Plaza José Martí in Bahía Blanca. Photo: Courtesy of the interviewee

The Argentina-Cuba Friendship House is located at No. 255 Yrigoyen Street in the Argentine municipality of Bahía Blanca, and works to cultivate solidarity with Cuba and its Revolution, in its efforts to achieve social justice throughout Latin America.

The institution was founded on July 26, 1991, coinciding with the 38th anniversary of the assaults on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Garrisons in Santiago de Cuba and Bayamo, respectively, a date which is commemorated every year on the island, on National Rebellion Day.

However, Argentine solidarity with the Cuban Revolution dates back further, to the struggle waged by the Rebel Army in the Sierra Maestra, followed by support for the popular measures adopted by the island’s revolutionary government.

The cultural center receives support from students and professors at the National University of the South, based in the city, and from all those who feel a sense of solidarity toward Cuba. Much of their efforts involve demanding an end to the genocidal economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States on the island, and organizing campaigns in support of the Cuban Revolution and its just causes.

Witness to this work is Edgardo Luis Fernández Stacco, who has been directing the Friendship House for the last 20 years. Fernández noted that conferences, seminars, congresses, forums and a wide range of cultural activities have been undertaken in Bahía Blanca to spread the truth about Cuba’s reality and counteract the defamatory campaigns waged by international mass media corporations, which aim to prevent people across the globe from learning about Cuba’s example.

Edgardo Luis Fernández Stacco (left) and Cuban intellectual Roberto Fernández Retamar during a panel discussion. Photo: Courtesy of the interviewee

An important initiative in this regard was the twinning in 1991 of the city of Bahía Blanca and the province of Cienfuegos, located in the center of the island, with the aim of strengthening fraternal ties between the two regions and peoples; fomenting productive scientific and cultural exchanges; promoting industry and trade links; organizing student encounters; and supporting all efforts to strengthen ties of friendship.

In July 2001, visual artists from the Argentine city organized an exhibition entitled Vínculos,hosted byCienfuegos’ Galería del Boulevard and Provincial Museum. With the donation of various works to both institutions, organizers aimed to establish a space to promote Latin American cultural heritage in the area. Artists also gave workshops on handmade paper and screen printing.

Meanwhile, the Argentina-Cuba Friendship House lobbied for the creation of a Plaza Martí in Bahía Blanca, in honor of Cuban National Hero José Martí, and for a city street to be named after Ernesto Guevara.

It was also responsible for founding the Martí-Martínez Estrada Faculty in 1993, to promote information about the life and work of the Cuban independence hero, as well as that of Argentine poet, author, essayist, literary critic and biographer, Ezequiel Martínez Estrada (1895-1964).

In order to commemorate various dates in both countries’ histories, the solidarity institute also organized talks in Bahía Blanca by Cuban cultural personalities, including prestigious intellectuals Roberto Fernández Retamar, Pedro Pablo Rodríguez, Ana Cairo, Fernando Martínez Heredia, and Ibrahim Hidalgo Paz, among others.

Meanwhile, the presentation of the book Los caminos del CHE, in 1998, represents a high point in the center’s work. The volume, which was published by Editorial Dirple and features the painting Homenaje al Che byHoracio Carpani on its front cover, includes the results of various investigations by Cuban and Argentine researchers into the thoughts and ideas of the heroic guerilla.

Members of the Friendship House have also created alternative media outlets to disseminate information about Cuba’s reality, and set up a radio show: “De la cabeza a la cola del caimán,” which has been running for over 20 years and reports on events, news and music from Cuba.

Since 1996, it has been responsible for distributing the printed version of Granma International in Argentina, and in 2005 organized the regional encounter of the Argentina-Cuba Friendship Movement which took place May 21-22.

Renowned Argentine intellectual Olga Liberti described the institute as “A house of friends, an extension of each one of our homes where, like in all good houses, there is space for discussion, and where respect, loyalty and camaraderie are cherished. A house of such great friendship that it helps and forces us to think of others and with others; to work with motivation and selflessness; to trust in one another; to give – a little or a lot of whatever – with sincerity and complete consciousness.”