Exclusive: The Legacy of Christians from the Bay of Pigs Fighters Persists in Present Cuban Protesters

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    Brigade 2506 is the formal name for the group which fought the Bay of Pigs on April 17th, 1961. Mostly due to the left-wing President John F. Kennedy lying to them about air support, failed the mission and were subjected to torture and imprisonment within Fidel Castro's Cuba. There is now a non-profit organization in America in the form of the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association and has an exhibit located in Miami, Florida, that transmits the history of the group to future generations of Cuban-Americans.

    The brigade's Christian roots – the slogan “God, Fatherland, and Liberty” and the active involvement by people from the Catholic clergy in the effort to free the island, are still relevant today as the Castro regime tries to control an incredibly powerful protest movement connected to Church leadership.

    On the 11th of July, 2021, 187,000 Cubans – although some suggest that the number was greater – marched in the streets of almost every municipality across the nation to demand the end of communism. There were many Christians, as well as clergymen, who suffered brutal beatings by Communist Party state security forces which, according to experts, is an increased attack on Christianity and other major Cuban religions, including the Yoruba Afro-Cuban religion, in an effort to control the political polarization.

    While the attention from American media has turned to Ukraine – – a cause that the Cuban exile community is enthusiastically supporting because of Russian president Vladimir Putin's support of the Castro regime, Cubans have not stopped protests, which are often conducted with the help of nuns, priests, and pastors.

    Ricardo Sanchez, who was 19 when he was a paratrooper,  in a conversation to Breitbart News spoke of Christian faith as a common theme in the brigade, who relied upon the priests in the group for “spiritual support.”

    “The slogan of the brigade is ‘God, Fatherland, and Liberty.' That was very present. We had with us, who disembarked with us – in my case, that I was a paratrooper, who jumped with us – in Cuba several priests. One paratrooper and, if I'm remembering correctly, three or four disembarked in Giron,” He explained in reference to the beach at Bay of Pigs that hosted the battle.

    One paratrooper has become an iconic hero for those in the Cuban exile community, Father Sergio Carrillo who, at 26 years old, was a member of the 2506 Brigade's paratroopers and spent two years in prison in Cuba because of his involvement. Carrillo later recalled the horrific cruelty on the part of his captors and in particular brutal treatment for prisoners of color such as him.

    Priests, as Sanchez stated to Breitbart News, were mainly present at the training camps prior to the war, “not doing military training, they were there to offer Mass and give spiritual support.” In addition to the clergy, many of the participants were members from the Catholic Student Association of the University of Havana, which included the leader of the political organization, Manuel Artime.

    Sanchez stated that he was not one of those who had the most faith when he joined the brigade. However, the experience he had within it made him as near to becoming a convert as a person who has been born Catholic might be.

    “I didn't convert because my family raised me [in Catholicism], but [I am] someone who discovered the value of religious principles there [in Bay of Pigs] through examples of people who I saw who were Christians and Catholic,” Sanchez stated to Breitbart News. “I am a Catholic, my father raised me a Catholic, but in the years that I was in Cuba I was in and out of the Church, in and out of Mass, there was no depth.”

    “I came to understand the value of religious principles, and the daily presence of religious principles – not just using it as a patch – I learned that there,” he explained while watching prisoners suffer immense sacrifices under communist regime and lead their lives in a Christian manner.

    “It goes far beyond going to church, it penetrates your personal life,” Sanchez stated, adding later, “I think there were many there that had that same experience.”

    Prior to Fidel Castro's transformation of Cuba into an oppressive atheist state, it was among the most Christian nations. The legendary poetry writer Jose Marti, embraced by both Cubans as well as the communist regime as the country's founder, was a fervent Christian, but was skeptical of the religious establishments. The Catholic Church was considered to be a key part of society, and was so for a long time, even in a state of disarray, throughout the years of the Castro family. Several popes visited Cuba and supported the Castros, while Christians remained in prison or suffered violent assaults.

    Fidel Castro seemed to grasp from the beginning the contagious power of Christianity to inspire people to fight against tyranny.

    “The struggle to defend Christianity from a regime that progressively revealed itself to be militantly atheist was a major inspiration for the Cuban Resistance,” Orlando Gutierrez-Boronat, who was the co-founder and spokesperson of the dissident group The Cuban Democratic Directorate (Directorio), said to Breitbart News. “Castroite Communism knew that to build a Soviet satellite state they had to destroy the ancient spiritual traditions of the Cuban people. In many ways then, the struggle against Communism in Cuba was a spiritual one.”

    “The cross and the national flag of Cuba were the glorious symbols of Brigade 2506: a Cuban Republic founded on Christian principles,” He emphasized.

    Sanchez recalled to Breitbart News attending the first major celebration Fidel Castro arranged after the fall of the former administration of President Fulgencio Batista. It was a celebration for Our Lady of Charity, the matron saint of Cuba.

    “The first event was an event in which they brought Our Lady of Charity to Havana, an enormous multitude showed up there. And Fidel Castro showed up to visit, to recognize, the cardinal offering that Mass,” Sanchez recalls. “Among others, I was there. I was about 18 years old, 17-18. So Fidel was very careful not to mess with the Church.”

    “Later – six, seven, eight months later – after taking power and taking power decisively, he did attack zealously, he began intervening in the schools a year later, religious schools including Catholic, and he began expelling a group of priests from Cuba,” Sanchez explained. “They took a lot of care because the Cuban population, whether due to history or belief, recognized itself as a religious population, majority Catholic, but that includes all types of religions.”

    After years of brutal atheist suppression of all religions, Christianity continues to be a major force in Cuba and has returned to play a leading part in the anti-communist struggle.

    “Religious repression in Cuba is structured and designed very meticulously. It affects all religions and controls all aspects that can affect the exercise of religion,” Javier Larrondo, President of human rights organization Cuban Prisoners Defenders, explained to Breitbart News in a conversation this week. It has recorded tens thousands of arrests in the wake of the July 2021 protests, and an increase of 500 percent by the amount of verified prisoners of conscience across the nation during the past year, but it has repeatedly stated that the actual quantity of those held in prison for political reasons is higher and is nearly impossible to establish given the frequent disappearances of prisoners during the riots.

    “The repression of rights to religious liberty is exerted by a department of the Communist Party known as the Office of Religious Affairs [OAR] and, for each different creed, the regime has created parallel government organizations that try to replace the authentically religious institutions,” Larrondo explained. “It is a way of diminishing them. Examples of this are the Islamic League of Cuba, the Council of Churches, or the Cultural Yoruba Association.”

    “The repressive reality of religious people is such that 100 percent of religious people suffer diverse repressive acts,” Larrondo stated, “from the mildest level, threats, to the impeding of religious practices as punishment, to citations, detentions, and beatings.”

    Although the OAR has existed for years, experts on human rights have seen a dramatic increase in the number of religiously oppressed people since July.

    “After the July 11 uprising, the systematic persecution of the Catholic Church, Christians in general, and other persons from various faith and belief traditions takes on a new dimension in Cuban society,” Jason Poblete, an international lawyer for fundamental rights and the president of the NGO Global Liberty Alliance, told Breitbart News. “We saw this in other nations in transitions at the end of the Cold War, such as Poland. It is not the same as the Polish Solidarity movement, but unique to Cuba and one with great potential to be a force for change in Cuban civil society.”

    Global Liberty Alliance e has championed the rights of Cuban dissidents as well as political prisoners from every sphere of life. The group was the first to broadcast the disappearance of Father Castor Alvarez on the 11th of July because he peacefully protested. Cuban state security officers assaulted and dragged Alvarez throughout the streets in his hometown of Camaguey prior to his arrest, leaving him with a visible head injury.

    “The Communist Party of Cuba, and its Religion Police, the Office of Religious have failed to eliminate faith in God in Cuba,” Poblete said to Breitbart News. “Ironically, as the persecution has intensified over the past few months, there is more unity of purpose among the many [Freedom of Religious Belief] communities in Cuba and there is no way to contain it. That is why we have been urging the U.S. government to support them in many ways, including by imposing sanctions on the Religion Police, its officials, and family members.”

    The brutal beatings of Father Alvarez have done little to hinder Christians who live on the island and they continue to demonstrate. November was the time when the biggest protests since July were held in a variety of municipalities, led by nuns and priests. The leader of the Ladies in White organization – the group of women who have loved ones who are political prisoners, whose main way to protest is going to Catholic Mass – has been taken into custody on a frequent basis over the last year. Berta Soler was last arrested on Palm Sunday.

    This week, Father Kenny Fernandez, a vocal anti-communist activist, disclosed that the Party has blocked his efforts to get legal permits to participate in the Stations of the Cross procession in Mayabeque despite having received the same permission previously and having been told that, “my publications and actions contrary to their politics” caused the denial of the permission.

    The growing repression of Christian voices in Cuba is not putting any damper on Sanchez's optimism. The fact that July 11 protests took place at all, he stated to Breitbart News, means something within the Communist Party has irrevocably broken.

    “I was enthralled by the events of July 11, and my speculation regarding the subject is Fidel Castro's rule over Cuba began by using your neighbor, and then started having your friend as a partner, and was then accelerated using your family to take over your family,” Sanchez explained. “He established what was known as los comites of defensa [the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution] and the neighborhood civilian espionage teams and they were always informing people about their activities, and accusing people.”

    “However on July 11, for the first time in a long time, 50-something years, they [the regime leaders] were not aware of what was going to happen. It was totally organic. It was totally spontaneous,” Sanchez said. “And those comites de defensa either did not see it, which I doubt very much, or they are at a point right now where they don't care or are a part of it.”

    “I'm very, very positive based on that because we didn't have that before. Our effort would have been completely different,” Sanchez said.

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