New Spanish-language docudrama features first-hand accounts from Cuban exile activists

Leyendas del exilio (Exile Legends) combines the testimonies of anti-Castro fighters with dramatizations. In the photo, the actor Fabian Brando us characterized as Ramón Saúl Sánchez.
Leyendas del exilio (Exile Legends) combines the testimonies of anti-Castro fighters with dramatizations. In the photo, the actor Fabian Brando us characterized as Ramón Saúl Sánchez. Courtesy

A group of Cuban exiles who spent their best years fighting Fidel Castro's regime are the heart of “Exile Legends,” an ambitious Spanish-language production that has begun airing on Sunday nights on America TeVe.

Through the 13 episodes of the Leyendas del exilio series, Cuban exile activists — Félix Ismael Rodríguez, José Basulto, Ramón Saúl Sánchez, Juan Manuel Salvat, Roberto Martín Pérez, Humberto Díaz Argüelles and Luis Posada Carriles — recall the more important moments of their fight, over 50 years both in Cuba and abroad, to topple Castro.

Also featured are Agapito Rivera, Eugenio Rolando Martínez, Alberto Hernández, Alberto Muller, Hiram González and Santiago Álvarez.

The series was the idea of Spanish producer Carlos Vasallo, CEO of America TeVe, and was directed by Lilo Vilaplana, a Cuba native who also worked on the Colombian series “El Capo”, among many others.

The series Leyendas del exilio was the idea of Carlos Vasallo CEO de América TeVé (right) and is directed by Lilo Vilaplana. Alexia Fodere For el Nuevo Herald

The series was filmed as a docudrama in Miami, New York and Bogota. Journalist Juan Manuel Cao narrated the stories.

The series is “a tribute to those who fought to end the long night of the Castro revolution, a historical debt of the (America TeVe) channel with all of the people who built this city,” Vasallo said.

One of the most emotional sections involves Martínez, “the famous 'musculito,' who was trying to topple Castro even as he became involved in the resignation of President Richard Nixon,” he added.

Vilaplana said the series also will help to educate others about the exiles' suffering as they fought to keep the Castro dictatorship from ruining their country.

“The series will jolt the generations that never knew the true story of the anti-Castro struggles,” Vilaplana said. “In fact, some young actors who participated learned that the official propaganda had manipulated many of the events.”

The series will touch on the executions, the long sentences, the forced transfer of hundreds of families from areas where residents supported anti-Castro guerrillas and the “truck of death” — where a group of prisoners from the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 died from heat and asphyxiation.

Vilaplana said the best dramatizations of events have Comandante Huber Matos writing his resignation letter to Castro in 1959 and Rodríguez talking to Ernesto “Che” Guevara just before the Argentine revolutionary was executed in Bolivia.

Vilaplana added that the exiles interviewed for the series ranged from known personalities like Basulto and Sánchez to others like Rivera, who “even though he spent 26 years in prison and lost 14 relatives in the fight still hopes to see a democratic Cuba.”

He added that he also wanted to know the story of Posada Carriles “because he's a person who has been used by the Castro regime as the point of a spear against the exile community.

“Not every day is there an opportunity to address the history of your country from the perspective of today and through a group that maintains its unconditional love for Cuba and the hope of seeing it flourish some day,” Vilaplana said.

Vasallo said that the next season of the series will feature Tomás Regalado, Carlos Alberto Montaner and Cary Roque, among others.

“The idea is to make a 50-chapter series that explains the Cuban exile community,” he said. “We will try later to distribute the programs abroad.”

Follow Arturo Arias-Polo on Twitter: @arturoariaspolo