A funeral cortege carrying the ashes of Fidel Castro out of Havana left Wednesday on a three-day journey to his final resting place in the east of the island where the former president launched the Cuban Revolution six decades ago.
Castro died on Friday at the age of 90, after ruling Cuba with a mix of charisma and iron will for 59 years. He had stepped down a decade ago and ceded power to his brother, current Cuban President Raul Castro, due to poor health.
The remains will rest overnight in the city of Santa Clara at the mausoleum of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the Argentine revolutionary who fought with the Castro brothers and died in Bolivia in 1967.
Cubans on the roadside chanted “Fidel!” and waved Cuban flags, displaying nationalist pride for a man who created a Communist state at the US doorstep and became a central figure in the Cold War.
The ashes will be interred on Sunday morning in Santiago de Cuba, where Castro launched his revolutionary movement in 1953 with an assault on the Moncada barracks.
The eastward journey reverses the path taken by Castro’s rebels upon the overthrow of US-backed strongman Fulgencio Batista. Castro spent a week traversing the island on the way to Havana, building his popularity by stopping in towns along the way.
On Tuesday night, thousands of Cubans gathered in Havana’s Revolution Square, many cheering “I am Fidel!,” for a four-hour service commemorating who they called “El Comandante” (The Commander).
Leaders of leftist allies from around the world delivered a series of speeches praising Castro for instituting free education and health care, and sending doctors overseas on missions of mercy.
No one mentioned how he jailed political opponents, sent them to work camps or, in the early days, had them shot by firing squad.
“The majority loved you with a passion. A minority hated you. But nobody could ignore you,” said Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa.