On that day the whole family traveled to Havana.  That was something we did quite often.  But this was a special trip.  We were going to a studio to have our pictures taken for a family portrait.  There would also be a portrait of my mother with the four children for a feature in the society section of our local paper for Mother’s Day.  I don’t recall any details from when we left that morning, but my sister remembers seeing army trucks passing by our front door that morning.

We were all dressed up.  I used to wear some hideous orthopedic shoes, so for the occasion I borrowed my cousin Lourdes’ pretty white shoes.  Unfortunately they were one size too small so this was my first experience of suffering for the sake of fashion.  I thought I looked pretty darn good with my pink dress, permed hair and those pretty white shoes.

Little did I know that these pictures would haunt me for years to come.  I had just turned seven the week before the pictures were taken, but up to the time I left Cuba one month before my 13th birthday, one of these pictures would pop up in the social column of the newspaper any time there was a family event.

But back to April 29, 1956.  All went well at the photo studio then we visited my aunts and in the evening headed back to Matanzas unaware of what lay ahead.

That morning there was an assault on El Cuartel Goicuria, Batista’s army barracks in Matanzas.  When we returned to Matanzas that evening Batista’s army was everywhere and it took us a very long time to finally get home safely.

Cuartel Goicuria, Matanzas

The attackers were led by Reynold García García. They were betrayed and machine-gunned after they entered the barracks in sandbagged trucks.  From what I have read there is an ongoing debate about their affiliation, some say they belonged to Prio’s Partido Autentico, others that they were part of Fidel Castro’s revolution.  There is also the belief that they were just young people trying to overthrow the Batista regime with no particular affiliation.   Whatever their ties, it was bloody and it was horrible and 15 deaths were reported.

Because of this, I will never forget that day.  Exactly six years later, on April 29, 1962 my father passed away.

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