Before I describe the museum at Playa Giron, I'd like to pause a moment to reflect on the U.S.
perspective of what happened. I'd like to, but I can't, because Internet access isn't common, fast, or
cheap here. I miss being able to verify and fact-find things before I write about them. So basically I
need to bluff my way through. Bear with me, or read the first section of Wikipedia because you can.
Also, if there's a heading titled “US Mistakes,” that would probably be worthwhile.
The Bay of Pigs was, quite simply, a failed attempt to invade Cuba. The U.S. trained Cuban exiles
(supporters of Batista who needed to flee during the revolution) to reconquer their homeland. They
were furnished with weapons. It was carefully planned out, but then a lot of cuts took out some of the
aircraft and artillery they needed to fight. The U.S. also assumed that Cubans were more discontent
with the government then they were. The U.S. did that a lot.
Now, back to the museum.
The first thing you see when you enter the museum is a newspaper collage to spell out the word
“Giron.” Underneath it, in smaller, less newspaper-y letters, “Fictoria del socialismo.” That basically
sets the tone of the museum.
The museum began with a description of what the area was like pre-revolution. The people were doing
pretty poorly. (The text was in Spanish, but there were sheets of paper with English translations on it.
The translations were sometimes grammatically accurate, but not always.)
It went on to a description of what it was like after the revolution. Literacy rates soured, and the land
was able to belong to the people who lived there.
Then it went on to the mechanics of the invasion. There were plans and maps, though I'm not quite sure
where they came from.
Then a description of US attempts to weaken Cuba pre-landing by destroying key defensive features
like the battleship La Coubre. Then onto the actual landing.
A little further on, they describe the international support Cuba received around the Bay of Pigs. Not
goods, just words of encouragement.
Finally, there a section devoted to all the people who fought their. It includes their names, faces, and
some of the belongings that were found and ended up in the museum. (Outside the museum is a wall
with the names of all those who died fighting for Cuba at Playa Giron. There are also markers at the
exact position each man fell.)
The very layout and pictures tell a story, even without words. Besides, there were a lot of words at the
museum. I only read bdcause we were rather leisurely making our way through, and I wanted to be
roughly at the same pace as everyone else.
“The armed town represented a hard blow to the Yankee imperialism and its domestic flunkies and it
confirmed the strength and irreversability of the revolutionary process.”
That was... interesting. I made note of it and kept walking on.
“Dozens of wounded and burned persons were the prize paid by our people for the cunning mercenary
bombing sponsored by Yankee administration.”
“The martyrs' example overcame the people''s grief.”
Or, probably my favorite: “The mercenaries brought in aircrafts, ships, and tanks to no avail against a
people determined to defend the revolution. The mercenaries were well armed. The people had was it
was needed: reason and moral standing.”
Throughout, the invaders were called “mercenaries.” The closest it came to admitting that they were
once Cubans and not cold-blooded murderers who only cared about cash was in describing the trials
after the people of Playa Giron won.'“The revolution demonstrated in a public trial the guilt and
miserable moral condition of the mercenaries. Fighters against the dictatorship of Batista testified
against the vile tortuorors who also came in the new trials The people condemned the crimes of
notorious murders who came to restore a system of dishonor. Their testimonies were similar, they'll
came deceived. Others were just cooks, or their missions were purely spiritual.”
The Cubans gave “humane treatment for defeated enemy who shot against the people.” A history book
might say that they shot some of the invaders, kept the rest in prison for 20 months, and then returned
them to the U.S. in exchange for supplies.
The differing perspective doesn't surprise me. I'd expect to see things like praiseworthy quotes from
Fidel Castro and stories like the man who, dying, wrote “Fidel” in his own blood. Their Cubans, Playa
Giron was a victory, and most of the contents of that museum makes sense. Their perspective makes
sense. The only thing that surprises me is how different from a U.S. museum the captions are.
I loved it. It was a fascinating museum because, for the first time, rather than just looking at the items
and pictures there, I was thinking more about how they all fit together. “Every museum tells a story,”
our professor told us. “What story is this one telling?”
Perhaps more importantly for general life experiences after, what stories do our subtler U.S. museums