ever since, and could never get over. You know, I mean, that’s what this man did. He separated families. If you disagreed with him, he shot you in the head."

The Cuban government has announced Fidel Castro’s ashes will be interred at the Santa Ifigenia cemetery in Santiago de Cuba on December 4th.