Articles / About Camagüey / History / Barberán and Collar still remembered in Camagüey
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Barberán and Collar still remembered in Camagüey
By Gualveris Rosales Sánchez
Magnificent and reddish the sun rose at their backs. The stars that had helped Captain Mariano Barberán to trace out the route to be followed by no less heroic Lieutenant Joaquín Collar were fading away. It was the dawn of June 10th, 1933.
The two pilots, who represented the corps of aviators of the then, Republic of Spain, were about to set, on board of the plane Cuatro Vientos, what was considered a feat of courage: the first nonstop flight Seville-Camagüey.
Having no precedent in history, Barberán and Collar’s flight covered a distance of over 4 500 miles crossing the southern Atlantic Ocean, just like Christopher Columbus and his intrepid sailors of La Pinta, La Niña and the Santa María did in 1492.
Cuba would be their main goal in America, then they would continue the expedition toward Mexico, where the brave airmen are going to die as a result of a combination of adverse factors that led to the fall of the Cuatro Vientos in the wild, and so the possible murder of the two, as historic researches indicate.
Yet, it is not the mystery involving this catastrophe what interests us in this brief article, but the meaning of Barberán and Collar trip for the development of the aviation and the communications, and mainly for the rapprochement it prompted between the peoples of Cuba and Spain united by blood, history and culture.
PREPARATIONS FOR THE TRIP
As described in the book Barberán and Collar: Legend and reality by Camagüeyan writer Franklin A. Picapiedra Montejo, and issued by the local publishing house Ácana; Spain worked hard to develop a technology in order to accomplish such an ambitious plan, making a nonstop flight from Spain to America and setting the record of the longest trip over the ocean.
Picapiedra asserts that the key factors for the success of that project, for many an unfeasible undertaking because of the limited technological level at that time, was the wonderful combination of the terrific genius and the mathematical accuracy of the Spaniards.
In the book, Picapiedra Montejo – an expert on the subject - describes each feature of Cuatro Vientos airplane, not only praising the technical modifications thanks to which the aircraft could fly for over 33 hours and 50 minutes across the Atlantic Ocean, but also some elements that he disapproves.
4:45 A.M. TABLADA AERODROME, SPAIN
The time of the great bound finally came. Once in Camagüey, Barberán said: “My mate Collar has shown a wonderful self-control and stamina, making in Tablada Aerodrome one of the most difficult takeoffs that I’ve ever seen in my career as a pilot.”
With a burden of 5 400 litters of gasoline and 220 litters of oil, to the maximum of its weight capacity, the aircraft took off.
Fifteen airplanes arrived from Madrid to escort Cuatro Vientos in its historic departure from Seville’s airfield.
DETAILS OF ITS ARRIVAL IN CAMAGÜEY
After leaving the Iberian Peninsula, the world lost contact with Barberán and Collar, since it was necessary to make Cuatro Vientos lighter, they decided not to carry radio transmitters.
But the doubt was cleared up at 2:20 p.m. (hour of Cuba) when the plane made its entry into the Island’s air space. It happened over the eastern city of Guantanamo; where the Iberian pilots did not decide to go down because of a local storm.
Like Camagüey, the cities of Guantanamo and Santa Clara had been chosen by the Spanish aviators as possible places to land.
Nevertheless, a Waco 101 belonging to the Cuban Army, crewed by Lieutenants José Marrero and Eduardo Tomeu, was waiting in the Camagüey airfield.
El Camagüeyano newspaper under the title An extraordinary feat narrates the details of the event that aroused among the locals noble expressions of joy, respect and hospitality toward the visitors, who were not only courageous, but also warm and kind.
“I think that I’m going to get married in Cuba - said Lieutenant Collar, 26 –the fame enjoyed by the Camagüeyan girls as beautiful maids is true.”
Their stay in Camagüey was brief but they fulfilled a packed agenda in town. In each place they visited here (General Hospital, Hotel Camagüey, CMJK radio station, El Camagüeyano newspaper), Barberán and Collar received nothing but signs of generosity, affection and love; in the same manner they were welcomed in Havana during the following days.
When Barberán was asked about the impressions he had regarding Camagüey, the Captain said: “The name of Camagüey has caused in us the most pleasing emotion of our lives.”