Thousands of jubilant Venezuelans took the streets of Miami to celebrate their president's demise, and to express their hopes for the country's future.
In the city's western suburb of Doral, almost 20% of the population is from Venezuela, and many are strong opponents of Chávez. Large groups flocked to the two El Arepazo restaurants, traditional gathering spots for the expatriates, to wave national flags and sing the national anthem.
In other Venezuelan enclaves in south Florida, home to tens of thousands who fled the Chávez regime, the mood was equally buoyant.
"An era has passed, that's for sure," Patricia Pesti, a travel company owner who moved to Florida from Caracas a year ago, told the Guardian. She was among the hundreds watching live coverage of the developments on television at El Arepazo in Weston.
"Nobody is celebrating a death, no-one is happy about that, but people are joyous. People are hoping for a new and better Venezuela. Hope is the best thing you can have in a life."
Yet Pesti, who still has a daughter and grandson in Venezuela, does not believe there will be any sudden changes in her homeland.
"Nothing will happen immediately, and it will be difficult," she said. "Social change takes a long time, nothing is black and white, and Chávism will not die. Half of the country is with the Chávez movement and in their eyes he was the saviour of the world, all these people are in mourning for their leader.
"The image of Chávez will continue for a long time. It is a divided country that was not like this in the past. It's half and half: there is a lot of hatred, and that is not the best way to go forward."
With car horns blaring on the streets outside, Luigi Boria, Florida's first Venezuelan-born elected mayor, told reporters inside Doral's El Arepazo 2 that Chávez's death was "a historic moment".
"I know big changes will come to Venezuela. Now we need to have a peaceful transition," he said.
According to the 2010 census, almost 50,000 expatriate Venezuelans now live in Miami-Dade county, and an estimated 8,000 businesses in Doral and surrounding areas are Venezuelan-owned, making a sizeable contribution to Miami's strengthening post-recession recovery.
A significant number of more affluent Venezuelan expatriates took advantage of the depressed property market to move to Key Biscayne, a condominium-rich island linked to mainland Miami by a causeway.
Antonio Braschi, owner of the Costa Med restaurant, said celebrations there were more tempered than elsewhere, and that a mood of cautious optimism was prevalent.
"Sure, a lot of people will have opened a bottle of whatever," he said. "Am I happy? I was brought up as a Roman Catholic and we don't celebrate someone's death. But he did a lot of bad."
"When you have a person of charisma and it's not used for good, it's a big waste of a life, a big waste of time. If you have these immense resources you use them to make your country a prosperous one. I consider all this a huge fiasco. H could have done a lot of good, but chose to do different."
Brashci, 53, said he moved to Miami six years ago after becoming disillusioned with life in Venezuela.
"I just got fed up with all the marches, all the rumours – Chávez is going to do this or do that. Back in the seventies and eighties, Venezuela was a prosperous and happy nation, a fun place to be," he said.
"I hope this is the beginning of a new Venezuela but I think there's a big question mark ahead. Chávez was only the leader of a bunch, and that bunch are still there, you don't know how they will react. Everybody is happy and relieved, but at the same time sceptical of what will happen."
Nayana Nava, the Miami Beach organiser of the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica opposition group, said her fellow activists were already planning a large campaign to encourage expatriate Venezuelans to vote in the presidential election that must now take place within 30 days.
In last October's election, the group organised bus transport to New Orleans for hundreds of the 20,000 registered voters denied the opportunity to cast their ballot locally when the country closed its consulate in Miami after a spat with the US government over the expulsion of its consul general.
Nava said that Chávez's death was a new dawn. "Everyone is calling me as if it were my birthday," she told the Miami Herald. "Thank God. Finally. We're free."
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