Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Fidel Castro's Ashes Begin 4-Day Journey Across Cuba


Fidel Castro's death has provoked mixed emotions in Cuba. For the people who battled his communist rule, it's a moment they've waited for a long time. And we'll hear some of those voices in just a moment. But for much of the nation, it's been a week of tributes and outpouring of grief for a man whose single rule dominated the island for nearly half a century.

Castro's ashes today began a four-day journey across Cuba. NPR's Carrie Kahn is following the route being taken by the funeral procession and joins us now. And Carrie, first, who's in this funeral procession? Describe what's going on.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: It's a very small convoy. It's about five or six army military vehicles. The lead car is a 1980s Russian Jeep that's pulling a trailer that has a bed of white flowers on top of it. And on top of that is a glass-encased box with - inside is a large-size cedar box that has Castro's ashes in it, and it's draped with a small Cuban flag.

And that has been traveling this route in reverse that Castro made in 1959 when he overthrew the U.S.-backed dictator Batista here and came from the Sierra Maestra mountains all the way west to Havana.

CORNISH: So describe who's coming out and how they're reacting.

KAHN: I stopped at a couple of the stops along the way and in their small towns, but I was surprised. There wasn't really people from those towns there at the place I stopped. They were being bussed in from other areas. And I think part of that is because they're closing the roads hours before the caravan goes by so people have to be in place.

And the people that are coming out and seeing Castro are the ardent supporters of the revolution, and so there's been outpouring of grief. You see people on the side of the road. They're crying. People are telling stories about what Fidel Castro means to them. This is the man that's dominated this island for nearly all their lives. And so you hear a lot of emotion and a lot of a lot of reminiscence about him and what he means and his legacy will mean for Cuba.

CORNISH: Now, what happens at the end of this journey?

KAHN: This is the way it's going to be for about three days. The caravan is actually making quite a fast clip. I was surprised. But it will slow down in towns along the way. We have three more days of this, and then it will arrive in Santiago de Cuba, which is the second-largest city in Cuba. And there, there will be a massive rally on Saturday night. And then on Sunday morning, early in the morning, there will be a private internment of his ashes in the family plot there.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Carrie Kahn in Cienfuegos, Cuba. Carrie, thank you.

KAHN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on