HAVANA – Hundreds of thousands of Cubans have filed solemnly through a memorial to the late leader Fidel Castro.
They come from all walks of life — soldiers, doctors, students, government workers — many of their own accord, and many in groups organized by schools and their government employers.
Among those arriving to pay their respects, two emotions are common: sadness at the passing of a man who profoundly transformed Cuban society, and gratitude for opportunities for which they give him credit.
“I feel deep pain over Fidel’s death,” said Junior Cardozo, a 19-year-old soldier assigned to the Interior Ministry. “He is a very good man. We will never forget him.”
Cardozo came with colleagues who were also clad in olive-green uniforms. Other islanders arrived in their school uniforms or doctor’s smocks. Some clutched Cuban flags or signs with revolutionary slogans and portraits of Castro.
Mixed in with the throngs were a number of people from other countries. Jhoanna Jimenez, 30, graduated from Cuba’s Latin American School of Medical Sciences, a Castro initiative that trains doctors from around the world, many of them for free.
“I am sharing with the Cuban people all this pain. As a professional, I owe this country a lot,” Jimenez said, adding that in her native El Salvador, getting a university education is a near-impossible dream for poor people. “Here it is possible. That’s why I love Cuba and Fidel.”