Tamiami Park’s ‘SOS Cuba’ rally marks anniversary of 1994 tugboat massacre

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Hundreds were still arriving at an #SOSCuba rally Tuesday evening at Tamiami Park, just west of Miami-Dade County’s Westchester neighborhood. The drivers waiting to get inside the park on Coral Way were honking for hours.

Hugo Sanchez, a Cuban-American protester, said it is time for the South Florida community to stand in solidarity with the protesters who risked their lives in Havana and other Cuban cities Sunday.

“Miami is the key because we are the majority,” Sanchez said about the Cuban influx that after decades turned Miami-Dade into a haven for exiles from the Caribbean and Latin America.

Lucy Brigman, with megaphone, leads chants against the communist regime in Cuba during a rally, Tuesday, July 13, 2021, in Miami. Demonstrators are protesting in solidarity with the thousands of Cubans who waged a rare weekend of protests around their island nation against the communist regime. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

The organizers of the event said they were also there as a tribute to the Cuban victims of the July 13, 1994 sinking of the “13 de Marzo” tugboat off Havana. Human rights organizations reported evidence indicated Cuban authorities’ use of excessive force resulted in the drownings of people who were trying to leave Cuba.

The testimony of Janet Hernandez Gutierrez, who was 19 when she survived, is part of the U.S. congressional record. She said Cuban authorities saw there were women and children aboard when they hit the tugboat. She said they pleaded with authorities to stop when they used a cannon of water.

“When they continue to hit our boat, a second tugboat comes up from behind. The biggest one of the tugboats. It was green with a red stripe, a red line. He hits us and breaks half of our boat from behind,” Hernandez Gutierrez said in Spanish, according to the record. “It was sinking, with all of its weight.”

Demonstrators sing the Cuban national anthem during a rally, Tuesday, July 13, 2021, in Miami. Several protests broke out in Miami in solidarity with the thousands of Cubans who waged a rare weekend of protests around their island nation against the communist regime. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

There were about 72 people on board when a whirlpool created by the tugboats swallowed her sister-in-law, Pilar Almanza Romero, her nephew Yasel Perodin Alamanza and her uncle Manuel Gayol. She said that when the Cuban Coast Guard picked up the survivors she insulted them.

“I told them they were murderers ... I told them they have no mercy,” she said.

Cuban-American families in South Florida have stories about the authoritarian regime’s willingness to kill Cubans to establish and maintain a one-party system.

“Over these last six decades, we have suffered one massacre after another at the hands of this vicious regime,” Orlando Gutierrez-Boronat said. “We’re commemorating one massacre now, and we’re trying to prevent another one.”

The crowd’s bilingual chants included, “Freedom for Cuba now!” and “¡Derechos humanos para los Cubanos!” and “Human rights for Cubans!” Many of the demonstrators at Tamiami Park used signs and T-shirts to display the “Patria Y Vida,” or “Homeland and Life,” motto of the #SOSCuba protests Sunday.

The phrase is meant to antagonize the late Fidel Castro’s rallying cry of “Socialism or Death” and the late Che Guevara’s “Homeland or Death” speech at the United Nations in the 1960s.

Marly Dalmoral said the Cuban people are tired of the abuses at the hands of Cuban authorities. She and other Cuban Americans say the long-term solution is to get rid of a system that has already proven inefficient.

“We are not asking for more food or more medicine or more any other help. The only help we need is to take down the communists in Cuba,” Dalmoral said. “That’s the intervention we need.”

The Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) and the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FHRC) shares photos of some of the victims of the 1994 Cuban tugboat massacre. (Courtesy of the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba)

List of 40 victims killed in the sinking of the “13 de Marzo” tugboat

8 children

  • Helen Martínez Enríquez was 6 months old.
  • Cindy Rodríguez Fernández was 2 years old.
  • José Carlos Nicole Anaya was 3 years old.
  • Angel René Abreu Ruiz was 3 years old.
  • Yisel Borges Alvarez was 4 years old.
  • Juan Mario Gutiérrez García was 10 years old.
  • Yausel Eugenio Pérez Tacoronte was 11 years old.
  • Yaser Perodín Almanza was 11 years old.

2 teenagers

  • Mayulis Méndez Tacoronte was 17 years old.
  • Midalis Sanabria Cabrera was 19 years old.

10 victims in their 20s

  • Odalys Muñoz García was 21.
  • Yaltamira Anaya Carrasco was 22.
  • Juliana Enriquez Carrasana was 23.
  • Liset Alvarez Guerra was 24.
  • Joel García Suárez was 24.
  • José Gregorio Balmaceda Castillo was 24.
  • Ernesto Alfonso Joureiro was 25.
  • Leonardo Notario Góngora was 27.
  • Miralis Fernández Rodríguez was 28.
  • Jorge Arquímides Lebrijio Flores was 28.

8 victims in their 30s

  • Pilar Almanza Romero was 30.
  • Rigoberto Feut Gonzáles was 31.
  • Omar Rodríguez Suárez was 33.
  • Lázaro Borges Priel was 34.
  • Julia Caridad Ruiz Blanco was 35.
  • Marta Tacoronte Vega was 36.
  • Caridad Leyva Tacoronte was 36.
  • Eduardo Suárez Esquivel was 39.

7 victims in their 40s and 50s

  • María Carrasco Anaya was 44.
  • Reynaldo Marrero was 45.
  • Guillermo Cruz Martínez was 46.
  • Rosa María Alcalde Preig was 47.
  • Amado Gonzáles Raices was 50.
  • Fidelio Ramel Prieto-Hernández was 51.
  • Manuel Sánchez Callol was 58.

5 others

The age of Elicer Suárez Plascencia wasn’t included in the record. Four others victims were not identified.

Source: The Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Related stories

Coverage on July 12

Coverage on July 11

For more about the situation in Cuba, visit the Local 10 News’ “en español” page.


About the Authors:

Terrell Forney joined Local 10 News in October 2005 as a general assignment reporter. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, but a desire to escape the harsh winters of the north brought him to South Florida.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.