Members of the 48th Venceremos brigade from the United States, are visiting Cuba July 23 through August 4, to learn about the construction of socialism and offer their support to the Revolution.
Speaking to Granma International at the Julio Antonio Mella International Campsite, located in the municipality of Caimito, where the group is staying, brigadistas explained that they have met residents, learned about community projects, visited sites of historic interest, and attended the central act for the annual July 26 - National Rebellion Day - celebrations, this year held in the western province of Pinar del Río, commemorating the 1953 attacks on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Garrisons in Santiago de Cuba and Bayamo respectively, led by Fidel Castro Ruz, and which marked the beginning of the armed struggle against General Fulgencio Batista’s bloody dictatorship.
Brigade members mentioned how they learned about Cuba’s true reality, unlike the lies and false depictions of the island published by the corporate media in their country.
They also highlighted the historic and persistent problem of police brutality against African Americans, above all the killings of Black youth by law enforcement officers.
With tears in her eyes, Frangy Pozo, studying Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and whose parents are originally from the Dominican Republic, noted, “We darker-skinned people never know if we’ll make it home. The police kill Blacks for allegedly carrying weapons or drugs, but after they investigate they come out and say they made a mistake. The killers aren’t punished. We hold mass protests, but in most cases they issue a public apology, the officer in question goes on paid leave, and the majority return to work.”
Pozo, who lives in New Jersey and is a member of Black Youth Project 100, which works to achieve justice and freedom for all Black people, is visiting Cuba for the first time.
She noted that although the U.S. is far from the paradise many believe it to be, citizens are continually struggling to build a better country for present and future generations.
Hobart William Smith College graduate, Denisse Coto Reyes, from the Bronx, New York, agrees, noting, “We live in a very violent country, where the people are kept in a perpetual state of fear. Black and Latino communities are afraid of the police,” stated the 24 year old of Puerto Rican descent.
She went on to say, “Around me I see a political system which excludes the vast majority of the population. I came here to learn about Cuban socialism ,and see how they solve their social problems. I have also met and spoken to young people about building a more just society.”
Héctor Rivera Toledo, who leads art workshops at a community center in the Bronx, is visiting the island for similar reasons. He had always wanted to come to Cuba and participate in productive work and people-to-people activities, so when friends and colleagues told him about the Venceremos brigade, he signed up immediately.
“I’ve read about the Revolution,” noted Rivera Toledo, “especially its leaders: Fidel and Raúl Castro, Ernesto Guevara and others. I’m here to learn. I want to meet and talk to Cubans and make friends. I’m also interested in learning more about Cuban culture, which is similar to that of Puerto Rico’s, where I’m from. Above all, I want to contribute my personal efforts to productive work.”
Meanwhile, Nadir Rubén Romo Quesada, who identifies as Chicano and was born in Los Angeles, California, but currently lives in New York, is visiting Cuba for the third time as a member of the Venceremos brigade, because, according to the public school worker, there is always a reason to return. “I am here in Cuba to show my solidarity, a human principle which I believe needs to be cultivated, above all among Spanish-speakers. It’s important to develop these types of connections between people, these types of cultural exchanges,” stated Romo Quesada.
Another key reason for the brigade’s visit to Cuba, according to Nadir, is to challenge the laws established as part of the United States economic, commercial and financial blockade, which restrict travel to Cuba and, for Romo Quesada, constitute a violation of the constitutional right to travel to any country they are welcome to visit. He added, “If, when we return to the United States, they demand we show a license, we will practice civil disobedience and demand our rights. We will use the mass media to expose our case and generate a great public debate to explain how they (the U.S. government) want to destroy the Revolution and re-colonize the island.”
All members of the 48th Venceremos brigade expressed their satisfaction with their stay in Cuba and are planning to celebrate 50 years since the initiative’s founding in 2019, with a range of activities including some featuring members of the first contingent from 1969, as well as those from later brigades.