The Venceremos Brigade helps Cuban peasants for their crops. Originally, they came to help cut the sugar canes during "zafras". AFP Photos / Yamil Lage
The Venceremos Brigade is one of Cuba's oldest solidarity organizations. At the time there were about 200 to come cut the sugar cane in support of the Castro revolution, this summer they were a hundred to discover the Cuban island and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Venceremos Brigade.
In the garden of the Cuban Institute of Friendship between Peoples, English with a strong American accent takes precedence over the Spanish language. This evening of August 8, 2019, they are about 200 Cubans and Americans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first Venceremos Brigade .
The gran zafra
Among them, three are still there to testify the first contingent in 1969, Abi Turnal and Denis Dunkenwood are from California. They will have been marked all their lives by this first trip. " We worked a lot, really a lot ! "Remembers Abi Turnal. They both remember their meeting with Fidel Castro , " I remember when Fidel came to the camps to talk to us. I only spent 15 dollars in Cuba in 8 months, and half of them used to call my family to tell them that Fidel was with us . " Abi Dunkenwood says, " He came on Christmas day and he cut the sugarcane with us and then we talked "
However, the aid from this US quota will not have achieved Fidel Castro's goal of gran zafra, a large sugar cane crop expected to reach a record high in 1970. The 10 million tonnes of sugar have never been harvested.
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Organization of American students
Originally, the brigade was founded by the Students for a Democratic Society, the SDS, and Cuban officials, to create a solidarity movement. The young Americans were helping out the fields while training in communist ideology.
This year, they are 158 to have made the trip for 2,200 dollars, for about a month they went from Havana to Guantanamo, to work in the fields and make cultural visits.
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Nadir Rubén Romo Quesada, an American of Mexican origin, is part of the organization of the brigade. He lists the works in the fields organized in time: " This year we have grown beans and various products such as cassava, lemons and garlic. For us it is very important to continue to keep hands in the ground because it was the foundation of the organization. Apart from this on-site work, our responsibility when we return to our communities in the United States is to share this experience in order to combat ignorance about what is known and what is said about this country, because the media does not do not tell the truth about Cuba. "
A politicized ceremony
The Venceremos Brigade must also deal with the hindrances of US travel policy on the island. At the time, the young people back in the United States had been welcomed by the FBI, today the policy of Donald Trump worries the contingent who feels intimidated and threatened.
So during the 50 years, the speeches quickly took a political turn. On the platform, Leslie Kagan, founding member of the Venceremos Brigade. " Our work is far from over, of course it's first up to us in the United States to do everything we can to end this crazy nightmare in Washington. We owe it to our brothers and sisters and friends in Cuba and around the world. The name of this brigade Venceremos ["we will conquer" in Spanish ed] is as current and necessary as it was 50 years ago. "
Widely applauded also, the president of the Cuban Institute of Friendship between Peoples, Fernando Gonzalez Llort. He is one of those called here the 5 heroes. Cuban spies imprisoned for 15 years in the United States, and released during a prisoner exchange at the time of the rapprochement between Barack Obama and Raul Castro .
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For Fernando Gonzalez Llort, the increasingly aggressive sanctions against Cuba are linked to a political agenda of Donald Trump. " It is an irrational, absurd policy that will not achieve its goal, exclaims Fernando Gonzalez Llort . They are trying to block the economic development of Cuba by all means, but even with this policy, the Cuban people will not give up and they will not succeed in doing what they want and 10 other presidents of the United States ! "