Early this morning, Miami awoke to the sound of firecrackers popping, car horns blaring, and pots and pans clanging in Little Havana: "¡Fidel Castro," they shouted in the street, "está muerto!"
It's an odd feeling in a metropolis where thousands of Cuban exilios have waited for nearly five decades for an end to the reign of the strongman who brought a communist revolution to their homeland. Defying first CIA assassination attempts and then multiple serious health scares, Fidel began to seem a nearly invincible figure.
After he passed the presidency on to his brother Raúl in 2008, death rumors would explode every year or so across Twitter and the ventanas of Versailles and La Carreta. But always, Fidel would soon show up holding a current issue of Granma or tottering across the stage at some government event, defiantly alive.
Until today. In a somber announcement read on state TV and uploaded to the internet, Raúl confirmed early this morning that Fidel had died late last night. He was 90 years old.
Miami's Cuban exilio celebrated the announcement of Fidel Castro's death in front of Versailles in Little Havana.
Photo by Theo Karantsalis
In Miami, the news was greeted with pure, chaotic, emotional release. Fidel, at last, is really dead:
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Fidel, of course, hasn't wielded true power in several years, and America's once iron-tight embargo on his island has loosened in recent years under President Barack Obama.
But for so many Cubans, Fidel is still the embodiment of the injustice of the communist revolution: He represents all the thousands of political prisoners, all the executions and land grabs, all the privations in the years after the Soviet Union crumbled.
Now he's gone. The Miami Herald's long-held, forever-updated obituary is finally live. The champagne finally popped at Versailles, where crowds will grow all day. Many questions will have to be answered in coming months about the fate of the island under Raúl Castro and the direction of U.S. policy under Donald Trump, but for now, in Miami, it's enough to light a firework and shout again: ¡Fidel Castro está muerto!