Time magazine once called pop music star Gloria Estefan: “The most famous Cuban after Fidel Castro.”
Estefan and husband Emilio, 2015 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, joined other Cuban-American celebrities to react to the late Friday death of Fidel Castro. Along with actor Andy Garcia and salsa musician Willy Chirino, the celebrities’ messages spoke of hope, caution and a little righteous fury.
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“Although the death of a human being is rarely cause for celebration, it is the symbolic death of the destructive ideologies that he espoused that, I believe, is filling the Cuban exile community with renewed hope and a relief that has been long in coming,” Havana-born Gloria Estefan wrote on her Facebook and Instagram accounts.
Emilio Estefan, in a conversation with the Miami Herald Saturday afternoon said, “Today is not about, ‘He’s dead’ — it’s about the hope we were looking for for many years in Cuba.”
Today is not about, ‘He’s dead’ — it’s about the hope we were looking for for many years in Cuba.
Emilio Estefan on the death of Fidel Castro.
Seeing thousands of exiles and native-born take to the streets of Miami after news of Castro’s death broke around midnight Friday gave Estefan an extra day of Thanksgiving.
“I’m extremely proud to see so many young people with signs that say, ‘For my grandfather,’ ‘For my grandmother,’ ‘For my mom.’ …They have been waiting for so many years. I’m proud and I thank all of the people — from the Bay of Pigs, all the way to the prisoners and the dissidents, and a lot of people who are working hard to make this a change in Cuba now. I think we’ll see a new light. This is perfect timing to achieve that and we are looking forward to the best for the Cuban people.”
Gloria Estefan, in her statement, acknowledged change would not happen overnight. Castro’s brother Raúl remains in charge of the island nation.
“Although the grip of Castro's regime will not loosen overnight, the demise of a leader that oversaw the annihilation of those with an opposing view, the indiscriminate jailing of innocents, the separation of families, the censure of his people's freedom to speak, state-sanctioned terrorism and the economic destruction of a once thriving and successful country, can only lead to positive change for the Cuban people and our world,” she wrote.
The Oscar-nominated Garcia, a Havana-born Florida International University alum, echoed the singer’s comments.
“It is necessary for me to express the deep sorrow that I feel for all the Cuban people both inside and outside of Cuba that have suffered the atrocities and repression caused by Fidel Castro and his totalitarian regime,” Garcia said in a statement. “The promises of his so-called revolution of pluralism and democracy, were and continue to be a false promise and a betrayal of all basic human rights. The executions, persecution and imprisonment of political dissidents and the LGBT community, denial of free press, elections and religious freedoms, continue to be his legacy. He claimed that history would absolve him, but it can also condemn him.
“I stand as I always have with the Cuban people who love, cherish and celebrate liberty,” Garcia continued. “Hard-working, helpful people who open their hearts and homes to all, whether in Cuba or in exile. I pray for what I have always prayed for: the restoration of our constitution and absolute freedom for the people of Cuba. That dream is very much alive, that fight is very much alive. Let the spirit of José Martí and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. show us the way.”
Cuban-born salsa star and philanthropist Chirino went for the jugular in a 3 a.m. post to his Facebook page: “Today is a day of emotions found when finally someone has died who gave so much pain to the people for 57 years. The only vestige of sadness is because I've known many people who left us before they were able to enjoy this moment. In the name of the executed, of the tortured, jailed, disappeared, thinking of the millions of Cubans who have suffered family separation, absence and longing for their fatherland because of this disgraceful man, I say to him now GO TO HELL!”
Gloria Estefan, meanwhile, closed with a declaration of hope: “May freedom continue to ring in the United States, my beautiful adopted country and may the hope for freedom be inspired and renewed in the heart of every Cuban in my homeland and throughout the world.”
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