Then-presidential candidate Fred Thomson visited the Bay of Pigs Museum in 2007.
Then-presidential candidate Fred Thomson visited the Bay of Pigs Museum in 2007.

Little Havana's Bay of Pigs Museum Sues Hialeah Gardens Copycat for Ripping Off Its Name

Update: The mayor of Hialeah Gardens says in a statement that the intent of its museum "was to honor and in no way was meant to offend any member of the 2506 Brigade," and that the city intends to work with the organization to reach a resolution. Read the full statement at the end of this post.

More than 30 years ago, the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association raised $86,000 to open a museum commemorating their failed, CIA-backed invasion of Cuba. Since then, the renovated house in Little Havana has hosted celebrities and presidents all the way up to Donald Trump, who stopped by the Brigade 2506 Museum and Library before the 2016 election and (in stumbling Spanish) thanked the vets for their endorsement.

But in recent years, association members sparred over whether to move the famed museum to a new building in Hialeah Gardens, which would be maintained by the city and funded in part by a state grant. The dispute was apparently never resolved. Instead, Little Havana has the Brigade 2506 Museum and Library, and Hialeah Gardens has the Assault Brigade 2506 Museum.

Now the battle of the Bay of Pigs museums is heading to court. The Bay of Pigs Veterans Association last week filed a federal lawsuit against Hialeah Gardens. The association claims the city ripped off its trademarked name — "Brigade 2506" — and seal. The complaint accuses the municipality of trying to mislead the public and capitalize on the "Brigade 2506" name.

"There's only one Brigade 2506 Museum," says attorney Leon Hirzel, who represents the veterans association. "And it's in Little Havana, and it's been there over 30 years."

Attorneys for Hialeah Gardens have not yet formally responded to the lawsuit, and city officials didn't immediately return New Times' call seeking comment. The museum, which houses one of the B-26 bombers used during training of the Cuban exiles, was scheduled to open this summer at 13501 NW 107th Ave., next to a new community garden.

The dispute over its location traces back at least four years. The now-elderly members of the brigade disagreed over how to preserve the museum so that it would continue after their deaths. Some leaders said the move to Hialeah Gardens would solve the problem, but other members wanted to protect the facility that has housed the museum in Little Havana, the spiritual center of the exile community, for more than three decades.

In 2014, author and Bay of Pigs veteran Frank de Varona led an effort to declare the Little Havana home a historic monument. He and other members worried the move to Hialeah Gardens would mean the original location would ultimately close or be sold, according to the Miami Herald, and thought the designation would open up ways to preserve the building.

The group members didn't object to the new location, but they worried it would not be as popular as the original and would be subject to the whims of Hialeah Gardens council members.

In the end, de Varona withdrew the application he had submitted to Miami's historic preservation office.

Two hundred association members gathered at the Hialeah Gardens location in 2016 to announce the new museum. But this year, the association's president, Johnny López, told the Herald that the new museum was created by "a small number of members of our association" and that it has "no relation or affiliation with our organization."

Hirzel says the similarly named Hialeah Gardens museum has caused confusion in the public. The issue can be easily resolved, he says, by renaming the new facility: Hialeah Gardens Freedom Fighters Museum or Bay of Pigs Cuban Freedom Fighters Museum, for instance. 

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