Local Reaction to Fidel Castro Resigning
By Dan Breitwieser, WCJB TV 20 News.
After nearly a half-century of rule, Fidel Castro is stepping aside as the leader of Cuba. But people with connections to Cuba aren't necessarily ready to celebrate. 50 years of Castro in control has meant that many have stayed away from their homeland a half-century.
The voice and the face of Cuba is no longer the man in charge of the country. Fidel castro took control of the country's through a revolution in 1959. But one Gainesville resident, Jose Ignacio Garcia-Bengochea, knew him long before he grew his trademark beard.
Garcia-Bengochea graduated in 1945 from the Colegio de Belen with Fidel Castro. He remembers Castro as a standout sports star, who ended many basketball games sitting on the bench having fouled out of the game.
"He had a lot of charisma,says Garcia-Bengochea. "But he was ruthless, and he still is."
Garcia-Bengochea says castro had a fantastic memory. One time studying for a Civics final, Castro was reading through the textbook, tearing out each page after he read it, saying he knew it all. And he did.
"He recited the whole thing," remembers Garcia-Bengochea. "And he just read it one time, but in Mathematics and Physics he was not very good."
"My father went from being an orthopedic surgeon to being a window repair guy," says Fernando Fernandez-Miro still tears up--fifty years after his family left Cuba to escape certain death at the hands of Castro. His grandfather had been the personal lawyer and friend to the previous dictator, Fulgencio Batista. Fernando was seven years old.
He keeps reminders of Cuba around the house, including a certificate stating he completed first grade at the same Colegio de Belen where Castro graduated from and also a letter sent to his family received from Batista when his grandfather died in 1964.
Despite thoughts that Raul Castro will be more reserved and open to changes, Fernandez says not until Fidel is dead will he quit pulling the strings from behind the scene.
"It would be wrong to pray from somebody's demise," says Fernandez. "But this guy has really ruined this island, has ruined the people."
Fernandez is open to going back some day, if things ever get a lot better--maybe even retiring in the place of his birth.
Garcia-Bengochea left voluntarily in 1959, knowing that once his classmate came to power, it would be an uncertain economic future. In 49 years, he hasn't been back, nor does he want to.
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