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Exploring the Culture of Little Havana

A  Learning Community Project (School of Education, the College of Arts and Science and Eaton Residential College, University of Miami)

The Bays of Pigs Invasion

 The Bay of Pigs was one of the most important political decisions in the history of the United States. Its effects are still being felt to today, especially in the Cuban communities of the United States. The decisions that were made by the highest offices of our government showed us that the United States was, and is, far from perfect. They constructed a plan that wasn't completely thought through and paid a major price -- global embarrassment. They took the chance to destroy the communist threat that was quite close to our shores and, in the process, made the CIA and our government look incompetent.

First, I will give some background information on the conflict. In 1960, President Eisenhower gave the CIA the order to begin training Cuban exiles to oppose Castro's rule in Cuba and having them lead resistance groups within Cuba. Therefore, we would have a force already in the country to slow down Cuban Forces when our invaders landed. It didn't quite work out this way. When the American troops landed on April 19, 1961, they made it only a little way inland. At that point, they were met by a force much greater than they had planned on. We figured that the Cuban people were upset with Castro so they wouldn't want to give much of a fight. What happened was that the military fought with great pride for their country and pushed the American troops back to the landing site. There, the forces either surrendered or fled to safety. 1500 troops landed on the coast. Over 100 of them were killed and many more were captured. In many ninds, the invasion was a complete failure for the American military.

The main reason, and possibly the lone reason, for the Bay of Pigs invasion was to stop communism from reaching our country. This meant that the United States government wanted to provoke a counterrevolution in which democracy would be restored and all traces of communism would, subsequently, be destroyed. They tried this by sending the aforementioned group of Cubans into Cuba, an obviously unsuccessful tactic. They also decided to spend thousands of dollars on propaganda against Cuba. Articles, posters, and even comic books were written and distributed to spread cynicism towards Castro and his government. The other method used to spread propaganda was to drop over 1 million flyers over Cuba, hopefully convincing the people to rise up against Castro. To the dismay of the Americans, since many Cubans, at the time were living comfortably and therefore needed no change, they disregarded the flyers: "The Agency failed to collect adequate information on the strengths of the Castro regime and the extent of the opposition to it; and it failed to evaluate the available information correctly" (Weiner)

There were a few less important reasons for the invasion command being given by the CIA. One was revenge for the U-2 plane being shot down over Russia. The United States felt that the Russians, by using force against democracy, deserved an attack on the communist regime. Therefore, instead of making an attack on Russia, the American military decided to attack a closer and more convenient communist sympathizer. This was also a valid excuse to try to push Castro out of power. I believe that this made our country look very immature.

Another reason was to protect our supply of raw materials that was entering our country. We were afraid that Castro might block these ships and keep the supplies for himself. Since this was a realistic fear, this line of reasoning was quite logical. Furthermore, our country wanted to protect the rest of Latin America from being overtaken by the communist bloc. We wished to subdue the idea that communism was better than democracy. Russia wanted to spread the idea of not just communism's superiority, but also democracy's inferiority. Therefore, even if these countries didn't convert to communism, they would still be willing to fight against us if they had the chance. We wanted to prevent most of our southern neighbors from becoming a security threat. Dealing with one country standing against us was a big enough problem for our government; we didn't need several other countries entering into what could become a much greater conflict. These ideas were probably the best reasons to strike out against Cuba. The threat of having more than one Russian supporter near us could have been fatal to our country.

Ultimately, the Bay of Pigs invasion failed. However, that was just the beginning of our problems. Because we were unable to stop the threat of communism within Cuba at this time, they continued to have relations with Russia. All of these events led up to another important U.S.-Cuba event, The Cuban Missile Crisis. This became one of the scariest moments during the Cold War and was probably the closest the world ever came to complete nuclear war. Ultimately, no one was hurt during this latter encounter and Cuba became merely an isolated, socialist island nation. The American government has tried numerous times to extricate Castro, but the plans have always failed and have brought some degree of humiliation to the CIA. The only option left for our government is to wait for a new regime and hope that it shares our democratic vision.

The Bay of Pigs has affected the country in such a way that it would be difficult to imagine our country, and especially South Florida, not worrying about Cuba. If it is not the trade embargo, then it could be the problem arising over families being broken up due to defections to the United States. Many important ideas and people could be coming out of Cuba today, but because of the Bay of Pigs and its ramifications we are confined to waiting for palpable, political change.

Jason Berry

Work Cited

Weiner, Jared. "Bay of Pigs Report." (14 Oct. 1998) http://hometown.aol.com/yo1460/byopr/report1.html