Report from Franklin Marquez Regarding a Ship Named Shirley Lykes, and its exchange of goods in Cuba for Refugees

Franklin Marquez – Age –50’s; Birthplace – Santiago de Cuba, Cuba; Residence – Miami, Florida, U.S.; Lives with Wife and Children; Occupation – Attorney, Writer, Moderator of the Blog

As you know if you read this blog, I am the moderator of the blog, an attorney who practices in Miami, and a refugee from Cuba, although I departed my country in an unusual way.  Recently, I gave a talk about Cuba at a local library, and one of my law office clients was in attendance. Afterwards, he told me he had a video I’d be interested to see.  I asked him what it was. He said, he wasn’t really sure what the trip was about, but I should just watch it.

He gave me a vhs cassette, which had a soundless video of a ship called the Shirley Lykes loading giant boxes of goods.  Then it showed the ship at open sea, passing buildings that were familiar to me on the Malecón in Havana, and turning into the harbor.  It showed a lot of Cuban military activity around the ship --- many officers, men in suits, nurses, etc. coming into and leaving the ship.  Then the video shows sites from Havana.  Then it shows a number of Cuban people, all dressed up, carrying suitcases, walking towards and entering the ship.  Finally, it shows a number of Cubans disembarking in Port Everglades.

I called my client and asked who these people were. Again, he said he was not sure how they were chosen or what the connection was between what the ship delivered and why it brought back people. I thought of the incredible stories that could be told by them.

I did some Internet research, and found out all about it.  I learned that the Lykes company, so well known in meat production and sales, named all its ships after family members. I found a news reel video.  It shows a lot of the same people who are on the vhs tape, but not all of them.  I searched a little further and did find one Facebook entry from last year written by the husband of a woman and then the woman herself, who was one of the refugees on the ship.

I am working on editing the video, and now my client has told me he has several more.  If anybody reading this blog was on this ship or has anything to post on our site about this exchange and the trip, I would be happy to post it.  Just write to

Here are some links:

The following article explains all about the Lykes company ships.

The following article has a photo of the ship. I also learned from the above article that there were two Shirley Lykes, and the second one was built in 1962.  One photo I found did not appear to be the same ship.  I think the following is.

The following is a video of a news reel:

The web site is interesting --- It has all kinds of videos about historic matters. One can buy the videos.  The video’s opening states that the video was made in January of 1963.  Its explanation states:

“… Supplies unloaded by workers from cargo ship, 'Shirley Lykes'. Supplies as ransom for Fidel Castro's war prisoners. Refugees who are mostly relatives of prisoners boarding the ship. Wounded refugees are carried on litters. View of large number of wounded refugees. Refugees disembarking from 'Shirley Lykes' at USA.”

The following is a Facebook entry by Ralph de la Vega (who it turns out is also a Cuba refugee, CEO at AT&T, who wrote a book called Obstacles Welcome), with an entry by his wife, Maria: 

I learned a lot about Mr. and Mrs. De la Vega from Facebook too. Her post says:

 Maria De la Vega --- Today is the 47th anniversary of myself and many others arriving to freedom in the U.S. on the Shirley Lykes!
January 25, 2010 …”

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