As a heatwave in Vancouver broke records, Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) invited everyone out to beat the heat with an outdoor BBQ and celebration of Cuba’s Moncada Day and the gains of the Cuban Revolution. This celebration also marked the 64th birthday of Comandante Hugo Chávez Frías, leader of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela. Over 100 people participated in this electric event featuring live music, salsa dancing, an Indigenous cultural exchange, speakers, poetry, great food, community and friendship.
The event began with the BBQ and many people brought items to share. The spread was arranged across two long tables, and the line was twice as long! As everyone filled up their plates, Tamara Hansen, coordinator of VCSC welcomed everyone to the event and explained a brief history of Cuba’s Moncada Day.
“On July 26th, 1953 Fidel Castro led a group of young Cuban revolutionaries in an attack against the Moncada Army Barracks in Santiago de Cuba. This was their initial strike against the U.S.-backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. Although this attack was a military defeat for the young revolutionaries, it is seen as the beginning of the Cuban Revolution. Tonight, we remember this important action and honour the heroic fighters including: Fidel Castro, Raúl Castro, Juan Almeida, Abel Santamaría, and two women compañeras Melba Hernández and Haydée Santamaría,” Tamara explained. She went on to outline the important gains made throughout the Cuban Revolution since this initial action in 1953. Tamara also brought attention to the important role the Venezuelan Bolivarian revolution continues to play in supporting Cuba, and the legacy of its leader Comandante Hugo Chávez Frías.
The program continued with a poem by VCSC organizer Shakeel Lochan, who asked how revolutionary Cuba does so much with so little? Inspiring the audience with his poem, he was followed by Andrew Baddoes, who recently went to Cuba with the 2018 Che Guevara Brigade. Andrew played his guitar, getting the crowd to sing-a-long with him.
In recognition of the birthday of Comandante Chávez, VCSC was honoured to have Tatiana Vizcaya, the Second Consul of the Venezuelan Consulate in Vancouver bring greetings to the event on behalf of the Consul General, Wilfredo Pérez Bianco. The message emphasized the strong and beautiful connection between the revolutionary peoples of Cuba and Venezuela, as well as their eternal leaders, Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez. Alison Bodine, coordinator of the Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice Venezuela Solidarity Campaign read the message in English encouraging audience members to get involved in Venezuela solidarity actions in Vancouver.
Shortly after, Beto and Terrel took to the stage. This amazing guitar and flute duo impressed everyone with songs that were both soothing and joyful, dedicated to the environment and enjoying the summertime heat.
Azza Rojbi, coordinator of Friends of Cuba Against the U.S. Blockade – Vancouver (FCAB-Vancouver) then spoke, explaining the cruel and harmful effects of the U.S. blockade on Cuba. She also reminded everyone that VCSC and FCAB-Vancouver participate annually in Vancouver’s Pride Parade to bring attention to Cuba’s campaign against homophobia and transphobia. She invited all audience members to get involved in monthly actions against the blockade, as also to join the Cuba delegation in the 2018 Pride Parade.
A highlight of the event was the participation of over 30 Aztec people from Mexico who are visiting Vancouver to share their cultural rituals and dances. They brought all audience members to join hands in a circle teaching everyone a song in honour of friendship, solidarity, and mother earth. Two of the Aztec dancers lived in the apartment in Mexico where revolutionary leader Che Guevara lived for two years with his first wife, Hilda Gadea during the time that he first met Fidel Castro in 1955. They shared this story with the audience, which was beautiful and reminded everyone of how connected the history of the Cuban revolution is with the people of Mexico.
Soon after Kelly White, a Coast Salish elder and Shona Shutter, from the Syilx nation (Okanagan), came forward to honour the Aztec guests and blanket them with a beautiful star blanket representing the four directions. Kelly sang a song to honour the guests and wish them well on their journeys, it was a moving gesture of friendship and solidarity.
It was then time for the piñata! A dozen children lined up for their chance to take a swing at the prize filled dragon. Salsa music played and many of the young at heart danced and enjoyed themselves, until it was time for the raffle draw! Prizes included Cuban keychains, books, t-shirts, honey, and most famously a bottle of Cuban rum! All winners went home with a big smile on their faces, but those who weren’t so lucky left having enjoyed a beautiful evening of revolutionary politics, community, and celebration.
Follow Tamara Hansen on Twitter: @THans01
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