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Miami's Cuban-Americans Celebrate Castro News

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And on the streets of Miami, people celebrated as news of Castro's step-down spread.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

BRAND: Joining us now from Miami, Guillermo Martinez, a columnist for the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

And what are people talking about in cafes this morning?

Mr. GUILLERMO MARTINEZ (Columnist, South Florida Sun Sentinel): Well, I think that people are talking about a new day.

You've got to understand that Miami has heard rumors about Castro's health for years and years and years. And all of them have been squashed. This is the first time that there is an actual fact, and that people are just actually celebrating, because - as they see it - this man is very, very human. Age is getting to him. And he could be either dead right now , or he could be on the verge of dying. But the end of his regime is certainly approaching.

BRAND: So in general, people are celebrating and not mourning.

Mr. MARTINEZ: You could say celebrating. And the most amazing thing about the celebration is Cuban exiles have a habit of splitting down generations and where we were born and how old we are and when we came over from Cuba and all of these things.

I got a phone call from one of my wife's aunts who was a political prisoner for 20 years in Castro's prison. She's 87 years old, and she was so excited she couldn't fall asleep.

An hour earlier, I had gotten a phone call from one of my son's best friends. He was born in Miami. He was just as excited.

There is no I came from Cuba 47 years ago and you only came here 4 years ago, therefore, we're different. I saw last night the anchor for a network affiliate in Miami - actually, somebody who I hired many years ago - never been to Cuba, daughter of Cuban exiles, her father was a political prisoner in the Bay of Pigs - break down on the air and actually, literally cry on the air.

BRAND: For the Cuban expatriates there in Miami, it's often been a dream of theirs to return to Cuba one day. Are people talking about that?

Mr. MARTINEZ: Cautiously. The most aggressive, the most militant are talking about it as soon as they get the word that it is possible. But for an older generation, for other people, we lost our roots. And we'd like to be able to show our roots to our children or our grandchildren.

BRAND: Is that something you'd like to do?

Mr. MARTINEZ: Very definitely. My daughter went to Cuba this year and saw the house where I was born, and she was moved by it. I'd like to be able to take my son and my two grandchildren.

My life is in the United States. My family's in the United States. I'm an American. But knowing that I have a place where I was born that I can return to would be a marvelous feeling.

I can still remember what I felt the day that Batista fell. And for the first time, I felt something similar last night.

BRAND: Guillermo Martinez, columnist for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Thank you for joining us.

Mr. MARTINEZ: Thank you, Madeleine. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.