Miguel Iturria Savón, Translator: Unstated
It was July 15 or 16, 1994 when Angela Medina, my children's aunt, asked
me to accompany her to a house in the Purisima neighborhood, Cotorro
municipality, where she saw her neighbors shot with water cannons in
Havana Bay by the military who shipwrecked the tugboat, 13 de Marzo, in
which she had meant to leave for Florida with her husband, children, and
dozens of people made desperate by hardship and lack of opportunities.
Ángela, Jesús, Mileidis and Miguel Ángel owed their life to the haste of
the driver who forgot to pick them up in the middle of the secrecy and
rush of the endeavor. They felt then, relief, frustration, anger and
grief for their dead friends, whose relatives refused to say goodbye to
them at the municipal funeral, controlled by the agents of State
Security, ready to quell any outbursts in response to the crime
committed by those who carried out the orders from the highest
I can't forget the face of tragedy of those tearful people, shocked by
the news of the disaster and the offensive of the authorities. A few
steps from the market were the Purisima market were the uniformed
forces, ready to arrest and detain, robots without mercy.
A month later, Jesus threw himself into the sea on a raft and was taken
to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, converted into makeshift camp
for 40,000 boat people, among which were survivors of the tugboat 13 de
Marzo, who gave witness to the tragedy in front of the cameras of the
northern nation, despite having accused themselves in Havana under
threat, made to corroborate the official version of events.
That event, still hidden away on the Island under seven locks, is an
international scandal. The dedication of the authorities to protect the
perpetrators and silence the aftermath of the assassinations is evidence
of the absurdities of power. By violently preventing the diversion of
the old tug loaded with children and young people they sent a message of
horror to thousands party enthusiasts.
The familiar sequels rounded out the trauma: The Balsero/Rafter Crisis
of August 1944; the signing of immigration treaties with the United
States; the later illegal exits and other alternatives to exile through
Mexico, The Bahamas, Venezuela or Ecuador, all mask the real problem.
That socio-political immobility continues to fuel the dream of escape
from the "socialist paradise."
I hardly hear from Angela and her family, they live in Florida with the
relatives of the victims of the tugboat 13 de Marzo, not wanting to know
about Cuba or the circumstances that led them to abandon the country
where they grew up. Perhaps in a short while, that "marine warning" of
July 13, 1994, will be a chapter in the past and those guilty will be
called to account for their infamy.
July 18 2011