Cuba Yesterday and Today

The Eight Executed by Firing Squad

By Tomas Fernandez Travieso

The sun was setting when the trial ended. Luis Fernandez Caubi was the only attorney who dared to defend our case. The trial took only 20 minutes; it was interrupted several times by the noise of war tanks located in La Cabaña going to Playa Giron (Bay of Pigs): It was April 17, 1961.

When they are going to execute by firing squad they leave a waiting area for those facing execution. The only one we knew already there was Carlos Rodriguez Cabo. His other co-defendant Efren Rodriguez Lopez was given 30 years. We had left him in the galley and when he came to say goodbye to us, very much ashamed, said:

"Look, pardon me for requesting this, but for sure you are not coming back. Say hello to Carlitos there."

He couldn't talk anymore. He embraced us crying.

Walking handcuffed we crossed the drawbridge. Down there, in the moat a lonely pole was placed upright in front of a few sand bags. Virgilio Campaneria, Angel and I were handcuffed together. Alberto Tapia Ruano was alone.

When reaching the prison, from the yard on the other side of the ward, many comrades silently greeted us. They took us through a galley where the guards would sleep until reaching the waiting area (an interior galley divided into four cells with a central aisle).

We kept walking through a long corridor. Four guards escorted us. We crossed three barred doors with thick locks. Upon entering the waiting area, from one of the cells, Efren's voice, strong and decisive, greeted us:

"It looks like they also want to thunder (execute by firing squad) me. They raised my sentence from 30 to firing squad. Anyway Carlitos was very much alone and I couldn't abandon him," Efren added smiling.

We shared the information we had about the landing in Playa Giron (Bay of Pigs) that would be supported by the clandestine movement. Efren and Carlitos were from Rescate Revolucionario (Revolutionary Rescue); Virgilio, Alberto and I, from the Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil (Student Revolutionary Directorate). They put us in a cell lighted by a fluorescent bulb and two bunk beds without mattresses and a hole on the floor that was used as a toilet.

A little while later they brought Lazaro Reyes Benitez and Filiberto Rodriguez Ravelo, both of them from Güines. Filiberto had earned the nickname "The Martian" because since he arrived at La Cabaña he would insist he was an extra-terrestrial and that he was in permanent contact with the Martians.

Jose Calderin arrived thereafter who together with Lazaro and Filiberto went to another cell. Lastly Carlos Calvo Martinez, that as well as Virgilio and Tapita was 21 years old. He was accused of placing a bomb at El Encanto (The Enchantment). He was put in our cell.

We were all already there. A guard brought the sentences to us. My death sentence was commuted to 30 years in prison "because these people are not going to execute a minor" all of them told me. I couldn't continue to share the songs and jokes of the others. I turned myself into the depositary of their memories, the link with life. I would be the witness to their sacrifice.

Hours went by. I don't know, time doesn't exist there. We prayed the rosary, all of us had rosaries.

At last the three locks creaked and boot steps resounded in the waiting area. Sergeant Moreno called the first name:

"Carlos Rodriguez Cabo."

"Present." He yelled with a firm voice.

Two guards armed with rifles escorted him to our cells' door. We embraced through the bars. He entrusted me his daughter, he left her his ring and said:

"Courage and good luck."

In a while the sounds of the FAL's rifles filled the waiting area, followed by a pistol shot.

"Sergeant Moreno is the one who delivers the coup de grâce," I was told.

The three locks opened again now for Efren. He answered:


He embraced me through the bars, he left his lighter to his wife.

The FAL's sounded nearby followed by one coup de grâce.

Virgilio was the third one. In the last embrace he told me:

"Tommy, I am going to yell Long Live Christ the King! Long Live Free Cuba!, Long Live the Directorate! that is going to crack the balls of everybody.

Alberto (Tapita) embraced me.

"I hope I am next."

Embraced we heard Virgilio fulfilling his promise, the FAL's sounded and three coups de grâce thereafter.

"Alberto Tapia Ruano," Moreno called.

"The Virgin heard me." Tapita happily said. He exited fast.

Carlos Calvo and I remained in the cell.

"Do you think that Tapita counted Virgilio's coups de grâce?… There were three. Anyway he is going to see them on the ground, there is no time to take away the bodies between executions…" he said.

Filiberto was the fifth one who acknowledging his joke, confessed to me:

"Not even the Martians can save me from the thunder (firing squad)."

He exited singing the National Anthem. He was given two coups de grâce.

"Lazaro Reyes Benitez."


He embraced me and left.

"Jose Calderin."


The next to last embrace and he left.

Carlitos Calvo was the last one. I already knew his life. Before the locks opened he asked me:

"Count my coups de grâce and tell me up above."

There were eight at La Cabaña more than 50 years ago.


Tomas Fernandez Travieso, ex member of the Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil (Student Revolutionary Directorate) was sentenced to 30 years of imprisonment by Cuba's Castroist regime. When he published in Miami his theatrical play "Prometeo desencadenado" ("Prometheus Unchained") it cost him an additional sentence. He served 19 years in jail. Presently he lives in Miami. He recently published his novel "El silencio del ayer" ("The Silence of Yesterday").

(Copied from La Villa Magazine, Official Voice of Círculo Güinero de Los Ángeles,
Los Angeles, California, Year XLVII, January to April 2015, #208)

Translated by the Staff of Círculo Güinero de Los Ángeles



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