Miami celebration turns to reflection on Castro death

Cuban-Americans showed their joy over the death of Fidel Castro in the Little Havana section of Miami Sunday.
Cuban-Americans showed their joy over the death of Fidel Castro in the Little Havana section of Miami Sunday. Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images

MIAMI — Celebration turned to somber reflection and church services Sunday as Cuban-Americans in Miami largely stayed off the streets after a raucous daylong party in which thousands marked the death of Fidel Castro.

One Cuban exile car dealer, however, sought to turn the revolutionary socialist’s death into a quintessential capitalist deal by offering $15,000 discounts on some models.

And on the airwaves, top aides to President-elect Donald Trump promised a hard look at the recent thaw in US relations with Cuba.

Trump’s former campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, and incoming chief of staff, Reince Priebus, said Trump wants to ensure that Cuba is not benefiting from decisions that don’t benefit the American people or Cubans.


‘‘We’re not going to have a unilateral deal coming from Cuba back to the United States without some changes in their government,’’ Priebus said on ‘‘Fox News Sunday.’’

‘‘Repression, open markets, freedom of religion, political prisoners — these things need to change in order to have open and free relationships, and that’s what President-elect Trump believes,’’ he said.

The two aides would not discuss details. And Conway said on ABC’s ‘‘This Week’’ that Trump is not flatly opposed to a changed relationship with Cuba. ‘‘He is open to researching and, in fact, resetting relations with Cuba,’’ she said. ‘‘But his criticism of what has happened in the last couple of years is very simple: it’s that we got nothing in return.’’

At St. Brendan Catholic Church in the Miami suburb of Westchester, a chorus member read a statement by Archbishop Thomas Wenski about Castro’s death before the service. There was no overt mention of Castro during the Sunday Mass. But during the reading of the Prayers of the Faithful, one of the two priests celebrating the Mass prayed for ‘‘an end to communism, especially in Cuba and Venezuela.’’


Outside the church, Nelson Frau, a 32-year-old Cuban-American whose parents fled the island in 1962, said he wasn’t surprised that Castro was not mentioned. He said Wenski’s statement reflected the role of the Catholic Church in Miami as a mediator toward peace between the Cubans in Miami and those on the island.

‘‘I think the church is trying to act as a mediator at this point, to try to move the Cuban people forward rather than backward, not only the exile community here, but also the Cuban people on the island,’’ said Frau.

Frau said celebrations of Castro’s death in Miami were a ‘‘natural reaction.’’

‘‘Let’s not forget that this is an exile community that has suffered a lot, over 50 years,’’ Frau said.

‘‘He’s an image of pain to a lot of people. It’s a celebration not of his death, but a celebration of the end of this image of pain and suffering.’’

The pot-banging, car horn-honking, flag-waving throngs were much thinner in Little Havana and other Cuban-American neighborhoods on Sunday.

People quietly sipped their morning coffee outside the Versailles restaurant, where many of the demonstrations have been centered along Calle Ocho, or 8th Street.

Later Sunday afternoon, people gathered anew outside the restaurant, forcing police to close the street down again as a chanting group carried a large Cuban flag.

One group of Cuban exiles held a news conference at the Bay of Pigs museum, which commemorates the failed CIA-backed invasion in 1961. They called for a large rally Wednesday afternoon in Little Havana.


Cuban exile Arnaldo Bomnin, owner of Bomnin Chevrolet in Miami, was offering $15,000 off on Corvettes and several sports-utility vehicle models.

Bomnin said he studied medicine in Cuba, but left the island after finding out the government was planning to place him in a military unit. He arrived in Miami in 1996.

The offer is not intended as a gimmick to sell more calls and profit on Castro’s death, he said.

‘‘I don’t celebrate the death of anybody, he said. ‘‘What we’re celebrating is that we’re one step closer to democracy in Cuba; we’re one step closer to freedom in Cuba.’’