Ronald Suárez Rivas
Among the vague memories, Enrique Henríquez is only sure that it was Sunday and that the theater was full. Along with other children from the neighborhood, he had gone to the matinee, when around 3:00 pm he noticed flames on the screen
"At first, I thought it was part of the movie, but we quickly realized that the theater was on fire."
Then, trying to get out, he fell and in the panic and confusion, several people stepped on him.
When he opened his eyes, after laying unconscious a week and still on a respirator, as a result of the injuries he had suffered, he didn’t remember anything and his parents told him he had been hit while playing in the neighborhood.
He didn’t know at the time that he had been a victim of sabotage at the Riesgo Theater in Pinar del Río, an attack organized by the CIA which shook the town on May 28, 1961.
"I was sitting with my father in the balcony, in a seat near the stairs. When the fire started, we were among the first trying to get out," recalls Rolando Pacheco, another witness. But the only door, made of wrought iron and glass, was closed, contributing to the chaos and panic.
"My father broke one of the panes and lifted me through, so someone passing by outside in front of the theater could grab me and keep me safe. That’s how I got a deep cut on my arm.
"Later we learned that the fire had been started by unscrupulous counterrevolutionaries who threw lit matches under the screen and curtains."
"I never could have imagined that there were people capable of something so horrendous in a place full of children," said Manuel Álvarez Trujillo (El Cubano), a former State Security officer who worked on the case.
"The investigation began immediately. A collaborator of ours reported that a group of people were talking about the events with a lot of satisfaction, as if they were responsible.
"It was a group which included former Batista dictatorship military men, recruited by the CIA, who were awaiting weapons in order to mount an insurrection in the mountains of Pinar del Río.
The cruel act of sabotage left 26 children and 14 adults injured.
"It was a huge act of terrorism, since it was a children’s event and among those of us inside, we were almost all kids," said Enrique 50 years later.
"No doubt, it was planned to cause extensive damage," added Pacheco.
"After the events that day, when I was barely four years old, I lived in fear for a long time. Crowds still bother me today and when I smell smoke, I feel like there is going to be a catastrophe.
"This act exposed the true face of U.S. imperialism and its genocidal policy towards Cuba which has, many times, targeted the defenseless population."