, which had become a once-a-year tribute to those Cubans who have perished as a result of the castro regime, will
in Tamiami Park.
After years of searching, a group of Cuban exiles has gotten approval for a site to build a memorial honoring victims of Fidel Castro's government.By Yudy Pineiro
Cuban exiles raised crosses some years ago at Tamiami Park in Westchester as a symbolic gesture in honor of those who have died fighting Fidel Castro's government -- political prisoners, dissidents, and Bay of Pigs Invasion fighters.
The exiles honor Castro's victims every year, and have sought to build a permanent memorial for a long time, but didn't have the money, nor the place.
Then, last week, county officials announced Tamiami Park would house the memorial.
''For five years, we had this dream of honoring the victims of the Castro regime -- and here we are,'' said Renato Gomez, Cuban Memorial board member, fighting back tears.
A monument bearing a Cuban flag, enclosed by granite slabs engraved with victims' names will soon be erected at a corner of Tamiami Park, 11201 SW 24th St., county parks officials announced at a special ceremony at the site Nov. 1.
Gomez thanked Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Joe A. Martinez, who represents parts of West Miami-Dade, for keeping his word to find them a permanent home.
''This is something we should have done a long time ago,'' Martinez said.
Impressed by the work of Gomez and other exiles in producing the yearly memorial event at Tamiami Park, Martinez promised the exile group about two years ago to help find them a permanent home.
Last year, Martinez thought he had found the perfect place: Camp Matecumbe, a West Kendall site that became home to about 4,000 Cuban boys during the 1960s. They were sent to Miami under Operation Pedro Pan, by parents who feared the boys would be indoctrinated by Castro's government.
But plans to put the memorial at Camp Matecumbe did not pan out. So Tamiami Park seemed the next best option.
On Wednesday, Martinez, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez, county parks and recreation officials, and Cuban exiles grabbed shovels to plant a palm tree at the park.
Willy Borroto, the architect who designed and donated money for the approximately $200,000 memorial, said that was the last of 15 trees needed to encircle the memorial.
Atop a keystone-tiled floor in the shape of a star will be the obelisk reaching up 50 feet in the air and showcasing a Cuban flag designed out of ceramic tiles.
At the base of each star leg: a wall with victims' names facing the palm trees, and pieces of shattered glass facing the monument. Borroto said the shattered glass causes visitors to see their distorted reflection.
As visitors step farther away from the glass, and closer to the monument, the flag and their image will appear whole because, Borroto said, ``We are a dismembered people, but we are one.''
The memorial should be ready for Feb. 17 -- the day of the yearly El Memorial Cubano.