cuba street
Street scene in eastern Cuba, early ’90s.

A man who believed himself bigger than life was buried in a tiny casket today.

At first, I found it unseemly, the street celebrations by the Cuban enclave in Miami, upon the news of the death, at long last, of Fidel Castro. As a Cuban-American — and resident of Miami since infancy, as my parents were exiled concurrent with the Cuban Revolution in 1959 – I felt a curious detachment from the revelry, perhaps having already experienced it in my mind on the several occasions when rumors of the bearded one’s demise erroneously spread like wildfire in the community. It all seemed like a predestined ritual, a pent-up paroxysm of emotion amongst those genuinely aggrieved (and some just along for the ride), a moment awaited for what seemed like centuries.

Since I’ve had use of reason, Castro loomed large over existence; rare was the family dinner where his name didn’t somehow manage to infiltrate the conversation. And the stories. And the memories. And always, the sadness. So I don’t begrudge the celebrants their moment. It was a long time coming.

He was buried, ironically, near the resting place of the great Cuban poet and patriot José Martí. Would that Castro had heeded Martí’s timeless words, “The general happiness of a people rests on the individual independence of its inhabitants.”  One can continue to hope.

Photo: Marc PoKempner