HAVANA – A crowded Revolution Square bore witness to endless speeches on Fidel Castro, with farewell messages from leaders across the world serving as the last echo of the Cuban Revolution commander in the capital.
Thousands of people flooded the streets, some calm while others were in tears, holding flags and placards to pay their final respects to Castro.
The soft murmur before the ceremony turned into reverent silence as Fidel’s brother and President Raul Castro arrived with solemn bearing and in military uniform, and he was soon received with strong applause.
The same applause was heard once again nearly four hours later, after 18 speeches, when Raul went up to the podium to pay his final respects to his deceased brother.
Leaders and friends of Fidel, such as Ecuador’s Rafael Correa, Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, remembered the commander and his fight for equality, his defense of the oppressed and freeing of the people.
The attendees, many of them being tired and lying on the ground, were back on their feet again to listen to their president.
“His vibrant words resonate today in this square,” said Castro before recalling some of the historic events that took place in this iconic location in Havana, including key moments of the Cuban Revolution.
“Fidel devoted his entire life to solidarity, led a socialist revolution of the humble, by the humble and for the humble, became a symbol of the anti-colonial, anti-apartheid, anti-imperialist struggle, for emancipation and dignity of people,” the president said.
“I could not miss it. I owe a lot to Fidel and the Revolution. I started working selling newspapers but managed to graduate in accounting,” said Rufino, 80, who spent the four hours of the ceremony alternatively resting on his crutch and his folding chair.
Amanda, 16, representing the younger generations, recalled how she burst into tears when her mother told her on Nov. 25 of Fidel’s demise.
“It’s a matter of pride to be here to say goodbye to the commander, who is like a father for all Cubans,” said the high school student, who was planning to spend the night at the Square until Wednesday at 7am, when Fidel’s ashes will be taken from Havana to Santiago de Cuba.
Tuesday’s event concludes two days of tributes to Fidel Castro at the Jose Marti Memorial in Revolution Square, where hundreds of thousands of Cubans queued up between Monday and Tuesday to bid their last goodbye to the former president.