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Fidel Castro's Death

Behind Anti-Castro Celebrations, ‘A Sense of Sadness’

Florida residents and journalists had been preparing for the passing of Cuban leader Fidel Castro for years – but when he finally died on Friday, some, including Jackie Nespral, news anchor at NBC’s affiliate in Miami, said it felt “anti-climactic.”

Nespral, a Cuban-American, Emmy award-winning anchor at NBC’s affiliate in Miami, talked to Chuck Todd in the latest edition of 1947: The Meet the Press Podcast. “Had this happened 10 years ago right before the transition of power between Fidel and his brother Raul, it would have been a completely different story to cover than what happened six days ago,”

Reporters had pages and pages of instructional documents for how to cover what was anticipated to be one of the biggest breaking news stories for the region in decades. That preparation wasn’t necessary because Castro’s death didn’t generate political upheaval as many predicted – but it did spawn a series of celebrations by Cuban-Americans in the “Little Havana” district of Miami, Florida.

“Many people who have never even been to Cuba – they just went out,” Nespral says. "A lot of the younger generations were there really celebrating and finding that connection to their roots.”

Nespral was born in Miami but both of her parents were originally from Cuba, and in a reflection on Castro's death, she wrote, “There is a sense of sadness behind all our joy today, thinking of those who are not physically present to witness this historic day.” She continued, "I believe as loud and festive as the celebrations are on the streets of Miami, the one above is louder still.”

Writing about her father, Nespral says, “He had to leave everything…to come to this country and start from nothing” with a new language and culture.

Some political and cultural critics highlight some of Castro’s positive contributions: higher rates of education and strong medical care among them. But Nespral is not eager to let the harm Castro inflicted on Cuban citizens fall by the wayside.

“At what price? At what price when you have thousands of people killed in firing squads, and thousands of families that were separated?” she says. “I think that objectively speaking he did a lot of harm. So much pain and suffering to the Cuban people that I cannot see him in a positive light at all.”