Havana – Thousands of Cubans started filling up Havana's Plaza de la Revolucion early Monday, when at 9 a.m. simultaneous 21-gun salutes kicked off two days of tribute to the late leader Fidel Castro.
The government did not say if the ashes of the 90-year-old former president would be on display inside the monument. Virtually all schools and government offices were closing during the homage to Castro, which will stretch for 13 hours on Monday and take place again on Tuesday, ending in a rally echoing those that Castro addressed on the plaza for most of his time in power.
The government said they would "render homage and sign a solemn oath to carry out the concept of revolution expressed by the revolutionary leader."
The "concept of revolution" is a section of a 2000 speech in which Castro calls Cubans to believe in "the profound conviction that no force in the world is capable of crushing the force of truth and ideas."
This marks the beginning of the funeral ceremonies which will last until Sunday, Dec. 4.
From Monday 9.00 am through Tuesday at noon, people will be able to go to the memorial located in the same square where Fidel Castro used to deliver countless speeches as the President of Cuba.
A massive farewell ceremony will also be held on Tuesday which will be joined by leaders and dignitaries from all around the world.
Among the few names confirmed so far is the king emeritus of Spain, Juan Carlos I.
The presidents of Cuba's allied countries are expected to attend the ceremony as well, such as Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro, Bolivia's Evo Morales, Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega, and Ecuador's Rafael Correa.
Also former presidents, who had maintained a close relation with the late leader are expected to be present at the funeral, such as the Brazilian Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva, the Argentine Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and the Uruguayan Pepe Mujica.
On Wednesday, Nov. 30, the ashes of Fidel Castro will make a trip around the island so that all Cubans can give him their last goodbye. The trip will take the reverse route of the "Caravan of Freedom", in which the rebels of the Sierra Maestra crossed the country from Santiago de Cuba when the Cuban Revolution triumphed in 1959.
The remains of the former commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Armed Forces will arrive in Santiago, the cradle of the Revolution, on Saturday, Dec. 3, when another massive act of homage to Fidel will take place in Antonio Maceo Square.
The burial ceremony of his ashes, which is expected to be attended by his family, will take place in the Santa Ifigenia Cemetery of Havana.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press and EFE.