Local Cuban-Americans react to Fidel Castro's death

Emotions ran high on Saturday for Cuban Americans in Houston, all of whom are trying to process the news of Fidel Castro's death.

Emotions ran high Saturday for Cuban-Americans in Houston, all of whom are trying to process the news of Fidel Castro's death.

The usual gathering at Cafe Piquet talked politics, as they turned their sole attention to Castro - someone they say has long held a grip on the island nation they used to call home.

"I was 14 years old when I left Cuba," said Evilio Fernandez, who was one of several who stopped by a Bellaire restaurant on Saturday. "As a Catholic and a Christian, I’m not happy anybody dies, I’m not wishing anybody’s death."

But Fernandez, like others, said he couldn't help wanting to celebrate.

"Hopefully there will be changes in Cuba," Fernandez said. "I don’t think they are going to happen right away but eventually that’s what we’re praying for and hoping for."

Many brought flags including Adolfo Rodriguez, who is a part of Casa Cuba, an organization that promotes Cuban culture in Houston.

"When Adolf Hitler died, people were happy that a tyrant who had killed people passed on," Rodriguez said. "Castro is the same way. He killed a lot of people and I’ve lost family members to him, cousins and an uncle."

According to the Pew Research Center, the number of Cuban-Americans entering the country has jumped dramatically since President Obama announced a renewal of ties with the island nation.

In 2015, the Health Department helped settle nearly 5,600 Cubans in Harris County last year, as part of the Refugee Health Screening Program.

Restaurant owner Nelly Piquet said it's about time.

"(Castro) was a tyrant, selfish and a liar," said Piquet. "It was all about them. It wasn’t about the people."

She was lying in bed when she got the news last night, news that she isn't celebrating.

"We’re a small community and you know what, we all feel for each other because we’ve all come from the same pain and that’s hard."

Piquet left Cuba in 1962 and has never returned.

She, like others, said she was grateful for all the opportunities this country has provided versus the oppression they would've faced at home.


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