Dr. Nilo S. Faria

Spanish teacher who spent five years in Cuban prisons during the 1960s for his anti-Castro activities

April 04, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Nilo S. Faria, a retired Gilman School Spanish teacher and former political prisoner who was confined to Cuban prisons during the 1960s for his anti-Castro activities, died March 23 of complications from kidney disease at Seasons Hospice at Northwest Hospital Center.

The longtime Reisterstown resident was 90.

Born and raised in Santa Clara, Cuba, Dr. Faria was the son of a real estate salesman and a homemaker. His father sent him to Baltimore, where he graduated in 1938 from Mount St. Joseph High School in Irvington.

He attended the Johns Hopkins University for several years before returning to Cuba during World War II.

He earned a law degree, a master's and his doctorate in education in 1947 from the University of Havana. He also was a graduate of the Santa Clara School of Journalism.

Dr. Faria taught high school English in Santa Clara while also practicing labor law.

After the Cuban revolution of 1959, when Fidel Castro overthrew dictator Fulgencio Batista, Dr. Faria joined the anti-Castro movement, raising money and writing and distributing anti-Castro literature.

"He was a fervent anti-communist and was arrested for his political activities and for helping Cubans escape from a house that we had on the beach," said his wife of 55 years, the former Migdalia Galvez, a retired Roland Park public school educator.

Mrs. Faria said she met her future husband when she was a student at the Santa Clara School of Journalism, fell in love and married him six months later.

On Dec. 18, 1962, Dr. Faria was arrested for his various activities and sent to prison.

"My husband was a political prisoner with principles, and he refused to become a communist. If he had, he would have had been treated to better things," Mrs. Faria recalled.

At first, Dr. Faria was imprisoned on the Island of the Jews and later transferred to La Cabana, a prison for political figures in Havana's harbor.

"He was in solitary confinement the whole time. I could only come once a month, and we had to talk through a screen. We only had 15 minutes, and then I had to go," Mrs. Faria said.

After being released from prison on Dec. 18, 1967, Dr. Faria spent the next 10 months in a concentration camp.

"He lost 60 pounds in prison," his wife said. "He had to work cutting sugar cane, and it nearly killed him. It was so hot and terrible that he had to work in his underwear. Finally, I received a cable saying that we could leave the country."

In September 1969, the couple and their two daughters arrived at Old Town, Maine, where Dr. Faria took a position teaching Spanish at the University of Maine.

While at the University of Maine, Dr. Faria earned a master's degree in Spanish literature.

He left the University of Maine in 1970 and taught Spanish for two years at Ricker College in Houlton, Maine, before getting a job offer from Gilman School.

"He said that it was his 'dream job' and that he could 'go back to Baltimore where I grew up,' " Mrs. Faria said.

Dr. Faria taught Spanish at Gilman from 1972 until retiring in 1985.

"[He] was a wonderful teacher and a courageous individual if you knew his life's story," said John E. Schmick, who is headmaster of Gilman School.

Mrs. Faria said her husband did not lament being unable to return to his homeland.

"He said he'd never go back to Cuba as long as Castro was there and Cuba was a communist country," she said. "He always said, 'America is my country.' "

Dr. Faria was an avid ham radio operator.

He was a communicant of Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, where a Mass of Christian burial was offered March 26.

Also surviving are two daughters, Felicitas Russell of Annapolis and Migdy Faria of Hampstead; and four grandchildren.

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