More than 100 mourners bid farewell to Cuba's last first lady - In Spain, she will be buried with husband
WEST PALM BEACH -- More than 100 mourners Saturday bid farewell
to Cuba's last first lady.
Marta Fernandez Miranda de Batista was the second wife of ousted
Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. She died Monday after a heart
attack in September left her homebound. She had also suffered from
Alzheimer's. She was 83, according to one of her sons.
Marta Batista's death is symbolic for the thousands of Cubans,
who like her have never been able to return home. Married to the
last president to hold office in Cuba before Fidel Castro rose to
power, she was one of the first exiles to flee as a result of the
Her husband actually ruled as Cuba's president twice: Once, after
he led the "Sergeants' Revolt" that deposed then-president
Carlos Manuel de Cespedes , and again from 1952 to 1959 after he
led a second coup to depose president Carlos Prio Socorras.
Marta Batista fled her homeland with her husband and three of her
children on New Year's Day 1959 as Castro's rebel forces closed
in on Havana. Her body is to be flown to Spain, where she will be
buried next to her husband in Madrid.
During the wake, mourners sipped coffee while family and friends
who had not seen each other in years kissed, hugged and took the
opportunity to rekindle friendships.
A procession of cars then followed the hearse a few miles to St.
Juliana's Catholic Church where a Mass was held in her honor.
"Many years ago she put into practice her faith," said
Father Jose Angel Crucet, one of three priests to conduct the Mass.
"She established schools in the fields, and hospitals, and
the Saint Barbara sanctuary."
After leaving the island, and after her son Carlos died of leukemia
and her husband's death, the former first lady contributed to Jackson
Memorial Hospital in Miami and supported several leukemia and cancer
After leaving Cuba in 1959, Fulgencio Batista was denied entry
to the United States. Marta Batista followed her husband to the
Dominican Republic for a short stay before going to Portugal and
then Spain. She resettled in West Palm Beach after her husband died.
"We didn't know we were never going back to Cuba," said
Roberto Batista, who, along with his brother Jorge Luis, left the
country a day before his parents. "It was very sad talking
Like many Cubans in exile, Marta Batista often spoke longingly
of the country she left behind." She missed her homeland dearly,"
Roberto Batista said. "She had always wanted to go back."
To her grandchildren, most of them born in Spain, she told stories
about how she met then-Gen. Fulgencio Batista.
"She was riding a bicycle when he ran her over," her
granddaughter Esther Batista said.
It was 1937, and although Fulgencio Batista was married, he fell
in love with Marta, who was 20 years his junior.
Her family described her as elegant and poised.
"She had a beautiful temperament," granddaughter Esther
In 1940, Fulgencio Batista was democratically elected president
of Cuba. When his term expired, he decided to tour Latin America
with Marta. They settled in a house near the Halifax River in Daytona
Beach after they married in 1945.
The couple donated a large collection of art to the city of Daytona
"She always got close to the most needy," her son Roberto
said. "But after my father died she lived a more secluded kind
The Mass in her honor ended with a song that touched on the themes
familiar to so many Cuban exiles.
"On the sand, I left my raft," mourners sang. "With
you Lord, I seek a new home."