KUSA - In both life and death, Fidel Castro loomed large over Cubans both on the island and in the U.S.
"My parents, grandparents, great-grandparents all emigrated from Cuba with the onset of the revolution in 1959,” said Kristina Maria Socarras Bigelow, owner of Cuba Cuba Café and Bar in Denver.
Her family ties to the anti-Castro movement run deep.
"My stepfather, who raised me, was in the Bay of Pigs, incarcerated two years,” she said. “Needless to say, our family members were not big fans of Fidel."
Fidel Castro's impending death was an ongoing rumor for decades in the Cuban exile community – but now that it's happened, what's next?
"I had a lot of flashbacks to the time I spend in Cuba. I was in Cuba three times,” said Dr. Robert Hazan, professor and chair of the political science department at Metro State University.
While Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother, remains the president of Cuba, he is 85 and also aging.
"There is a young leadership that has emerged with great respect for what was accomplished in the transition from Batista to Fidel Castro," Dr. Hazan said. "From Raul to the future, I think there will be a moment, perhaps, where we may experience some differences in economic relations, perhaps with the United States."
For Cuban Americans here, the idea of a new future for the island nation is something that seems more possible now than at any other time in nearly 60 years.
“Fidel's death almost means a new future for my people,” Socarras Bigelow said. “The exiles that came over and the people living on the island – I spend a lot of time in Cuba and they're ready for change. They've been ready for change for a very long time."
After Castro's death, the Cuban government declared nine days of mourning, leading up to his funeral this weekend.
Coincidentally, this is also the week a number of U.S. airlines will begin their commercial flights to Cuba, including Denver's own Frontier Airlines, which will fly to Havana from Miami starting on Thursday, Dec. 1.
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