Cuban dissident Zapata Tamayo to be interred with Bay of Pigs veterans

The ashes of Cuban dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died following an 85-day hunger strike, arrived in Miami Thursday in a shoe-size box held by his mother. His final resting place will be in exile — among veterans killed during a failed invasion 50 years ago in a battle against the same dictatorship.

It is the first time a Cuban not associated with the Bay of Pigs invasion will share space at a mausoleum reserved for heroes of the 1961 fight against the Castro regime — a symbolic unity between the "old" and "new" Cubans in the call for change on the communist-ruled island.

“It’s an honor for us to have the ashes of this man buried with us,’’ said Felix Rodriguez, president of the Association of Veterans of the Bay of Pigs Invasion. “We consider this man a hero and a patriot for standing up to Cuba’s communist government and fighting for a free Cuba.”

Brigade leaders, who are marking the 50th anniversary of the invasion this year, said the burial will take place at noon on June 25 following a morning service.

Zapata, who died at 42 in February 2010, will have his ashes placed in an ornate mahogany urn with an insignia of Cuba and his hometown of Banes donated by artist Lauriano Borges. He will be placed in a Bay of Pigs veterans’ mausoleum at Dade South Memorial Park cemetery, 14200 SW 117th Ave.

He became the face of the dissident movement in Cuba. In an unusual move, his body was exhumed and his ashes brought by his mother, Reina Luisa Tamayo, 62, who won asylum in the United States.

On Thursday, she was greeted at Miami International Airport by dozens of exiles and the local and international media. She clung firmly to a simple urn wrapped in a Cuban flag containing her son’s ashes.

Flanked by dozens of Miamians, she gave thanks for the solidarity and said she would continue her son’s political activism.

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