Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Dinner Key Auditorium in 1962

Some of us remember Miami's Dinner Key Auditorium for an incident that happened on March 1, 1969. Others remember an incident that happened several years earlier.

Pan Am's clipper Sam Houston landed at 6:10 p.m. at Florida's Homestead Air Force Base....

The Sam Houston carried the first of the 1,113 survivors of Brigade 2506, the forlorn-hope band of Cuban exiles who suffered catastrophe at the Bay of Pigs. For their release, the U.S. had agreed to pay Fidel Castro a ransom of $53 million in drugs, medical equipment and other goodies (see following story). As the planes bringing back the prisoners prepared to take off from Havana's San Antonio airport, Castro delayed their departure by demanding to inspect the first shipment of drugs....

Awaiting them when they arrived was Jose Miro Cardona, president of the Cuban Revolutionary Council. Cried Miro: "All these are my sons. All my sons." In fact, his blood son, Jose ("Pepito") Miro Torra, arrived on the final plane.

Miro was one of the few Cubans permitted to meet the planes. Most of the prisoners' relatives had spent the day in Miami's Dinner Key Auditorium, about 30 miles from Homestead. They gathered, about 10,000 of them, in a joyous mood. They waited and waited. Almost twelve hours passed while Castro stalled....

In the auditorium, a U.S. Army honor guard formed a double file on the stage. One after another, the members of Brigade 2506 marched between the files. In the audience, faces contorted as mothers and wives, fathers and brothers saw their loved ones. Cubans are a passionate people—passionate in their hopes and their hungers, in their politics, their patriotism and their personal relationships. They stood tensely at attention for The Star-Spangled Banner —and then came delirium, as prisoners and families rushed together in a frenzy of love.


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