The Forgotten Brigadistas
Photo: El Nuevo Herald

McClatchey Newspapers’ Luisa Yanez on the Forgotten Brigadistas:

‘Forgotten’ Bay of Pigs invaders want their story told

MIAMI: Five decades ago, it seemed a fair trade. The United States gave Cuba $53 million worth of medicine and food in exchange for the release of Brigade 2506 fighters who languished in prison for 20 months following their capture in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion.

While front-page photos and headlines captured teary family reunions in Miami, following after their release on Christmas Eve 1962, nine brigadistas stayed locked up in Cuban cells.

The men call themselves the “Forgotten Brigadistas.” They fell off the radar because when they were captured, they kept their affiliation with the invading brigade hidden from Cuban authorities and were excluded from negotiations that won the release of the others.

But as the exile community commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion, the forgotten nine want their story told.

“We are all getting older and pretty soon there will not be any of us left to tell the story of what happened to us,” said Enrique Casuso Perez, 72, one of the nine. “Those who went through this experience should have their story included in the official history of the Bay of Pigs before it is totally forgotten.”

The other eight of the Forgotten Brigadistas are: Emilio Martinez, 75; Santiago Morales Diaz, 69; Eduardo Ojeda Camaraza, 85; Jorge Gutierrez Izaguirre, 75; Rafael Garcia Rubio, 74; Miguel Orozco Crespo, 74; Pedro Vera Ortiz, 77; and Manuel Reyes Garcia, who died last year at the age of 74.

Despite the historical omission of the roles they played, five of the nine interviewed say they have no regrets. They are glad they took part in the failed attempt to rid Cuba of Fidel Castro even as the experience took a heavy personal toll.

“For my country – I would do it all over again,” Martinez said, wiping away tears.

Continue reading about the Forgotten Brigadistas HERE.