Cuban engineer Manuel Ray dies in PR; revolutionary to anti-Castro activist
Ray received a scholarship from the Cuban Ministry of Public Works to study civil engineering at the University of Utah and returned to Cuba in 1949 to work in the field of engineering, and later became project manager for the construction of the Havana Hilton. In his early career, he was also involved in several other major engineering projects, earning a reputation as one of the leading Cuban structural engineers of his time.
In 1957, he formed the Civic Resistance Movement, which undertook multiple sabotage and propaganda actions against the regime of Fulgencio Batista, which was toppled.
After Fidel Castro took power, Ray was appointed as the revolutionary government’s first Minister of Public Works in 1959. He recruited a number of highly qualified young professionals to work in a very ambitious program aimed at modernizing infrastructure.
Ray resigned in less than a year due to his disagreement with the increasing communist influence in the Cuban government. He then formed the Revolutionary Movement of the People (MRP) and joined the underground resistance to Castro.
Ray was forced to leave Cuba to avoid jail or execution and was exiled to the United States in 1960.
President John F. Kennedy pressured Ray to join the Cuban Revolutionary Council shortly before the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. About a month after the failed mission, Ray broke with the CRC.
In Puerto Rico, Ray began working as a special consultant for the commonwealth government’s Planning Board and developed a close relationship with Gov. Luis Muñoz Marín and maintained tight ties to his Popular Democratic Party for several decades.
He also continued his anti-Castro activities, founding the JURE (Junta Revolucionaria Cubana), a movement named after the one founded in the 1890s by José Martí in New York. This movement operated independently of the other anti-Castro groups of the time, and, unlike many of the other groups, was not overtly supported by the CIA.
JURE organized several actions against the Castro government between 1963 and 1965. In the last of these actions, Ray and several other members were by Bahamioan authorities for using a small deserted island as a staging area for attacks against Cuba.
After the arrest, Ray returned to Puerto Rico and to his professional career as an engineer. He ceased his involvement in armed actions against the Castro government, but continued political activities against the Castro regime.
Ray became increasingly involved in Puerto Rican civic and political activities, serving as advisor to PDP governors Rafael Hernández Colón and Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, PDP San Juan Mayor Héctor Luis Acevedo and gubernatorial candidate Victoria Muñoz Mendoza, the daughter of the late Muñoz Marín.
In 1967, along with Juan L. Meléndez, a former head of the Cuban water and sewer agency, he founded an engineering firm in San Juan. The firm, now called Ray Architects & Engineers, has been involved in multiple projects in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.
Ray remained as chairman emeritus until his death.
Due to his contributions to Puerto Rican society, was awarded the Luis Muñoz Marín medal by the government of Puerto Rico in the early 2000s.