I despise politics and the conflicts that turn brother against brother. At the time of The Bay of Pigs invasion I was five days short of my 12th birthday. This event changed my life forever.

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School was suspended during this time. People who were known to be against Castro were arrested. There were not enough jails to contain them so prisons were improvised to house these “political” prisoners. Old Spanish forts which were mainly tourist attractions were used. In the city where I lived the stadium became a prison. My uncle (my aunt’s husband) and his brother were taken to a farm where chicken had been wiped out by disease and the vacated coops were used as dormitories.

The stadium was filled with both men and women prisoners. There, when one woman was having a miscarriage and a group of women encircled her to give her privacy and care, a militia man trying to break up the group fired a shot which hit a young woman in her thigh.

Prisoners were not provided with meals. Family and friends would bring them food and water in plastic containers which were inspected by the guards. Being off from school my brother and I would accompany my father to take care packages to my uncle and his brother. Not everything would get to the prisoners. We were lucky to have a good friend of the family in the militia who would make sure our packages would get to them.

I remember seeing tanks passing by in front of our house and damaging our street on their way to the Bay of Pigs. It was a frightening time.

I remember when I returned to school that some of our teachers had been imprisoned. It was a Catholic school owned by a family. Several members of the family taught in the school so we would refer to them as Señor and their first name.  One of them was Señor Luis. He walked into our classroom disheveled and unshaven. Some of the boys (pro-Castro) started giggling as he came in. Señor Luis gave an emotional speech. He indicated that the only reason he could have possibly been taken prisoner was because of his faith and for that he was willing to give his last drop of blood.

He was not my favorite teacher and I am inclined to think the feeling was mutual (I was constantly getting into trouble for talking). But that day unbeknown to him he became my hero.

I did get to see him again when I came from Cuba. He was teaching physical education at the Florida City camp of the Pedro Pan Program where I spent three months before relocating to Wisconsin.

Señor Luis, wherever you are, thanks for being such a great role model – You are in my prayers.

SchoolColegio Sagrado Corazón de Jesús – Matanzas

Up to this time my father had been a Castro supporter. As a doctor he was called to tend to a woman who was in a state of despair. Her 18 year old had been sentenced to 30 years in prison and her 16 year old was condemned to the firing squad. The woman wanted the life of her 16 year old to be spared. My father advised the family to let her go to government officials with her request. He was told that it was already too late, he had already been executed.

My father decided it was time for us to leave.

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