Within half an hour of the Cuban government's official announcement that former President Fidel Castro had died, Miami's Little Havana teemed with life—and cheers. Thousands of people banged pots with spoons, waved Cuban flags in the air and whooped in jubilation early Saturday. Honking and strains of salsa music from car stereos echoed against stucco buildings, and fireworks lit up the humid night sky, the AP reports. Police blocked off streets leading to Cafe Versailles, the quintessential Cuban-American hotspot where strong cafecitos—sweetened espresso—were as common as harsh words about Castro. "Cuba si! Castro no!" they chanted, while others screamed "Cuba libre!"
Cubans fled the island to Miami, Tampa, New Jersey, and elsewhere after Castro took power in 1959. Some were loyalists of dictator Fulgencio Batista. Many others believed they would not be truly free under Castro's communist regime. The ones that made it to Miami—where Havana is closer both geographically and psychologically than Washington—took a largely, and vehemently, anti-Castro stance. The news of Castro's death was long anticipated by the exiles. Rumors have come and gone for decades, and Castro's death had become something of a joke—mostly because it seemed to happen so frequently. This time, though, it was real.