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Miami Proud: Effort underway to preserve, expand Little Havana's Bay of Pigs museum for future generations

Miami Proud: Effort underway to expand Little Havana's Bay of Pigs museum for future generations
Miami Proud: Effort underway to expand Little Havana's Bay of Pigs museum for future generations 03:18

MIAMI -- Plans are underway for a $2 million expansion of the Bay of Pigs Museum located in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood. 

Rafael Montalvo, president of the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association, and Carlos Luis, president of the museum and library, were recently at the site and watching the heavy machine operators clear a lot that will help the facility grow.

Luis, is the son of a veteran of the 1961 attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro's regime that was sponsored by the CIA.

Montalvo is a Bay of Pigs veteran who spoke recently about the expansion plans.

"A great deal of the new museum is going to be audio-visual," he said.

On April 17, 1961, a force of 1,500 Cuban volunteers who were determined to take their country landed on the beach on the south coast of Cuba.

The effort ended in prison for a majority of the landing force and death for others. 

"That's the message here, that freedom is worth dying for and offer your life for," said Montalvo.

To get that message out is a race against time, many of the Bay of Pigs veterans are now in their 80s and some are in failing health.

Felix Rodriguez heads Hialeah Gardens Museum Honoring Brigade 2506 and the city-sponsored museum is planning for the future.

"We are getting individuals here younger, we're going to train, to be able to give a tour of this museum with the scene (story) that we know," he said. "So they will be able when we are no longer around, they will be able to give a tour of everything that is inside this museum."

There is plenty to see in the museum which has the feel of a Cuban home that has broad windows and an atrium full of photos, weapons, and other memorabilia.

Outside sits a tank from the era and an A-26 firearm used in the operation on display.

Rodriguiz, a member of the 2506 Brigade and legendary anti-Castro warrior, said it fuels a sense of accomplishment to watch descendants of the veterans who visit the center.

"It is a great personal satisfaction to be able to provide that for them," he said.

Of the original members of the entire Brigade 2506 operation, Montalvo estimates "there's probably 300 left and you know half of them have the beginning of dementia."

Key to preserving the story are the children of brigade members.

Luis honors his father by actively pursuing the effort's legacy.

"I feel, definitely a duty, not only myself but the other sons and daughters of these veterans to preserve and cement their history and continue their fight for freedom," he said, adding that messages from over 100 veterans have been videotaped and will be part of the new museum. 

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