Mi­ami Cuban cel­e­bra­tion turns to re­flec­tion on Fidel Cas­tro’s death

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Adrian Sainz and Curt An­der­son

MI­AMI >> Cel­e­bra­tion turned to somber re­flec­tion and church ser­vices Sun­day as Cuban-Amer­i­cans in Mi­ami largely stayed off the streets fol­low­ing 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 U.S. re­la­tions with Cuba.

At St. Bren­dan Catholic Church in the Mi­ami sub­urb of Westch­ester, a mem­ber of the cho­rus 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.”

“Lord, hear our prayers,” church­go­ers re­sponded.

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, who works in cus­tomer ser­vice.

Frau said celebrations of Cas­tro’s death on the streets of 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 — which had put up signs in Span­ish call­ing it­self the “House of the Ex­iles” — 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.

Cas­tro was still on the minds of many, how­ever, in­clud­ing ex­ile Ar­naldo Bomnin of Bomnin Chevro­let. He was of­fer­ing $15,000 off on Corvettes and sev­eral sports-util­ity ve­hi­cle mod­els.

Bomnin said the idea for the dis­count sprang from a con­ver­sa­tion with a mar­ket­ing com­pany about a press re­lease dis­cussing his Cuban her­itage af­ter Cas­tro’s death. Bomnin said he stud­ied medicine in Cuba, but left the is­land af­ter find­ing out the gov­ern­ment was plan­ning to place him as a doc­tor with a mil­i­tary unit. He ar­rived in Mi­ami in 1996, and worked at an avo­cado farm and sell­ing seafood be­fore mov­ing on to real es­tate and car sales.

The of­fer is not in­tended as a gim­mick to sell more calls and profit on Cas­tro’s death, he said. In­stead, it’s a way for him back to the com­mu­nity and re­flect the hope that Mi­ami’s Cubans now have for a demo­cratic gov­ern­ment on the is­land.

“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, to a free so­ci­ety in Cuba.”

Cuba also was a main topic on all the Sun­day news pro­grams, par­tic­u­larly Trump’s plans for U.S. re­la­tions with the com­mu­nist is­land and whether he will re­verse the thaw pushed by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

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

“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.”

Back in Mi­ami, the Rev. Martin Anorga, 89, was a pas­tor at a Pres­by­te­rian church in Cuba, start­ing when he was in his 20s. He fled Cuba, and later served as head pas­tor of the First Span­ish Pres­by­te­rian Church in Mi­ami for nearly three decades be­fore re­tir­ing.

Anorga said he par­tic­i­pated in anti-Cas­tro groups in Mi­ami for years. But in church ser­vices, he only would talk about the vic­tims of Cas­tro’s regime, not the man him­self.

“Dur­ing ser­vices, they won’t talk about pol­i­tics,” Anorga said. “When I was a pas­tor, we would pray for the vic­tims of Cas­tro in Cuba. The peo­ple who were hurt by Cas­tro will never re­cover. Fam­i­lies were sep­a­rated, es­tranged. We would pray for them.”

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Mem­bers of the Cuban com­mu­nity re­act to the death of Fidel Cas­tro on Satur­day in the Lit­tle Ha­vana area in Mi­ami. Cas­tro, who led a rebel army to im­prob­a­ble vic­tory in Cuba, em­braced Soviet-style com­mu­nism and de­fied the power of 10 U.S. pres­i­dents dur­ing his half cen­tury rule, died at age 90.

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