Monday, December 23, 2013

Cuban Refuge in Miami

Sisters at Spanish Center working with Cuban Refugees

In 1952 President Fulgencio Batista, backed by the Cuban army, staged a coup, outlawed the communist party and established a pseudo-democratic dictatorship which lasted for seven years.  Batista was ousted by the revolutionary July 26th movement in 1959 and fled the country.  The communists took control of the army and the government by executing dissenters numbering in the thousands.  During these years many refugees fled to the United States and relations between the two countries became strained. In February of 1960 Fidel Castro, leader of the communist party, signed a formal agreement with the Soviet Union.  Alarmed by this alliance, U.S. President Eisenhower gave approval for the CIA to train and arm a group of Cuban refugees to overthrow the government of Cuba.  All three of the Sisters’ American Dominican Academies flourished during this period.  Their reputation for educational excellence was excellent and enrollment was plentiful when the communist regime of Fidel Castro forced their closure in 1961.  Tensions between the U.S. and Cuba mounted after the doomed Bay of Pigs Invasion, and the Dominican Sisters returned to the United States just as the Cuban missile crisis was beginning in 1962. Cuba was suspended from the Organization of American States and economic sanctions were imposed when Fidel Castro was elected president. With the support of the Soviet Union, Fidel Castro set up a Marxist-Leninist single-party communist system of government and the hope of a democratic nation was lost.  In 1960 the diocese of Miami established the Centro Hispano Catolico (Catholic Spanish Center) and Dominican Sisters were sent from the Motherhouse in Pennsylvania to help refugees fleeing oppression in Cuba.  The American Dominican Academies were closed by Fidel Castro.  The Dominican Sisters were forced to leave and their property was confiscated the Cuban government.  Dominican Sisters met the boats pouring into Miami from Cuba, fed the hungry, found shelter for the homeless, nursed the orphans, tended the sick and found jobs for those able to work.  They built a nursery and a clinic and a retreat house for women in a suburb of Miami and placed it under the protection of Our Lady the Morning Star.