After finishing our first day of biking in Havana, we traveled to the coast & spent the night at a beach resort in Playa Larga, one of the three beach fronts on Cuba’s south shore that were the site of the 1961 US-backed invasion around the Bay of Pigs.
By way of quick refresher (needed one myself!), and fully recognizing that the US and Cuban versions of the story might vary, I think both sides would agree this US-directed & CIA-backed invasion was made up of ~2000 Cuban-born mercenary soldiers who had lost land and/or businesses in the 1959 Revolution and fled to the US. They were attempting to create a temporary government that could then “legitimately” be supported by a larger US invasion. Having learned in advance about plans for the attack, the Cuban army, led by Fidel, quickly reached the invasion & repelled the mercenaries on the road from Playa Larga in less than 3 days.
We started our bike ride along the road that marked the primary site of the invasion, which is also the single road coming out from the coast. We rode past signs marking the spot where Cuban army turned back the invasion (“They only made it as far as here”), as well as several simple concrete markers indicating Cuban soldiers who died in the fight.
After leaving Playa Larga, we enjoyed a beautiful ride along the southern coast, heading north to Play Giron, site of the largest part of the Bay of Pigs invasion and home to a museum commemorating the event (including the tank driven by Fidel in the invasion). As might be imagined, the Cuban people have enormous pride about their small country’s success in staving off the largest superpower on the globe. It was a fascinating (and quite sobering) experience to go through the museum as an American.
Luckily we still had several hours of coastal riding to think through that experience, complete with a stop for a swim.
We caught the van to finish the day in Cienfuegos, a beautiful portside city initially settled by French immigrants that’s home of one of the most successful Cuban economies.