HAVANA – Cubans are gathering Monday at the Jose Marti Monument in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution to bid farewell to Fidel Castro, whose ashes will be on view in the historic plaza for two days.
Hundreds of people started lining up hours before the plaza opened to the public at 9:00 a.m., hoping to pay tribute to the late Cuban leader in the venue where he delivered the majority of his long speeches.
As the plaza opened, soldiers in Havana and the eastern city of Santiago fired simultaneous 21-gun artillery salutes in honor of Castro, who died on Friday night at age 90.
The public can enter the Plaza of the Revolution at three different locations, with three identical memorials set up, although it is not clear which one contains the ashes.
Each memorial features a large photograph of Fidel wearing his traditional military fatigues and gazing toward the horizon.
Two wreaths, one from the Cuban Communist Party, or PCC, and another from the Cuban people, are laid out in the plaza, along with a display of the honors that Castro received during his lifetime.
An armed forces honor guard and representatives of the Council of State are standing at attention at each memorial.
Comptroller of the Republic Gladys Bejerano, Transportation Minister Adel Yzquierdo and Transportation Ministry Secretary Homero Acosta were the officials posted at the memorials when the plaza opened.
President Raul Castro, Fidel Castro’s widow, Dalia Soto del Valle, and other Castro family members have not yet made an appearance in the plaza.
Cubans walked past the memorials quietly, with some women throwing kisses toward Castro’s photo and others crying into handkerchiefs amid the sounds of shuffling feet and news photographers snapping away.
The ceremony in the plaza, held during the official nine-day national mourning period, marks the start of a week of events honoring Fidel Castro, whose ashes will be interred next Sunday at Santa Ifigenia cemetery in Santiago de Cuba, located about 970 kilometers (600 miles) east of Havana.