A Revolution Made Love

Twenty-two adolescents from the school for special needs Solidarity with Panama celebrated last Wednesday evening its fifteen years with a very special guest: the Cuban President Raúl Castro Ruz.

Very few dates in the life of a youth are remembered with more nostalgia than the night of your fifteenth birthday. The white dress, the waltz, the flowers, the pictures, the jitters, the company of the parents and the first juvenile love come together all at once in the magic moment of the toast.

And if that night is spent in an extraordinary place, then emotions reach unimaginable limits. Thus was the experience this Wednesday of April when twenty-two adolescents from the school for special needs Solidarity with Panama celebrated their fifteenth birthday next a very special guest: the Cuban President Raúl Castro Ruz.

Some in wheelchairs, others walking, they reached the dance floor with their couples. All dressed in impeccable white and joy reflected in their faces. While through the speakers were heard the names of each one of them as well as the names of their parents, their favorite songs, the perfume they were wearing, the food they adore, the music they like, their zodiac sign and the name of their fiancées a secret until then.

The physical or intellectual disability didn’t matter. As any Cuban youth at their age, they also enjoyed their fifteenth waltz. They were two girls and twenty boys, each making true their dream night.

On the side of the room Raúl made the happiness of the children and their parents his. You could see happiness and he told them how happy he was after the dance was over.

«I am very thrilled», he admitted to them. When I see things like this I admire Fidel more. In year 1989, a very difficult year for our country, he founded this school, when we didn't know how we will subsist. «For schools such as these we are willing to give everything».

«I believe it’s one of the most beautiful tasks, more beautiful and just of the Revolution», he assured to parents, family members, teachers, workers and guests who came together that night to make happy the 171 children with physical-motor limitations of the entire country who attend school there and are taken care of with extreme love.

He got photographed with the boys; he talked to them, even one of them spoke about his great-grandmother who was friend of Vilma; he carried in his arms the smallest, and asked them for their studies and he promised to come back soon.

He spoke with the head of the institution, Esther La O Ochoa, she had thanked Raúl to be there, for the happiness of her children, to carry on Fidel’s work who on December 31st, 1989 when the Cuban families were celebrating yearend he was here inaugurating our school.

«We have loved it ever since, we have taken care of it », she said. She has devoted for some years now to make true Fidel's dream at the school Solidarity with Panama, a place where the Revolution has been made love.

Cubasi Translation Staff / Amilkal Labañino Valdés

Fidel, Cuba, Solidarity, Words Repeated in Peru

Fidel, Cuba, Solidarity, Words Repeated in Peru

Only 24 hours since the arrival of the Cuban civic retinue in this South American country and in every conversation with the Peruvians a name is repeated over and over again: Fidel, and always accompanied by the mention of solidary actions of Cuba.

Nicolás Aguilar Ibarra, head of the National Coordinator for Solidarity Peru-Cuba remembers the Commander in Chief Fidel Castro’s altruistic actions, one of the first ones, he says, in donating blood for the earthquake victims on May 31st, 1970 in Áncash, and the later replica in Yungay.

A few months ago we were in the region of Áncash and the five hospitals Cuba donated after the earthquake of 1970 are still there. That is an example that cannot be erased, as well as the gesture of 150 000 Cuban who also donated their blood to assist victims, he commented.

Cuban health collaborators also traveled to Peruvian lands at the time, an action that Aguilar Ibarra assures took place again in 2007, three days after the Ica earthquake; and last year after the floods in the Piura area.

We are in debt with Cuba, assured Nicolás Aguilar Ibarra, because Fidel's blood is in Áncash and we have a commitment to the Island, he highlighted.

Besides the medical aid, 2 500 youths have graduated from medical school in Cuba and other 500 from other studies, he pointed out.

He said that what has been done so far regarding the Peruvian solidarity with Cuba is hardly a grain of sand in comparison to everything the Island has given even in scarce circumstances.

Although we see a lot of elder people in the solidarity movements with Cuba, young Ernesto Rojas assures that that feeling is also live in the new generations.

Rojas highlighted that in the last years the youth has gained more freedom with the access to alternative information in different media like the social networks, the multinational Telesur or Russia Today that have helped to break the ring of the large international media networks.

Peruvians support the Cuban process and little by little are more aware in the minds of the youth, he concluded.

It’s not hard to see the representatives of the Cuban civic society and the youths as brothers, in an exchange of pleasantries with the Cuban friends in Inca lands, where they will attend the forums of the VIII Summit of the Americas to begin this week.

Cubasi Translation Staff / Amilkal Labañino Valdés

Fidel in the hearts of all

More than a million visitors have come to stand before the polished boulder bearing Fidel's name, a point of arrival and departure for many, experiencing a solemn moment that generates the awareness that here lies a father and a friend, the paradigm of the man who dreamed of a better world for all

The polished boulder bearing his name is a point of arrival and departure for many, experiencing a solemn moment that generates the awareness that here lies a father and a friend, the paradigm of the man who dreamed of a better world for all.

Figures provided to Granma by authorities at the historic Santa Ifigenia Cemetery indicate that, as of last Monday, March 26, precisely 1,008,392 men, women, and children – 838,288 Cubans and 170,104 from abroad – visited the site, people who came with Fidel on their minds and left with him beating in their hearts.

But the numbers registered do not convey what is truly important: the gestures, the expressions of: Thank you, Fidel, the tears, intimate conversations, flowers, personal letters, poems, flags, a fistful of dirt from another land - and in the case of Santiago natives, the commitment to honor him with concrete acts.

According to the statistics, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, and the United States lead the long list of countries from which visitors have come, while every corner of the island is represented, a clear reflection of the reality that all of Cuba is Fidel.

Since last October 10, the 149th anniversary of the initiation of our struggles for independence, in the cemetery's central patrimonial area, joining the monument to our national hero José Martí, are those of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, and Mariana Grajales, and to one side, the polished boulder bearing Fidel's ashes.

The Unstoppable Fidel in Terms of Inspiration

Raúl Torres is recording a new disc with the local Unicornio record company to compile some of the experiences lived in the last year entitled’ Niñito historia’by the writer of the book entitled’ Candil de nieve ’ that has become a kind of spokesperson at the time of expressing what it is felt by thousand of people. However, we all don’t have the gift for making music by placing the words in their proper order. That was what happened after Fidel death.

The occasion needed a poem, a verse and there was a line which expresses the really hard moment the nation was going through. Raúl Torres was there and he said, and even better, he sang what we wanted, besides, there was another song dedicated to Fidel some days ago and he said again that there are thousands of people who are silent and suffering under the absence of the leader.

The Unstoppable Fidel in Terms of Inspiration

“We were used to reading his writings on the Granma newspaper, his speeches and his few appearances at the end, but people were used to that. I think that is the saddest lack of former presence that is happening to the Cuban people since many years ago and that is why he is missed.” Raúl told some minutes after carrying out his vote on November 26th. He feels that there is no doubt about the related tenderness about him as he is an artist who knows what that means in Cuba.

“A song like the one entitled´Cabalgando con Fidel´ is another of the songs and there are many songs made about Fidel not only by local troubadours and singer composers in the nation but also in other nations. Fidel is endless in terms of inspiration. He has inspired many poets, writers and the also singers songwriters. There are not enough songs to describe the dimension of the Comamnder-in-chief.” He stated.

The Unstoppable Fidel in Terms of Inspiration

Taking into account the great vision of any artist, tell us how do you see Cuba in 5 years time?

I see a Cuba renewing itself, fighting with its flags raised and I think that is the only alternative to keep holding the Socialist flag and I think that is the only altearnative that Fidel showed to us to keep defending what we are in this world as a special human beings. We are Cubans and that is thanks to Fidel and the Cuban Revolution.

By Jaime Masó Torres

  • Published in Culture

Fidel Castro: A Latin American Legend

The Cuban revolutionary remained influential in Latin America and across the world for half a century.

Fidel was born in 1926 during a period when then-President Gerardo Machado was cutting off the traditional elite from its long-held power and defending the island’s sovereignty from the United States.

As a child, Fidel was sent to live in Santiago de Cuba, where he excelled more in sports than academia.

His youth was marked by turbulent politics: Fulgencio Batista became president in 1940 and ruled the country until 1944 before returning to power through a coup in 1952. With the blessing and material support of the United States, he ruled Cuba with an iron fist until 1959 in what even John F. Kennedy once referred to as “one of the most bloody and repressive dictatorships in the long history of Latin American repression.”

While studying law at the University of Havana, Fidel became increasingly involved in anti-imperialist activism. After traveling to the Dominican Republic and Colombia, Fidel sharpened his leftist politics and led protests against right-wing governments in both countries.

Upon returning to Cuba, Fidel used his legal training to oppose the Batista regime while founding an underground revolutionary socialist group called “The Movement.”

Armed Struggle

The Movement staged a failed attack on the Moncada barracks, and many—including Fidel—were arrested.

Prison was a time of learning for Fidel, who devoured authors ranging from Marx, Lenin and Marti to Freud and Shakespeare. It was during this time that Fidel made one of the most famous speeches in history, “History Will Absolve Me,” as part of his own defense in court.

Millions of Cubans hailed the anti-imperialist movement to oust U.S. imposed dictator Fulgencio Batista | Photo: File

Released in 1955, Fidel left Cuba for Mexico, where he met and soon befriended the Argentine Ernesto "Che" Guevara. The Movement ultimately survived and reorganized in Fidel’s newfound country, eventually assuming the name “26th of July Movement” in honor of the Moncada attack.

IN PICTURES: The Victory of Fidel Castro's Revolution

Fidel began his takeover of Cuba the next year, sailing to the island aboard the Granma. The few fighters soon multiplied and despite initial defeats against Batista forces, Fidel’s strategizing and sustained guerrilla attacks eventually resulted in the country being taken over piece by piece.

Despite U.S. attempts to stop him, on Jan. 1, 1959, Fidel officially declared victory in what would be the final nail in the coffin of the Batista regime.

Putting Words Into Action

Fidel transformed the country from one terrorized by torture, killings and dispossession to one radically committed to wealth redistribution, education and universal health care.

Domestically, he built his legacy on agrarian reform, establishing one of the world’s most ambitious literacy campaigns and developing a free, world-class health care system. He went on to nationalize companies, refineries and land and would serve as head of the Communist Party of Cuba from 1965.

Fidel parades through the streets of Havana 56 years ago celebrating the triumph of the Cuban Revolution | Photo: File

In Washington, he is known for opposing U.S. aggression, most prominently the CIA’s Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961, and being a major player in the 1962 Missile Crisis that marked the peak of the Cold War with the USSR. He is also believed to have survived at least 638 assassination attempts as well as countless attempts to destabilize the small Caribbean country.

ANALYSIS: 5 Times Fidel Proved He Was a True Internationalist

In Latin America, Fidel built the groundwork for a tight partnership between left-wing governments of the Caribbean and South America. Along with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, he helped found ALBA, a socialist bloc opposed to privatization and liberalization which offers a vision of post-neoliberalism rooted in principles of social welfare and mutual economic aid.

For the Global South, Fidel is a revolutionary icon who has consistently supported principles—and policies—of internationalism. He was a key figure in the Non-Aligned Movement, winning the respect of leaders across Africa, the Middle East and Asia, where thousands of Cuban troops, doctors, agricultural specialists and teachers have helped on humanitarian missions.

Fidel’s Dawn

On April 19, 2016, at the final session of the Cuban Communist Party’s 7th Congress, Fidel addressed his audience. “This may be one of the last times that I speak in this room,” he said, “but the ideas of the Cuban communists will remain as proof that on this planet, by working with fervor and dignity, we can produce the material and cultural wealth that humans need."

A photograph of Fidel being installed in preparation for his 90th birthday in Havana, Cuba, August 12, 2016 | Photo: Reuters 

It was a rare public appearance for the 90 year old, who still nonetheless penned letters and articles on global issues, influencing strategic decisions in Cuba with his moral weight. His behind-the-scenes diplomacy has also helped establish peace between the FARC and the Colombian government, and now the U.S. and Cuba through the normalization of diplomatic relations.

Suffering from an undisclosed digestive illness in July 2006, Fidel announced the transfer of presidential duties to his brother, Raul, who was vice president at the time.

On Nov. 25, 2016, his brother and fellow revolutionary Raul Castro announced that Fidel had passed at the age of 90.

  • Published in Cuba

Fidel’s Favorite Book and Why You Should Read It

The Cuban revolutionary had an eclectic reading taste. But what was his favorite book?

While Fidel Castro is best recognized as a revolutionary political leader, the former Cuban president had another serious passion — reading.

IN DEPTH: Fidel: A Revolutionary Life

Following the failed attack on the Moncada Barracks in 1952, Fidel was sent to a prison north of Santiago. It was here that the leader of the Cuban Revolution immersed himself in books, avidly reading all genres — from philosophy to history and the great literary masterpieces.

This period proved formative in finessing his political ideology and outlook on the modern Cuban state.

Trapped in a gloomy cell, Fidel found inspiration in the works of Freud, Kant, Shakespeare, Munthe, Maugham and Dostoyevsky. But while the Comandante accredits many authors for expanding his political education, there was another book that deeply moved Fidel — “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” by Ernest Hemingway.

The novel is told through the perspective of Robert Jordan, a young U.S. guerrilla in the Spanish Civil War. Fighting for the Republicans against the fascists, Jordan meets Spanish fighter Maria and together they plan an attack against an enemy transport route.

It is a story of resistance, solidarity and the struggle for justice — themes that resounded with Fidel Castro and would later inspire the Cuban Revolution.

The title is taken from the John Donne poem “No Man Is an Island,” which also speaks to human camaraderie.

In the poem, Donne writes, “any man's death diminishes me, / because I am involved in mankind.”

RELATED: Cuba Bids Farewell to Fidel: Live Updates

These sentiments are echoed throughout “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

In the book, a character asks “For what are we born if not to aid one another?” and later states, “I am thee and thou art me and all of one is the other.”

As well as appealing to Fidel Castro’s humanism, he also saw in “For Whom the Bell Tolls” lessons on how to stage guerrilla warfare.

Speaking in a 1975 interview with U.S. writers Kirby Jones and Frank Mankiewicz, Fidel revealed that “Of U.S. authors, Hemingway is one of my favorites."

“I read ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ when I was a student … Hemingway spoke about the rear-guard of a guerrilla group fighting against a conventional army … The novel was one of the works that helped me devise strategies to fight against Batista’s army.”

As the world prepares to pay their final respects to Fidel Saturday, the words of the Cuban leader’s favorite book appear more pertinent than ever:

“If we win here we will win everywhere. The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.”

  • Published in Culture

Puerto Rico's Oscar Lopez Rivera Honors Cuba's Fidel Castro

Mementos, songs and photos were brought out for the occasion to honor the revolutionary life of Cuban hero Fidel Castro.

Fidel Castro's legacy is an example for the world, Puerto Rican independence fighter Oscar Lopez Rivera said Wednesday during a tribute ceremony in Cuba for the Cuban revolutionary leader.

RELATED:  New 'Fidel' Musical Celebrates Cuban Revolution in London

Mementos, songs and photos were brought out for the occasion. The event, coordinated by the Organization of Solidarity of the Peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America, and the Casa del Cultura in Havana.

“I can say this afternoon for me has been a great honor and an experience that I will take with me for the rest of my life, with the desire that other people around the world rise and follow the example of the leader in order to achieve a better world,” Lopez said to the crowd of 140 international guests and media personnel

With the assistance of the Tricontinental Audiovisual Space, Fidel's life became a living mobile of photos.

“The whole world must emulate the example that the commander in chief Fidel Castro Ruz left to us,” Lopez Rivera said.

During his visit to Cuba, the independence activist, who spent nearly four decades in U.S. prison as a political prisoner, also visited the University of Havana to speak with students.

“This country has achieved like no other poor country in the development of human resources and the system of university education has been a pillar,” Lopez Rivera told the students, adding that Cubans enjoy debt-free education.

Lopez described the strength and wealth of opportunity open to Cuban youth, saying he planned to leave the congregation of students more confident in their abilities.

He criticized the host of sanctions targeting the nation by U.S. President Donald Trump and he denounced the travel and economic bans as a means to disempower Cuban people.

RELATED:  Oscar Lopez Rivera Tells Young Cubans They are the ‘Future'

“We Puerto Ricans, those of us who love freedom, those of us who believe in independence, live deeply grateful to the Cuban people, to their government of Commander in Chief Fidel Castro, and to all those who have been in solidarity with our struggle,” Lopez Rivera told the students.

“Youth is the future of every people, it is the driving force that has made this society achieve so many accomplishments. When I look at you, I see the best of this society,” he added.

The Puerto Rican activist spent two weeks touring Cuba and will bring his visit to a close after stopping for a short time in Guantanamo Bay.

  • Published in Cuba

New 'Fidel' Musical Celebrates Cuban Revolution in London

"With just a few hundred soldiers and limited means, they took on Batista's army of thousands with its tanks, aircraft and backing from the United States."

The Cuban Revolution will be brought to London audiences in musical form this week when "Fidel," a new stage show celebrating the life of the revolutionary in song, premiers at the Actor's Church.

The musical depicts Fidel Castro's life in the years leading up to and during the Cuban revolution of 1953-59. It was written by University of Southampton Professor Denise Baden, who was inspired by what she called the “David and Goliath story” of the Cuban Revolution during a research trip to the socialist country.

"I can't believe it's not on stage already as a massive musical," Baden said.

Baden hopes to depict – entirely through song – how Cuba overcame "impossible" odds against the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista to fight for independence and sovereignty.

"With just a few hundred soldiers and limited means, they took on Batista's army of thousands – with its tanks, aircraft and backing from the United States… and won," reads the play's official billing.

"Their secret was bravery, dedication, and the support of the Cuban people, who desperately longed for justice and an independent Cuba."

The musical score was composed entirely by students from schools across the United Kingdom through a nationwide songwriting competition, in an attempt to mirror "Cuban values" of "education and inclusion," according to the show's website.

One actor, from Latin America, pointed to the stark difference in how the Cuban leader is commonly viewed in the South and the vilifying propaganda so prominent in the U.S. and Europe.

"Back home he's not seen in the same way they see him here," he said. "He is quite vilified in the U.S. He's like this evil dictator who, whatever. Back home the whole left side of politics still kind of view him as a hero."

Actress Gabriela Garcia, who plays revolutionary Celia Sanchez, said she is deeply inspired by the role of women in the Cuban revolution, and hopes to depict that to London audiences through her character.

"For me, women like her in the Revolution or most of the time get forgotten. So everything, all the stories you hear, is about Fidel or Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos, but actually, when you really start digging in deep and read about all these revolutionary women, there were so many. Especially in the Cuban Revolution,”

Fidel Castro is admired by leftist and anti-imperialist movements around the world for his role in building a sovereign Cuba, staving off the United States, and assisting worldwide revolutionary movements. He died last year at the age of 90.

  • Published in Culture
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