The Bay of Orangeside Triggerfish

Anti-aircraft gun used at Bay of Pigs invasion
On a recent trip to Cuba I stopped at the Bay of Pigs Museum (Museo Girón). The name is an oddity. There are no pigs in the Bay of Pigs. What is in the bay is a fish called the Orangeside triggerfish. In Caribbean Spanish the word “cochino” is used for both. Inappropriate translation aside, The Bay of Pigs is much more descriptive a name than The Bay of Orangeside Triggerfish, especially if you are a loyal Cuban.

I was en route to the town of Cienfuegos when I stopped at the museum. Here the ill starred plot to put together a group of anti-Castro rebels, have them meet up with their Cuban counterparts, and bring down the Castro government with the same alacrity that Castro demonstrated in bringing down the Batista government is described in great detail. In retrospect the invasion seems like such a pipe dream. It makes you wonder what the CIA Special Group planners were smoking?

Airplane flown during Bay of Pigs invasion
When you read the history of the invasion and some of the Mickey Mouse deceptions that were employed—for example, removing the cowl of an airplane, shooting it full of bullet holes, replacing it and then having the pilot land in Florida after a phony Mayday call and pretending to be a Cuban defector—you have to scratch your head at the Keystone Kops mentality of the planners, especially since the results of the Bay of Pigs fiasco could not have been more effective in solidifying the Cuban people around Fidel. Here is one of the quotes in the museum that sums up the ethos of the time. It is from Fidel Castro immediately after the ignominious defeat, grammatical warts and all:

That is what they cannot forgive us: That we are there under their noses and that we have made a socialist revolution in their own noses of the United States. And that that socialist revolution we will defend it with those rifles! And that that social revolution we will defend it with the same value which our anti-aircraft gunners yesterday riddled to pieces the aggressors airplanes! Workers and farmers, men and humble women of the homeland, you swear to defend until the last drop of blood this Revolution of the humble ones, by the humble ones and for the humble ones.

Those are the moments that become bookmarks in the history of a country. I can’t help but notice the echo of the American Declaration of Independence—a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Castro certainly knew how to rub it in.

Guard at Museo Girón
I spoke with one of the guards at the museum. She was a chunky woman with short graying hair. She was sitting just inside the entrance. I asked her if she thought this museum was important. Her eyes lit up and she grasped my hand in between hers:  “Oh yes,” she said. “It is very important. After this, everything was better.”

I suspect that all this is going to be very soon buried in the annals of what used to be. Raoul Castro has already lifted all restrictions on Cubans wanting to leave the country for whatever reason. It went into effect while I was there, January 14, 2013. Nowadays visits to Cuba are about as easy to arrange as visits to Bhutan.

I could not help but notice that the inaugural poet, Richard Blanco, was born--well, conceived--in Cuba. (I’m surprised the newspapers haven’t picked up on that signal.) And just today (February 12, 2013) in the Boston Globe the editorial was entitled “Cuba’s reforms pave way for new US policy, too”

I certainly hope so. It has been long overdo.