The crowd that awaited Fidel Castro on the morning of January 6, 1959 in and around Serafín Sánchez Park, endured hours standing outside, of false reports, cold and rain, but never experienced the angst and pain of those who gathered there, in the same place, on December 1, 2016, to bid a final farewell to the eternal guerilla, who on the evening of that January 6 scaled the stairs of the old El Progreso Library, and speaking before a microphone positioned on one of its balconies, won the hearts all present.
There Fidel praised the efforts of fighters from the region, describing the feats of Comandante Félix Duque, who fought by his side in the Sierra Maestra. He also recalled the missions of his head chiefs, and warned residents of Sancti Spíritus that the Revolution is a project that would take more than one, two, or even three days.
This is perhaps why the Caravan of Liberty took a short detour along Sancti Spíritus’ central Avenida de los Mártires, in the heart of the city, passing by the symbolic park where a grateful multitude attempted to return those generous words of praise.
“It’s like a wound that won’t close,” stated Oscar Alonso Cabrera, from the Abel Santamaría 17th Column, choking back tears. He described the instant as a rare privilege: to live, together with the people of Sancti Spíritus, the happiest and saddest moment.
This sentiment was shared by Alcibíades Aguilar Rondón, a campesino from Mayarí Arriba, who also accompanied the Caravan of Liberty during those glorious days, arriving in Havana in January 1959 and later settling in Sancti Spíritus, where he started a family and continues to work at 77 years of age. “A lot of people came out that night, but I’ve never seen anything like this farewell.”
In attendance, together with Oscar and Alcibíades, were the senior leaders of the province, headed by José Ramón Monteagudo Ruiz, a member of the Party Central Committee and first party secretary in Sancti Spíritus, combatants from all fronts that fought in the Escambray, elementary school children, workers, students, intellectuals and campesinos, all tightly packed around the square and beyond.
”I came because I’m a Fidelista to the end,” stated Baptists pastor Miguel Ángel Entenza, speaking to the press, who described the Comandante as “a universal man, whose legacy will continue to live on in the new generations who he himself helped to shape.”
The mass of people that came out to bid farewell to the leader of the Revolution extended for 71 kilometers across the municipalities of Cabaiguán, Sancti Spíritus and Jatibonico; along the Central Highway from Ojo de Agua, on the outskirts of Villa Clara, to Trilladeras, which borders Ciego de Ávila.
CIEGO DE ÁVILA
A stunning demonstration of love for Fidel, who made his way toward immortality this December 1, was seen as over 160,000 residents of the province came out to pay their respects to the Comandante en Jefe who continues to gather people together.
Residents lined the Central Highway to salute the funeral procession as is made its way eastward.
For the communities of this territory the Comandante’s passing does not represent a farewell, but rather a ¡Hasta siempre, Comandante!