by Raimundo Urrechaga
HAVANA, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) -- Hundreds of young Cubans spontaneously gathered on Saturday to pay homage to the former President and leader of the Cuban revolution Fidel Castro at his old alma mater in Havana.
Students converged on the steps of the University of Havana, carrying photos and posters of Fidel, and flowers for the beloved Comandante, who passed away late Friday at the age of 90.
"He was a tremendous man who led the Cuban Revolution and, obviously, someone very important to me personally. I have come here to participate and show my condolences, my respect," Luis Silva, a law student, told Xinhua.
Castro had ruled the country for 47 years until a serious illness forced him into retirement in 2006. His brother Raul Castro officially succeeded him in 2008.
Students signed a massive book of condolences at the School of Law, from which Castro graduated.
It was here that Castro first emerged as a political leader and, as he said 11 years ago at a mass rally at the site, it is where he became a revolutionary.
"His death has moved all the young people, because he left us in charge of continuing the revolution. He was a great leader and had great confidence in Cuba's youth," said Andy Diaz, a telecommunications major.
To some Cubans, Fidel Castro's death brought about uncertainty, but not to the youth gathered at the university.
"We are the future, guided by him. We will carry on the ideas of our Commander Fidel Castro. Cuba is moving forward with his ideals and policies, which have benefited millions in this country, and everyone in the world should know that," said Sergio Rivas, a 23-year-old law student.
Many of the students had tears in their eyes and were hugging each other in commiseration, while others placed flowers at the foot of a sculpture, a symbol of Cuba's leading center of higher learning.
"Fidel left everything prepared and ready, he did everything very well in our country throughout all those years he governed. The younger generations now have to assume our historical responsibility with the people and continue the commander's ideas," said Betsy Balmacia, an economics major.
While he was in power, Castro often visited the University of Havana and met with students. He would also call on them to contribute to social or economic undertakings, such as a campaign in 2006 to renovate old appliances in homes.
Official tributes to Castro will begin Monday at Havana's Jose Marti Revolution Square.
The Cuban government has declared nine days of national mourning through Dec. 4, when Castro's ashes will be placed at the Santa Ifigenia cemetery in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba.