The Bay of Pigs

February 19
Dateline: Playa Giron

To the socialists of Cuba, the swampy fields of the Bay of Pigs are their Bunker Hill, their Valley Forge, their Yorktown. The Battala de Giron is the site where the bravery and blood of martyrs secured the threatened freedom of the Cuban people from the invasion of dissidents backed by the Yankee imperialists of America.

At Playa Giron, there is a museum, rather small and simple by American standards. Here, you can see the story of the men, and the women (for as a propaganda poster proclaims in Spanish “Women you are not discriminated against here; you can fight for your freedom’) who made up the Cuban force which repelled the ill-planned, under-equipped invasion launched from the shores of the United States.

You can see the canteens they carried; the toothbrushes and toothpaste they used. You can see the soiled caps they wore and the weapons and bullets they fired. Outside, a single plane stands as sentry. Inside, you can learn the story of the young Edward Garcia Delgado, who according to Cuban lore wrote a message in his blood about his undying faith in the victory of the Revolution, a message he composed just minutes before dying, “a victim of Imperialism and Yankee shrapnel.”

One of the most visited artifacts in the museum is the pair of small white shoes which hang above the poem “Elegía de los Zapaticos Blancos” (Elegy to the Little White Shoes) by Indio Naborí. In the poem, Nemesia, a young charcoal maker, talks about watching her mother die and her grandmother and two brothers become wounded by anti-Socialist forces. She was unharmed, but her white shoes were marred forever by bullet holes.

Many Cubans view the Bay of Pigs as a monumental moment in Cuban history. That belief was encapsulated in a 2011 speech delivered by Fidel Castro’s brother, Raul. 

“The historic importance to the destiny of the Revolution of the crushing defeat of the mercenary invasion of the Bay of Pigs escapes none of us,” Raul said. “It was achieved as a result of the firm, ceaseless, and decisive action of our combatants, who under the direct command of Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro, who remained on the battlefield the entire time, where they destroyed in less than 72 hours, the intention of the United States government to create a beach head in a remote corner of the homeland, to which they would later move from a military base in Florida, a puppet government which would request of the Organization of American States (OAS), the sadly infamous OAS, a military intervention by U.S. forces, located in very close waters, accompanying a mercenary contingent after its departure from Central American shores.”

“This is an appropriate moment to repeat the words of Fidel on the 15th anniversary in 1976 of the April 19th victory, when he said, “After Girón, all the peoples of the Americas were a little freer,'” Raul concluded.

To Follow Our Cuban Trip in Chronological Order