Election Night In Little Havana: Anger at Versailles Cafe, Elation at Obama HQ

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As Florida vote counting goes to the wire tonight, what is clear is that this state -- and this city -- remains bitterly divided.

That divide was apparent at two locations just blocks apart in Little Havana: there was elation at Obama campaign headquarters on SW 1st Street as a small band of volunteers watched better-than-expected numbers stream in. Meanwhile, less than a mile away on Calle Ocho, el exilio was pissed at the potential for four more years.

"Obama is a socialist," screeched Marta Gonzalez, 68, as she stood in front of Versailles Café and punched an inflatable president doll right in the nuts. "This is my protest."

The scene at Versailles was nervous and not too happy. As Gonzalez shouted into a small black megaphone and dangled what was... well, frankly, a pretty racist doll of the president, another cigar-sucking protester wearing an Mao Ze Obama shirt sighed as he listened to results on the radio go against Romney.

There were several cars tricked out in "Fire Obama" and "Romney for America" banners.

Carol Michelena, an Obama supporter, found herself outnumbered at the café on Calle Ocho. She had accidentally ended up in the middle of the impromptu Romney rally when she and a group of friends stopped by a cortadito after dinner.

"I wouldn't normally be in the middle of this because the Republican Party just spews so much hatred," she said. Nodding towards Gonzalez in her Confederate hat, Michelena added: "I think that is so insulting."

Things were more upbeat, if exhausted, at the Obama campaign headquarters less than a mile away. As the polls closed at 7 p.m., a small band of volunteers and a few staffers were already taking down signs, their job of canvassing and registering voters largely over.

Lorena Miranda, a 29-year-old volunteer, said she thought Cuban-Americans were supporting the president more this time than four years ago. But she said long lines at the polls was hurting his cause.

"The wait has been astronomical," she said. "Rick Scott and the Republicans put so many superfluous obstacles in voters' way. Encouraging the vote is as American apple pie. But discouraging the vote is as anti-American as the Taliban."

Mayra Macias, a 24-year-old Obama field organizer, said it was too early in the night to know if Florida would tilt for the president once again. But she was optimistic.

"I know we did really well tonight," she said, relying on voter registration and phone surveys.

Among the other volunteers at the shabby second floor office: 20 female paralegals from Dallas, Texas ("We like to go where we make the biggest impact," said Cynthia Ferrer) and a couple that flew in from Australia just to help.

Here are some more photos from the night:

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