This weekend, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the release from Cuban prisons of 1,113 Bay of Pigs POWs and their arrival at Homestead Air Force Base — and then an emotional reunion at Dinner Key Auditorium with their relatives in time for Nochebuena.
My mother, Berta Barreto de los Heros, a member of the Cuban Families Committee, played an important role in the personal negotiations with Fidel Castro to win the freedom of the brigadistas captured after the failed invasion in April 1961. The family group had been led by then famed lawyer and negotiator, James B. Donovan, who had recently won the release of Francis Gary Powers, the pilot of the U-2 American spy plane.
Five decades later, it is important to emphasize the efforts the families — wives, fathers and mothers like mine — played in winning the release of the brigadistas 20 months after their capture. My mother, who lived in Havana at the time, became involved because my late brother was among the captured fighters. She was instrumental in initiating negotiations with Castro and inviting the Miami committee members to meet with the new Cuban leader at her home on the island — with the promise that millions would be paid for the men.
Eventually, the same planes and ships carrying merchandise to Cuba returned to South Florida with 7,857 Cuban refugees.
My mother, who died in Miami in 1998 and at the time was writing a book about her experience, considered her efforts to free her son and the other brigadistas a proud moment in her life. I eventually finished the book, After the Bay of Pigs, and whenever possible, I spread the word about her brave work.
Pablo Pérez-Cisneros Barreto, Miami