‘Under the noses of the imperialists’

Cuba turns back Bay of Pigs invasion. Fidel explained, how in that forgotten area of small, impoverished coastal villages, the revolution had brought education and dignity to the people for the first time. They were not going back.

Cuba turns back Bay of Pigs invasion. Fidel explained, how in that forgotten area of small, impoverished coastal villages, the revolution had brought education and dignity to the people for the first time. They were not going back.

It was April 16, 1961. Cuba was about to be invaded by thousands of counterrevolutionaries organized, trained and armed into a military force by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

Young men and women in berets were crowded into the New York office of the pro-Cuban Revolution group, the 26th of July Movement, on West 139th Street in Spanish Harlem. Static sputtered from a shortwave radio and everyone grew quiet. Fidel was about to speak.

My Spanish was barely adequate, but I got the thrust of his talk: A declaration of defiance aimed at those who were trying to undo the glorious Cuban Revolution, which had finally brought justice to the common people of Cuba.

Suddenly, everyone cheered. Berets were thrown in the air. There was hugging and jumping for joy.

“What did he say?” I asked.

One compañero took pity on me and translated: “He said we have made a socialist revolution right under the noses of the Yankee imperialists!”

He said it right as U.S.-supplied planes were about to drop bombs and the mercenaries were poised to invade Cuba’s sparsely populated southern coast. The plan was to grab a foothold there so they could declare a “Free Cuba,” set up a “provisional government” and then call in open U.S. military support.

But the local militia, defenders of the revolution, was able to pin down the invaders long enough for Fidel and regular army troops to race south. Fidel explained it later, how in that forgotten area of small, impoverished coastal villages, the revolution had brought education and dignity to the people for the first time. They were not going back.

And the revolution was not going back. It was socialist and would never let the exploiters run the country again, not at the Bay of Pigs, not anywhere.

Griswold was secretary of the Francisco Molina Defense Committee, which in 1961 fought for the release of a young Cuban worker framed for murder in New York. Testifying against him were Cuban counterrevolutionaries later captured at the Bay of Pigs. He was released and returned to Cuba as part of the prisoner exchange after the defeat of the invasion.