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Cuba bids farewell to Fidel Castro, ruler for half-century

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Cubans read a newspaper in a street of Havana, on November 27, 2016, two days after Cuban leader Fidel Castro died.
Cuban revolutionary icon Fidel Castro died late November 25 in Havana, his brother, President Raul Castro, announced on national television. Castro's ashes will be buried in the historic southeastern city of Santiago on December 4 after a four-day procession through the country. / AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGE

Havana : A nine-story portrait of a young Fidel Castro has joined the towering images of fallen guerrillas overlooking Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution, the massive square where Cuba on Monday begins bidding farewell to the man who ruled the island for nearly half a century.

   After 10 years of leadership by Castro’s younger brother Raul, a relatively camera-shy and low-key successor, Cuba finds itself riveted once again by the words and images of the leader who dominated the lives of generations. “There’s a genuine feeling of mourning, that’s not a formality, that’s not showy, that’s not outward-focused, but rather completely intimate,” former National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon said on state television on Sunday. Ordinary people have largely been staying at home, off streets hushed by a prohibition on music and celebration during the nine days of official mourning for Castro. For some, particularly younger Cubans, Castro’s death barely registered.

 Yankemell Barrera, a 20-year-old student, said Castro wasn’t a strong presence in his life and that he wasn’t much affected by his death or planning to go to any of the memorial events. He said studying for finals would be a better use of his time. “Even if I’m obligated to go, I’m not doing it,” he said. Tens of thousands of others, though, were expected to return to the streets Monday after 9 am, when simultaneous 21-gun salutes will sound in the capital and in the eastern city of Santiago, where Castro launched his revolution in 1953.