Cuban revolution victims now listed online
After more than a decade of research, a nonprofit group has released an
Internet database of documented cases of victims of the Cuban revolution.
Posted on Fri, Jan. 04, 2008
BY FRANCES ROBLES
The last time Juan Mario Gutiérrez spoke to his grandfather, the
10-year-old held up a homemade fishing rod fashioned from a tree branch
and promised to catch a whopper of a fish during his refugee crossing
from Cuba to Miami.
The boy died shortly afterward in a clash with the Cuban Coast Guard
just eight miles from Havana Bay, his 1994 death becoming case No. 8500
in a newly released database of victims of the Cuban revolution.
Juan Mario shares space with 9,093 other people who lost their lives
fighting for, battling against — or simply fleeing — the Cuban revolution.
After more than a decade of painstaking research by two Cuban exiles
with the nonprofit group Cuba Archive, for the first time their results
are available in a searchable database on the Web. The Truth and Memory
Project database at www.cubaarchive.org was launched Jan. 1, thanks to a
$52,000 grant from Freedom House, an advocacy organization founded by
''This is one more way to shed light on something a lot of people do not
know about,'' said Juan Mario's grandfather, Jorge A. García Mas, who
arrived here from Cuba in 1999. “The first thing I did was look for my
family's names. How is it not going to hurt to see their names on there?''
García lost several members of his family in July 1994, when the tugboat
13 de Marzo, loaded with would-be refugees, was rammed and sank. The
database includes García's son, four in-laws, five nieces and nephews,
and three cousins.
It also chronicles the deaths of people shot by firing squad, killed in
prison, drowned at sea, killed by terrorist bombs and other causes.
''The nature of the crimes is horrifying,'' said Maria Werlau, executive
director of Cuba Archive. 'You don't need to say anything. You don't
need to editorialize. Here it is. It's like that news network that says:
`We report it. You decide.' ''
The database was born more than a decade ago, when economist Armando
Lago was struck by paralyzing strokes. 'I thought, `What am I going to
do with the rest of my life from this wheelchair?' '' said Lago, a
former champion swimmer. “I found what I could do.''
He started combing newspaper archives, history books and Cuban media for
documentation of anyone ever killed in the name of Fidel Castro's
revolution. He said his work is different from other such lists because
he insists on two sources of documentation.
Lago's tally begins with fighting between Castro supporters and forces
loyal to dictator Fulgencio Batista.
The list includes 300 killed by anti-Castro forces, 4,090 executed by
Castro's firing squads, 13 who died by hunger strikes and 196 rafters
killed by Cuban forces while trying to flee.
The original list Lago compiled was much larger, but some categories
such as combat deaths in Africa were eliminated due to lack of specific
''My fear is that this work will never end,'' he said.
Lago, 69, refuses to use the Internet (he's afraid of viruses), does not
have e-mail and uses a computer so old he doesn't have Microsoft Excel.
He joined forces with Werlau, a New Jersey-based former business
consultant whose father died in the Bay of Pigs invasion, and who worked
on the project full-time for four years to secure the funding needed to
create a usable database open to the public.
She said between her time and Lago's, the project was worth at least
''It's very important everyone have access to this,'' she said. “It's
not just names on a list.''