How does one respond to the death of a man who for more than 57 years symbolized the very embodiment of evil? A man who’s iron fist rule of a country over the course of almost six decades led to the deaths, drownings, displacement, and repression of millions?
I know it’s not politically correct to admit but when I learned earlier tonight at 1:06 a.m. that Fidel Castro died, my immediate reaction was joyful disbelief, celebration and tears.
This is a deeply personal thing for many Cubans like me so if you are not Cuban, you may not understand but know this: I am not speaking merely as a U.S. born Cuban American from Miami. My beliefs about Fidel Castro and the Revolution were shaped by FIVE first hand, two-week trips that I took to my ancestral home as a photographer and tourist during the early 90s and in 2009.
During my trips I PERSONALLY WITNESSED and was the recipient of that repression I grew up hearing about (but those stories are for another day). Suffice to say that I can vouch for the persona-driven world Fidel Castro constructed in Cuba and it’s not even a Marxist world. Cuba is a world modeled after Castro and his ilk.
Some of my Cuban brothers and sisters today are being labeled as extremists by some of my left-leaning friends but then again it’s easy to espouse leftist beliefs when you live in a country that has democracy, freedom of the press and free speech. It is easy to intellectualize and romanticize Fidel when you have access to information, you don’t have to eat rationed food and you don’t have to live in a society that systematically pits neighbors to spy on each other. Fidel’s neighborhood watch platform is a carbon copy of the neighborhood watch system that the Nazis set up to control Jews to their eventual demise.
Today I celebrate Fidel Castro’s passing not because he’s a human being but because he was a dictator. I wasn’t alive when Hitler died but I can guarantee that when he did many of my Jewish friends similarly rejoiced.
My only regret is that I did not have a chance to celebrate Castro’s passing with my paternal grandfather and my dad, both fervent enemies of Fidel.
The biggest silver lining I have is that the one who is alive and who I will celebrate more with tomorrow is my 102-year-old grandmother Micaela Ruiz. The mother of my former Cuban dissident uncle Santiago and a woman who initially stayed behind in Cuba to make sure he didn’t conveniently disappear or die in prison, my grandmother is the No. 1 person I want to be with to celebrate Fidel’s passing.
Yes, it doesn’t sound right to say I will celebrate someone’s passing but Fidel’s death is different. Today I will join my Cuban brothers and sisters and I will celebrate to the fullest. This day was overdue.