Hundreds gather to honor those who've died fleeing Cuba

Service held at Cuban Memorial at Tamiami Park

By Michael Seiden - Reporter

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. - A memorial serves was held Sunday in Tamiami Park to remember the people who have died fleeing Cuba.

Hundreds gathered in front of the Cuban Memorial for the event, which was hosted by Miami-Dade Commissioner Joe Martinez.

Several speakers who have lost loves ones who tried to flee the communist Caribbean island spoke during the event.  

"We look at this like it was a memorial but in reality, the way I look at it, it’s like it was a cemetery," Martinez said. "The only difference is the body isn’t here. But their spirit is. You see people coming (here), not just on days like this, but throughout the year and they look for the name of that loved one. The one that they never saw, maybe for 20 years and then found out they were dead. "

Martinez said he hopes that the younger generation of Cubans will make an effort to support the memorial because it represents more than just the past but also the future.

“I saw very few children here and what happens when we are gone?” Martinez said.

Lillian Salaya said she makes sure her children know about their Cuban heritage.

"My stepdad was actually one of the political prisoners. He was arrested when he was 17 years old and served his whole childhood in prison where they would stick him in drawers," she said.

She said it’s important to remember those who have lost their lives fleeing Cuba.

"I have four children and I talk to them about it," Salaya said. "I try to give them instruction on everything that's happened so it's not forgotten."

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