Bay of Pigs Vets Fight for Home

Betrayed by the U.S. government and their own country, they want to be remembered.

Robert Chisholm, a Cuban-American who heads the architecture firm designing the project, then unveiled a model of the hoped-for Bay of Pigs Museum. It will include a full research library, a 300-seat theater, and a Cuban restaurant. Near the main entrance, a granite memorial wall will point toward the latitude and longitude of the Bay of Pigs. Other features include splashes of colonial architecture, as well as six columns in the roof structure to represent Cuba's six original provinces.

Eduardo, now an active 72-year-old with a white mustache and wire-rim glasses, believes the planned museum is still needed to mend open wounds among the exiles. "The thing that I'm proudest of participating in is the Bay of Pigs invasion," asserts Eduardo, a retired Spanish professor who now writes textbooks. "We need to preserve history, and the only way to do that is through a museum. History has been twisted so much in Cuba that the museum would be a way of setting things straight, a testimony."

For two decades he worked on a fictional book steeped in the facts of his time as a frogman, El Pez Volador, which was recently published by Ediciones Universal. A copy sits in the brigade's tiny library in the Bay of Pigs Museum's current cramped Little Havana quarters. "This book is the most important thing I've done in my life," he says.

Eduardo Zayas-Bazán spent more than two decades working on a fictional book based on his time as a frogman.
Andrzej Sobieski
Eduardo Zayas-Bazán spent more than two decades working on a fictional book based on his time as a frogman.
Blas Casares, a frogman, questioned President John F. Kennedy about why he pulled American support for the 1,400 exile fighters.
Andrzej Sobieski
Blas Casares, a frogman, questioned President John F. Kennedy about why he pulled American support for the 1,400 exile fighters.

It's still unclear whether the museum will be built. Miami-Dade commissioners praised the project when they unanimously decided to study it in early September. Seven of them, as well as the county mayor, were either born in Cuba or are of Cuban descent. Commissioner Javier Souto, a brigade veteran, recused himself. "I know it'll be a beautiful thing,'' Commissioner Natacha Seijas said at the time.

William Muir Celorio, a 63-year-old brigade member who is the current museum's executive director, says he hopes to receive news from the county this month. "We all have grandkids and we want them to understand that if they don't protect their country, something terrible could happen," he says.

Adds Juan Blanco, a 70-year-old veteran who barked Brigade 2506 to attention for the last time at the Orange Bowl: "It's something to show the world and the youngsters that we tried to make Cuba free. It will be a place to be proud of. It will be everybody's house."


WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Eduardo Zayas-Bazán chaired the foreign language department at East Tennessee University from 1973 to 1993 and returned to Miami in 1999. He and Elena divorced in 1982. He married his wife, Lourdes, in January 2003.

Blas Casares became a Navy SEAL and retired a lieutenant. He later headed a company that built luxury yachts.

Amado Cantillo, who participated in dozens of CIA missions to Cuba after the Bay of Pigs, flies a helicopter for the county's public works and is president of the Cuban Pilots Association.

Jorge Silva lives in Ocala. His cousin, Felipe Silva, moved to Caracas in the Seventies. And Chiqui Llama resides in Puerto Rico.

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