A few days ago we talked about Cuban refugee babies whose names were associated with the Mariel boatlift, but here’s an even earlier Cuban refugee baby name I haven’t written about yet: Barbara Benita.
She was born in a small open boat fleeing from Cuba in late April, 1964. Her father, a farmer named Andres Mejias, was quoted as saying: “I never dreamed of delivering a baby, especially at sea running from my country.”
The family was picked up by H.M.S Tartar about 13 miles south of Marathon, Florida.
The baby was named Barbara for the Cuban saint of thunder because it was rainy during the night, and Benita for the British naval officer on the Tartar who first spotted the refugee group. Mr. Mejias said he knew only that the officer’s first name was Ben.
In the Afro-Cuban religion of Santería, Saint Barbara was syncretized with Shango, the Yoruban god of thunder and lightning, fire, and war.
Source: “Cuban Refugee Gives Birth in Small Boat at Sea.” Toledo Blade 30 Apr. 1964: 1.