The bigger problem is that CCEM operates on banker's hours, so the type of folks depicted in the exhibit, some of whom might even work as housekeepers or servers in nearby hotels and restaurants, will likely never see the show. That's a crying shame.

A few blocks south at the Freedom Tower, photography is also the focus of a summer exhibit organized by the Miami Dade College Art Gallery System."Embedded: A Photojournalist Captures Conflict and Resistance" opens May 24 with a reception from 7 to 9 p.m. and features more than 60 pictures taken during the height of the Cold War era.

The photos were snapped by Jim Nickless over nine months in the early '60s. Nickless, a native of Silver City, New Mexico, had been operating a photography business in El Paso, Texas, before moving to Miami and finding himself in the thick of anti-Castro intrigue following the Bay of Pigs fiasco.

Anti-Castro Cuban patriots in the '60s.
Jim Nickless
Anti-Castro Cuban patriots in the '60s.

Location Info

Map

Centro Cultural Espanol

1490 Biscayne Blvd.
Miami, FL 33132

Category: Community Venues

Region: Coral Gables/South Miami

Freedom Tower

600 Biscayne Blvd.
Miami, FL 33132

Category: Art Galleries

Region: Downtown/Overtown

Details

"La Bestia: Photography by Isabel Muñoz": Through August 30 at Centro Cultural Español Miami, 1490 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-448-9677; ccemiami.org. Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"Embedded: A Photojournalist Captures Conflict and Resistance": Through August 11. Opening Reception May 24 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Freedom Tower, 600 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-237-7700; mdc.edu/ags. Tuesday through Saturday noon to 5 p.m.

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Nickless, a freelance cameraman for NBC News at the time, was working with a group of Cuban patriots attempting to overthrow Fidel Castro. "It was back in February of 1964," he explains." I flew to Costa Rica to meet with the exile group, which was called MRR (Movement of Revolutionary Recovery), and later accompanied them during five clandestine missions into Cuba."

Funded by the CIA, the freedom fighters were headed by Manuel Artime and operated from a 180-foot mother ship with two 50-foot attack boats and training camps in Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

At the Freedom Tower, where countless thousands of Cuban exiles were processed after arriving on freedom flights from the island, the images reflect the determined spirit of many of the fighters, who never gave up the hope of liberating their homeland.

For example, pictures portray Bay of Pigs veterans preparing an assault on Cuba by loading ammunition into 50-caliber machine guns on a Swift Boat. Other images depict a dozen men aboard one of the Swift Boats as they depart the mother ship for a mission.

"A lot of that equipment was new and had never been used by the U.S. Army before, and it was sort of like a testing ground for what was soon to happen in Vietnam," Nickless observes. "My last mission with the group came in February of 1965, when we tried to recover some infiltrators from a small harbor in Pinar del Río. But it turned out to be a trap by the Cuban military, who were lying in an ambush for us. We ended up having to travel the 720 miles to Nicaragua for fear their air force would bomb the mother ship if we led them there."

He says that following President John F. Kennedy's assassination, covert funds for the clandestine operations ended.

"Much later, around 1974, I interviewed Manuel Artime for NBC. I remember him telling me that 'when they killed Kennedy, they killed us.' Artime died of cancer in 1978," Nickless says.

The exhibit was organized and curated by Nickless's children, Lea and Chris, who wanted to share their father's legacy with the public.

"The word embedded wasn't part of our vocabulary back then," Nickless mentions. "But that's what the experience was for me. I didn't seek special treatment in the training camps and would sleep on the same army cots as the resistance fighters, get up and have breakfast, and do calisthenics with them before taking my photos. You can say I learned more about Cuban food than I wanted to."

It's a historical moment of enduring impact for many South Floridians whose scars from that period have yet to heal.

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