In Havana, Cubans Settle Into Long Mourning Period For Fidel Castro

Nov 27, 2016
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LAKSHMI SINGH, HOST:

The Cuban government's nine-day period of mourning for Fidel Castro has begun in Cuba. The former leader and revolutionary was cremated yesterday. His ashes will be interred at the Santa Ifigenia cemetery a week from today. NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro is in Havana. She joins me now. Lulu, you got to Havana today. What is the mood there?

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: It's strange. It's extremely subdued, as you would imagine, of course, after this having been announced yesterday. But, you know, it's a Sunday afternoon here. It's good weather. Normally the streets would be sort of clogged with people walking around, enjoying the day. And that's not the case. You know, if you go to Revolution Square, which is sort of the heart of revolutionary Havana, what you see is a lot of tourists, very few people and a lot of security. What we've seen after this announcement is that really people are sort of keeping to themselves. There is a lot of security on the street. People are adopting a wait-and-see attitude. There is, you know, a little bit of trepidation about what the future may hold.

SINGH: We understand one of the major dissident groups in Cuba called off its weekly protest against the government today. Tell us more about that.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So the dissident group is called the Ladies in White. They protest every Sunday next to a church. These are wives and mothers of dissidents who do a peaceful protest to try and get more democratic freedom in Cuba. And it often is a sort of lightning rod for other pro-government groups to come and attack them. It often erupts in violence. And this time, because of what has just happened, the Ladies in White said that they were not going to protest because they did not want to provoke, as they said, the government. This is a very tense moment. There's a lot of security, as I mentioned, on the streets. And they are afraid, as are many dissidents, for an overreaction by the security forces in this very tense period.

SINGH: Lulu, what have Cubans been telling you today about how they feel about the death of their former leader?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's interesting. I mean, obviously people are going to be feeling a lot of different things. It depends on their generation. It depends on how they feel about the revolution, if they have relatives abroad, if they've been abroad themselves. And so there's a lot of mixed emotions. One of the things that keeps on coming up, though, is people are saying, well, you know, Fidel wasn't really a presence in our lives in the same way that he had been, and so we feel like this is sort of anticlimactic in some sense.

And they're really wondering about the future. They're really wondering about what President-elect Donald Trump will be doing. There's been a lot of discussion here, surprisingly, with me about his plans for the island. Not so much about Fidel Castro and his legacy.

SINGH: NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro in Havana. Lulu, thank you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.