In Chicago, mixed emotions regarding Fidel Castro’s death

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Antuan Reyes is manager of 1492 Cuban Fusion Cafe in Humboldt Park. |
Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times

Chicago’s Cuban-American community reacted to the death of Fidel Castro with mixed emotions on Saturday, with some hoping to see long-awaited changes in Cuba and others uncertain about the country’s future.

While Cuban-Americans across the U.S. have responded with celebrations, especially in Miami, no apparent displays have erupted in Chicago.

At 1492 Cuban Fusion Café in Humboldt Park, manager Antuan Reyes said the staff has been celebrating “undercover” while serving customers.

“It’s been really hard for some people waiting 55 years with [Castro] in power and the same government, but finally I think we can change that,” Reyes said.

Reyes said he and his mother moved to Chicago in 2012 to escape Castro’s regime. He said under Castro’s regime, Cuba could not offer the same financial opportunities as the U.S.

He said he hopes Castro’s death will result in a “free government.”

“Castro is the brains of the government, so now that he’s gone we can hopefully start over with a new public election,” Reyes said. “With new people in government, we’ll have fresh blood that can make new changes in Cuba that are better for the people.”

For Edson Cabrera Veitia, a professional dancer who left Cuba in 2011 to learn dance in a new country, his reaction was mixed.

Cabrera Veitia, whose great uncle fought on Castro’s side in the Cuban Revolution, said he does not expect to see major changes within the country and feels conflicting emotions about Castro’s death.

“I know what he did wrong and what he did good for Cuba, so I’m not happy, but I’m not sad,” Cabrera Veitia said. “I’m mostly feeling surprised right now.”

Roberto Mario Rojas Capo, a Cuban-American lawyer who moved to the U.S. in 2012 for financial opportunities, said Castro’s death surprised him. He said he, along with his family in Cuba, are “sad and confused” about the country’s future.

“People are very insecure right now because nobody sees a leader right now,” he said. “They have followed a leader for 50 years, and now without that leader, people don’t know who to follow.”


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