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My father died at the Bay of Pigs Invasion

Ceci Sanchez, as a toddler, with her father, Jose Ignacio Maciá, and mother, Cecile, in Cuba.
Ceci Sanchez, as a toddler, with her father, Jose Ignacio Maciá, and mother, Cecile, in Cuba.
Courtesy of Ceci Sanchez

This Easter Sunday is especially sad for me. My father died this weekend 53 years ago at the failed Bay of Pigs invasion.

My dad, Jose Ignacio Maciá, a father of four, was a handsome charmer, a lady’s man, a great sport fisherman as member of the Cuba Tuna Team, a medal-winning athlete, high-stakes card player, sugarcane rancher, nonpolitical 38-year-old man who on a January day in 1961 called me up at my Philadelphia boarding school to tell me that he had just left Cuba and would be joining the training camps to liberate our country.

As a 14-year-old, I just listened and promised to write every day to a P.O. box address he gave me. It is in those treasured letters that I find and finally accept the reason for him joining the brigade. It was his sense of duty and a feeling of guilt for having led a very “easy” life that made him join this effort to liberate Cuba.

After three short days of battle, between April 17-19, 1961, out of ammunition and realizing that promised support would not appear, their last communication from headquarters, which was my father’s assignment, was, “We will never abandon our country,” refusing to be evacuated.

They went into the swamps and were eventually apprehended. Together with 140-plus prisoners, my dad was stuffed into an unventilated metal truck previously used to carry refrigerated meat for the journey to Havana. By the time the truck, called a rastra in Cuba, arrived — nine men were dead inside. They had suffocated on this trip that took more than seven hours under the midday sun. My dad was one of them. The man who ordered this atrocity, Osmany Cienfuegos, is still alive in Cuba.

This crime will not be forgotten, and my dad is always present before my eyes. During all these years, I have tried to solicit information on my father’s last days from brigade members, but now realize that I should let the yearning rest.

Ceci Sanchez, Key Biscayne

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