What is the Bay of Pigs?
The Bay of Pigs refers to the bay entrance or inlet in the southern part of Cuba. This bay is part of the Gulf of Cazones which is located south of the Cienfuegos and Matanzas provinces in Cuba’s southern coast. From the city of Havana, the Bay of Pigs is located 150 kilometers southeast. The Zapata peninsula lies west of this bay. This particular peninsula is where the coral reefs of the Zapata Swamp are located. On the eastern part of the bay are various beaches, swamps, and mangrove-rich areas.
The Bay of Pigs holds a very significant role in the history of Cuba as it is the site of a failed invasion attempt by former Cuban exiles. Back in April 17 of 1961, the US government attempted to topple the government of Fidel Castro. Many Cuban exiles after the Cuban revolution of 1959 were trained by the CIA or Central Intelligence Agency. Under its main proponent, Vice President Richard Nixon, the invasion of the Bay of Pigs was planned. In 1961, then-US President John F. Kennedy took charge of the invasion plans with the justification that Cuba under Fidel Castro is becoming hostile and dangerous especially with the possession of weapons from the Soviet Union. Back then, the CIA trained numerous Cuban exiles in Florida and Guatemala and prepared them for combat.
The Bay of Pigs invasion was started on the premise that Cuban locals would support the trained exiles in toppling Fidel Castro’s government. But as it turned out, Castro already killed and imprisoned his own citizens who are known to support the Americans. And so the locals were not able to support the invading Cuban exile troops. Because of this, the US had to somewhat cancel and abort the operation after only a few days. Many of the exiles died in the invasion while those that lived were later imprisoned and/or executed. By 1962, some exiles were traded back to the US in exchange for food and medical supplies.