A Phone Call To Havana, After The Death Of Fidel Castro

Nov 30, 2016

The death of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro topped international headlines this week. What happens now to Cuba? We called our friend Alejandro Infantes, a tour guide in Havana, for a look at what’s going on there right now, and what the future might hold for his country.

Infantes said after the news broke, huge lines formed in Revolution Square, an enormous plaza in Havana where Castro famously delivered long speeches. Thousands of people waited to pay respects to two stations where Castro’s cremated remains were placed.

How strongly Castro’s death is felt is, to some degree, generational.

“Those folks who lived through the revolution – the early years, when they saw the government changing for the first time in history – those are the ones who are most affected,” Infantes said. “My parents lived through all those years, the 1960s, the 1970s…”

But some young people are taking the death hard, too. National television featured an appearance by Elian Gonzalez, now 22 years old.

He was a young boy in 1999 when his mother took him away from Cuba in a boat. She died during the crossing, but he made it to Miami, where relatives looked after him until a court ordered he be sent back to his father in Cuba. This week, Gonzalez was seen on TV proclaiming his gratitude to Castro.

Day-to-day life has changed for the next few days, during a period of national mourning. Alcohol sales are banned, for example. But Infantes says there will be longer lasting changes, too. How?

“That is the $1 million question right now,” he said. “It also depends on what’s going to happen in the U.S., after President-elect Trump takes office. He’s spoken already about setting back the clock and cutting off the Cuba deals. If I ask you right now, ‘What’s going to happen in America?’ No one knows.”

Infantes says he’s home with his family, and watching to see what will happen not just with his country, but with ours.

"Going Places" is 88.5's weekly exploration of travel. Matthew Brumley is the co-founder of Earthbound Expeditions, which provides small-group travel to clients including knkx. He's a frequent traveler to Cuba, and Alejandro Infantes often works for him as a local guide in Havana.