In memory of Marcos Barcelo

Marcos Barcelo's daring landing on a crop-dusting plane on Cayman Brac in October 1970 was featured on the front page of the Caymanian Weekly.

Marcos Hilarion Barcelo was born on Oct. 21, 1949, in the town of El Santo in Villa Clara, Cuba. He was the ninth child of ten children born to Cecilia Fundora and Ramon Barcelo.

His formative years in Cuba were not idyllic ones, his family was poor and Cuba’s economic turmoil made daily life hard for its citizens, but he was a happy and adventurous child, who grew up in a loving household filled with laughter and closeness. During his school years, he was an avid student, who was interested in history, math, and navigation. He had a passion for flying and at 18 years old, obtained his pilot’s license. This would prove to be a significant moment in his life.

He was still a young boy when the political landscape in Cuba took a dramatic turn. What followed was years of rebellions, revolutionary movements and eventually the rise of a political regime that left many of Cuba’s citizens suffering and seeking to escape the island.

After becoming a pilot, Mr. Barcelo worked as a crop-duster in the fields in southern Cuba, diligently performing his duties, even as a daring and dangerous plan took shape in his mind. On the morning of Oct. 3, 1970, at 20 years old, he performed an escape so bold that no one could have anticipated it, especially his family, who he did not utter a word of his plan to, for fear they would be persecuted by the government. He got into the cockpit of his single engine plane, made several passes over the crop fields he was charged with spraying, and then simply flew off the island where he was born, to an unknown future. Although he left behind everything he ever knew that day and did not return for another 14 years, his experiences in Cuba would be an integral part of shaping the person he would become.

His landing on Cayman Brac was featured on the front page of the Caymanian Weekly newspaper, the precursor to the Cayman Compass. Shortly after arriving on the Brac, he was escorted to the refugee camp located on Cemetery Beach in West Bay, Grand Cayman. There, he spent about a year, learning a new language and assimilating to life outside of Cuba. During an afternoon walk on the beach, an activity that he enjoyed until the end, he met a young woman by the name of Abrana Rivers. Their marriage spanned 18 years and resulted in three children; Karidad, Margo and Miguel. Although their marriage dissolved, the couple remained close friends until his passing.

Mr. Barcelo met Helen Dawson during his time as a volleyball coach, a sport he was passionate about and that Helen actively played. Ever the charmer, he wooed the much-younger Helen and the two began a relationship that lasted several years, during which time he became a father again when his fourth child, a daughter, Gabriela, who was born in 1994.

He met Acelia Cruz in 1995. He embraced her children, Rollin and Martha, as his own and it seemed that their family was complete. That is, until shortly after they began dating, Marcos informed everyone that at the ripe old age of 49, he was expecting his fifth and final child, named Claudia. Marcos and Acelia were married on Feb. 27, 1999, and she would be the woman with whom he would spend the rest of his life.

Mr. Barcelo was the epitome of a family man. He cherished all of his children and grandchildren and it was always important to him to be present for the significant events in their lives. Although he had left Cuba, he loved his country and he took all of his children back to visit the place where he was born. He was the original king of dad jokes, the cornier the better!

He enjoyed telling his children stories from his own childhood, albeit greatly embellished ones, but he was a spellbinding storyteller and his audience was a captive one. He was a strict, but fair disciplinarian. He stressed family values and loyalty and he was the patriarch in a large, close-knit group of children, stepchildren, grandchildren, nieces and nephews and in-laws.

He came from humble beginnings. That may be why he had such a strong work ethic, because no matter the task, he gave maximum effort. During his time at the refugee camp on Grand Cayman, jobs were limited due to his refugee status, but he got a job as a technician at the Mosquito Research Unit and performed his job diligently. Over the next few years, he worked in various industries with brief stints at the Cayman Compass and managing Periwinkle Restaurant on West Bay Road.

He tried his hand at entrepreneurship and opened an office supply shop in West Bay, simply called Barcelo’s. He had knack for business and numbers and he finally found his niche when he became office manager at Kirk Freight Line. From there, his skills were used at the Cayman Turtle Farm. He took the years of knowledge learned there to his final job, at Mega Systems, where he was the office manager for many years before he retired.

Mr. Barcelo was a man of many talents and strengths; from piloting planes, to building houses with his own two hands, playing and coaching volleyball, to gardening, discussing history and philosophy, reading, going to the beach, listening to and playing music. He had a great variety of interests that he enjoyed sharing with those around him.

He enjoyed travel and his explorations took him to Costa Rica, France, Spain and the United States.

He took great pride in his yard, and a number of people have enjoyed the literal fruits (and vegetables) of his labor. He loved music, in both Spanish and English and could listen to a song and play it back on a variety of instruments that he had taught himself to play.

Mr. Barcelo, died peacefully in his home on Wednesday, Nov. 14. He was laid to rest at Boatswains Bay Cemetery in West Bay.

He is preceded in death by his mother, father and brother Victorino. He is survived by his wife Acelia Barcelo, his five children, Karidad Barcelo-Haylock, Margo Zechman, Miguel Barcelo, Gabriela Barcelo, Claudia Barcelo, his stepchildren Martha Quintero and Rollin Rodriguez, and 11 grandchildren. He also leaves behind his brothers Celestino, Ramon, Gregorio, Hermenegildo and sisters Juana, Caridad and Gudelia. He had a large extended family of nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, uncles, and in-laws.

Submitted by son Miguel Barcelo