Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Remembering some of the victims of Cuban communism: two Catholic Cubans martyrs

"Whoever destroys a single life is considered by Scripture to have destroyed the whole world, and whoever saves a single life is considered by Scripture to have saved the whole world." - Mishnah  (1135-1204)
Some psychologists argue that as the number of victims increase into the hundreds, and thousands that compassion collapses out of the human fear of being overwhelmed. Soviet dictator Josef Stalin put it more succinctly: "When one man dies it's a tragedy. When thousands die it's statistics." In the case of Cuba the communist regime has killed tens of thousands, and many have become numb in the face of this horror. Therefore on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the first communist regime in Russia, that caused so much harm around the world, will focus on an infinitesimal sampling of some of the victims of Cuban communism.

The thirteenth entry remembers two young martyrs: one was 22 years old and the other 23 years old, both Catholic youths, who ended up before a firing squad along with six of their friends.
Previous entries in this series were about Cubans trying to change the system nonviolently, Cubans who tried to leave the island, a student shot to death for walking down the wrong sidewalk in Havana, a young Ethiopian woman murdered in a red terror in her homeland for unknown reasons in 1978, and the eleventh entry three young black men executed by firing squad in 2003 for having hijacked a ferry in an effort to reach the United States. The twelfth entry remembered two men shot in La Cabaña on October 1, 1982. They had been arrested on August 23, 1980 for propaganda and sabotage. 

In this entry one explores how religious repression turned a significant number of young Cubans against the regime. One of them was Virgilio Campanería Angel, who was born on August 5, 1938, studied at Belén and Baldor, and graduating high school he started studying Law and Journalism at the University of La Salle and the University of Havana. He had aspired to be a member of the University Catholic Association [Agrupacion Católica Universitaria].  Another was Alberto Tapia Ruano, who was born on August 7, 1937, attended high school at La Salle and graduated in 1955. He was a member of the University Catholic Association [Agrupacion Católica Universitaria].

The revolutionaries in Cuba came down from the hills in 1959 wearing rosaries, and the leadership used this image to reject the charge that they were communists. Fidel Castro claimed throughout the 1950s and in the early days of the revolution that their aim was to restore democracy, but the reality was that they had always planned to consolidate their rule and establish a communist regime.

The Catholic Church, like many others in Cuba took them at their word, and initially supported the revolution against the dictator Fulgencio Batista but by 1960 it was clear that a new and worse dictatorship was taking shape. Show trials and arbitrary executions in 1959 that generated fear in the populace and the regime's takeover of student, labor and professional organizations, along with the placement of communists in key government and military positions, and the elimination of the free press. In August of 1960 the Church, in a pastoral letter, alerted Cubans to the evils that would come if the island towards Communism.

Virgilio Campanería Angel, founded the movement "Salvar a Cuba" [To Save Cuba]. Alberto Tapia Ruano joined To Save Cuba and both later joined the Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil [Revolutionary Student Directorate] in an effort to bring an end to the emerging communist tyranny in Cuba.

Virgilio's brother, Néstor Campanería Angel, in an online essay, tells what happened.  Virgilio was arrested along with Tomas Fernandez Travieso and Alberto Tapia Ruano on March 27, 1961. The Cuban secret police [G2] found them with weapons. 

In the span of 23 days they are subjected to a political show trial and condemned to death along with six others.  Tomas Fernandez Travieso, who was under age, had his death sentence commuted to 30 years in prison.  In the early morning of April 18, 1961, while the Bay of Pigs invasion was underway, Virgilio, and Alberto were executed along with six others. Tomas Fernandez Travieso survived and is a living witness of how these young men faced death. Their last words were "¡Viva Cristo Rey!" [Long Live Christ King!] as they faced the volley from the firing squad.

The Castro regime continued intensifying its anti-religious actions. In May of 1961 the regime confiscated private schools and most seminaries in an effort to eliminate religion. In September of 1961, the Castro regime at gun point collected 131 priests, brothers and a bishop, Boza Masvidal, placing them on board the Spanish ship Covadonga and deported them from Cuba.

Néstor Campanería had to go underground for many months, until he was received by the Colombian embassy as a political refugee and fled Cuba in October of 1961 for Colombia. His brother dead, and his country to suffer a communist dictatorship for more than a half century. Sadly there have been many Catholic martyrs in Cuba.

Below are the final letters left by Virgilio Campanería Angel, and Alberto Tapia Ruano written on the eve of their executions and translated to English. The Spanish text follows below.

Virgilio Campanería Angel
La Cabaña, April 17, 1961
To my student compatriots and to the people of Cuba in general:In these moments I am waiting for the judgment of the court that tried me.Death does not worry me, because I have faith in God and in the destinies of my Homeland. My death will be another step backward for those who believe that they can drown with blood the longing for freedom of the Cuban people.
 I do not fear it, let death come; I am happy because I see my Fatherland free, I see how my brothers joyfully climb the glorious Hill, there will be no more hatred between brothers, there will no longer be voices calling for the firing squad. All will be love among Cubans, the love of brothers, the love of Christians.
 Poor Cuba, how much you have suffered, but the new Cuba arises out of the hatred to sow love, from injustice to sow justice, social justice, not demagogic deception of the people; a Cuba matures because it already knows all the deceits and all the frauds; a Cuba for Cubans and "with everyone and for the good of all".
 To you, student, you have this glory of liberating the Homeland and of raising up that new Cuba.
Alberto Tapia Ruano

La Cabaña, April 17
Dear mom and dad:
I just received a few moments ago the ratification of the Death Penalty and that is why, now that I am in the end, I am writing these lines to you. You will not believe me,  but I can assure you that I have never had so much spiritual tranquility as at this moment: I feel sincerely very happy, feeling that soon I will be with God, waiting and praying for you.
Today at the trial I saw my brothers and godparents crying And what for? No and a thousand times No. I know that today is painful for you, but I want you to overcome yourselves and think that God in his infinite kindness has given me this grace to get right with him, and everyone should thank him.

Goodbye old folks, have a lot of faith in the Eternal Life that I will intercede for all of you.
Long live Christ the King

Kisses and hugs, not tears, everyone.
Goodbye brothers, godparents and family. Faith in God.
Spanish text: 
La Cabaña, abril 17 de 1961
A mis compaňeros estudiantes y al pueblo de Cuba en general:

En estos momentos me encuentro esperando la sentencia del tribunal que me juzgó.
La muerte no me preocupa, porque tengo fe en Dios y en los destinos de mi Patria. Mi muerte será otro paso atrás de los que creen que pueden ahogar con sangre las ansias de libertad del pueblo cubano.
No le temo, que venga la muerte; yo voy feliz porque ya veo libre a mi Patria, ya veo cómo suben jubilosos mis hermanos la gloriosa Colina, ya no habrá más odio entre hermanos, ya no habrá gargantas que pidan paredón. Todo será amor entre cubanos, amor de hermanos, amor de cristianos.
Pobre Cuba, cuánto has sufrido, pero la Cuba nueva surge del odio para sembrar el amor, de la injusticia para sembrar la justicia, justicia social, no demagogia engaňadora de pueblo; una Cuba madura porque ya conoce todos los engaňos y a todos los farsantes; una Cuba para los cubanos y “con todos y para el bien de todos”.
A ti, estudiante, te cabe esta gloria de liberar a la Patria y de levantar esa Cuba nueva.
Virgilio Campanería Angel

La Cabaña, 17 de abril
Queridos viejos:

Acabo de recibir hace unos momentos la ratificación de la Pena de Muerte y es por eso, ahora que estoy en el final, que les escribo estas líneas. No me creerán pero puedo asegurarles que nunca he tenido tanta tranquilidad espiritual como en ese momento: me siento con sinceridad muy contento presintiendo que dentro de poco estaré con Dios , esperando y rezando por Uds.

Hoy en el juicio vi a mis hermanos y padrinos llorando Y eso por que? No y mil veces No. Se que lo de hoy es doloroso para Uds., pero quiero que se sobrepongan y piensen que Dios en su infinita bondad me ha dado esta gracia de ponerme a bien con El, y todos deben de agradecérselo.

Adiós viejucos, tengan mucha fe en la Vida Eterna que yo intercederé por todos Uds.
Viva Cristo Rey

Besos y abrazos, no lágrimas, a todos.
Adiós hermanos, padrinos y familia. Fe en Dios



  1. Thank you for this essay on these splendid, brave martyrs.

    ¡Viva Cuba Libre y Católica! ¡Vivat Christus Rex!

  2. Thank you for the comment. Have a blessed day.