More than 5,000 Cubans of different ages and callings — but guided by the same motivation – gathered Tuesday to commemorate the first defeat of US imperialism in Latin America: the April 19, 1961 routing at the Bay of Pigs.
In an act of historic and patriotic sentiments at Havana’s Karl Marx theater, Cuban President Fidel Castro began a special address to the nation in which he paid tribute to those absent, explaining "because here there could be tens of thousands of people, because there were tens of thousands of people who took part in the battles waged against the mercenary invasion at the Bay of Pigs."
The Cuban head of state said, "Here, tonight, we have a represented the tens of thousands of Cubans who participated in the fight against the insurgents, representatives of the hundreds of thousands who took part in internationalist missions, in the literacy campaign, and in sugar cane harvesting drives when there were no harvesters and all the cutting had to be done by hand."
He made reference to the millions of militiamen and women who remained at their posts despite threats of invasion; calling them representatives of the people, who — like a single fist — mobilized during the Missile Crisis; also pointing to the representatives of tens of thousands who took part in programs aimed at spreading education across the island, something which was the basis for current educational level that the island has reached today.
In the emotion-filled commemoration, the Cuban leader also spoke about the representatives of millions of workers and peasants who have been loyal to the Cuban Revolution and to exploited classes, and of the generation of students who have been firm allies of the Revolution, those who today make up an enormous army of university-educated professionals.
He greeted women’s representatives who have fought for equality in society, and representatives of civic organizations such as the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, who have collectively served as a powerful force against imperial destabilization plans and conspiracies.
"On hand here at the Karl Marx theater are young people and those who were children at the time of the triumph of the Revolution in 1959; there are those who were not born then but who today fill the island’s schools and universities. Present are the writers and artists and other intellectuals who have loyally served since those initial days," the Cuban leader stressed.
In his reflections, Fidel Castro recalled that the Bay of Pigs was not the first victory, but it was the earliest staged by a revolutionary people, and it was the jost outstanding defeat of imperialism in the Americas.
"Others ensued, like the tremendously perilous October 1962 Missile Crisis. Though that was not a combat action like the one witnessed at the Bay of Pigs, it was a yet another triumph of firmness and dignity. It demonstrated the courage of a people who did not hesitate for a single moment to risk absolutely everything, a people who did not cave in, become frightened, or panic when being threatened by a shower of nuclear weapons," he emphasized.
"I don’t recall having seen one frightened comrade, or anyone hesitating. I do remember having seen indignant faces when some concessions were made that we considered humiliating. Today, with the vantage of historic distance, those concessions may have been unnecessary," he added.
He then said that the course of history would have changed at that moment Cuba’s five demands had been met, among those being the lifting of the blockade, the ceasing of all subversive and terrorist attacks, and the releasing to Cuban sovereignty that portion of national territory in Guantanamo, the location of the US naval base receiving increasing international notoriety.
"The blockade has remained in force for more than 43 years and we have continued to suffer from terrorist attacks," Fidel Castro pointed out.
He then added that there have been more deaths in the fight against counter-revolutionary insurgents than there were in the guerilla struggle against the Batista dictatorship.
He went on to mention attacks on embassies; the sabotage of Cuban airplanes such as the mid-air bombing of a Cubana passenger plane with 73 people onboard, bombings of hotels and recreation centers that resulted in injuries and deaths of nationals and foreigners, biological attacks that affected plants and animals, and germ warfare involving strains of viruses never present in any other country on the earth — and which claimed the lives of over 150 people, two thirds of them children.
"Those who were born after the triumph of 1959," said Fidel, "had the opportunity of witnessing some of those events, many others were born in later and others in the 90’s, when the crumbling of socialism in Eastern Europe took place."
He then mentioned the new difficulties the Cuban people had to brave over those years, noting that thanks to the correct actions made, the Cuban people were able to endure trials that no other country in the hemisphere or on the planet has ever experienced. He added, "We have remained here on this side of the ocean, in this so-called Western Hemisphere which is at the feet of and under total control of the Empire — a force which is now the world’s only superpower."
He then argued that Viet Nam did not rest at the feet of imperialism; that nation was Cuba’s loyal friend during harsh years – as was China, which discretely gave us valuable assistance. The Cuban leader also noted that the island’s people have cherished the friendship of other peoples of the world and progressive forces in the United States, citing the example of solidarity activist Reverend Lucius Walker, the executive director of the Pastors for Peace organization.