María C. Werlau

* 1959  

  • “The Memorial Cubano project helped the Cuban community in exile pay tribute to their deceased. It was very touching to see people come there and weep in front of plastic crucifixes. Because they had never had a chance, just like in my father’s case, to say goodbye to them during a Christian funeral. My father, for example – the Cuban government has never confirmed his death. My grandmother was in Cuba and searched for him everywhere. It was something horrendous, they even robbed the families of their money. Nothing has ever been confirmed, remains have never been returned to the families. We believe our father is buried in one of the mass graves of soldiers of the 2506 Brigade. That’s why the project affected me so strongly. At first it was strange but it was really very touching. It was also important for our work that we got access to testimonies of family members and eyewitnesses of the events we had been documenting.”

  • “My mother had been suffering from severe headaches and went to see a doctor. It was only a few weeks after the Bay of Pigs Invasion. There was a Life magazine in the waiting room which was very relevant at that time. There were pictures in it and a coverage of the Bay of Pigs. My mother started leafing through the magazine and when she turned one of the pages she saw a picture of a dead soldier. He looked dead, maybe he was injured, what do I know. It was my father. I had not learned about the existence of this photograph until my sixteenth or seventeenth birthday. Mother had never brought it home; she didn’t want me to see it. I learned about the picture in junior year of college in Puerto Rico. Then I left to study in Washington but before that, during the entire first year in Puerto Rico, I had searched for that magazines. In the end I found it but I didn’t tell my mother about it.”

  • “I try to imagine how dreadful it must have been… The betrayal. They had dreamed of freeing Cuba from communism, leaving their families behind. My father died when he was 28 or 29 years old, he was so young. My mother was even two years younger than that, left with two small children. It must have been really terrible. My mother’s friends – I remember that – all her closest friends were widows of the men who had died during the operation in the Bay of Pigs. No one has ever seen them since. All that has influenced my childhood greatly. Even though we didn’t talk about it every day, it was something that we constantly felt.”

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    Miami, USA, 08.04.2019

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    Miami, USA, 08.04.2019

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Every cell in my body breathes for Cuba

María C. Werlau
María C. Werlau
photo: archivo de la testigo

Maria Werlau was born August 15, 1959 in Havana. Her father fought against the regime of general Fulgencio Batista. Because of that he had to emigrate to the U.S. where Maria’s parents got married in 1958. They returned to Cuba immediately after the victory of the Cuban Revolution. Her father got a job in the management of a company operating production and processing of sugar cane. However, her parents soon realized the direction Fidel Castro’s rule was taking and started to engage in resistance activities targeted against the newly established regime. For that, the family had to once again seek refuge in the U.S. There her father was involved in trainings for the planned Bay of Pigs Invasion. His two brothers also underwent the trainings. The failure of the whole operation resulted in Maria’s father and one of his brother’s attempt to hide in Cuba. However, the group was exposed and Maria’s father was shot by the members of the Cuban Army. The family moved to Puerto Rico where Maria started college. She also studied at the Georgetown University in Washington D.C. She worked in banking in several Latin American countries after graduation. She returned to U.S. in 1993 and got involved in the fight for human rights in Cuba straight away. She took part in many different projects, some of which she led herself. Among those are projects such as Archivo Cuba or Memorial Cubano. She has cooperated with prominent figures of the Cuban exile, such as Ricardo Bofill, Armando Lagos or Elena Mederos.