The bar was working overtime at Copacabana Cuban Cuisine on Saturday, muddling mojitos and stirring up Cuba Libres and their intrinsic promises.
"It's the beginning. It's the beginning of the end," said the restaurant's effusive owner, Gustavo Garcia, who was offering two-for-one cocktails all day and late into the night. "I'm very happy, and my people here are very happy."
The grand parenthesis that was Fidel Castro's 49-year rule over Cuba closed some years ago. But Friday's announcement that the dictator was dead offered a kind of finality that local Cuban exiles have long dreamed about. It also offered a touchstone moment by which to measure their lives.
For school custodian Lazaro Camacho, the news sent him back to the six years he endured in one of Cuba's more notorious prisons, Kilo 7 in Camaguey. During his time there, 40 prisoners died in a revolt. Camacho was sent there at age 19 for simply trying to leave the island.
"Only in Cuba. In any normal country, or democratic country, it's not a crime to leave," said Camacho, who described the prison as a "terrible concentration camp." And while he is not one to cheer anyone's passing, he believes Castro's death merits demonstrations of joy. "He was a cruel dictator who ruined too many lives."
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