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      Seattle Welcomes the 26th Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba

      By Azza Rojbi

      On Monday June 29, the Seattle-Cuba Friendship Committee held a send-off event for the 26th annual Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba. Supporters of Cuba from the U.S. and Canada gathered together in the El Centro de la Raza for an evening of politics, culture and delicious food.

      The evening opened with a heartfelt Latin musical performance by the duo Laura Oviedo & Marc Smason.

      Hap Bockelie, MC of the night and organizer with the Seattle-Cuba Friendship Committee read a letter from Sol Bockelie, a student from Seattle at the Latin American School of Medicine in Cuba. Sol shared his experience as a U.S. citizen studying medicine for free in Cuba and spoke of the warmth and hospitality of the Cuban people.

      Next was guest speaker Bill Hackwell. Bill is a known social documentary photographer, long-time Cuba solidarity activist and an organizer with the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five in the U.S. He spoke about the importance of the Victory of the release of the 5 Cuban Heroes and the necessity to keep the pressure on the U.S. government to lift the blockade on Cuba.

      Seattle based poet Jose Carrillo and Jorge shared with the participants a strong and powerful poem about the missing 43 students of Ayotzinapa and the struggle of youth in Mexico against the corruption and suppression of the Mexican government. Dr. Xochitl Garcia, a recent gradu

      ate of the Latin American School of Medicine in Cuba shared her experience as a doctor trained in Cuba where she learned the importance of putting people before profit. Dr. Xochitl emphasized her dedication to work with immigrants and refugees community in need of access to healthcare across the U.S.

      Jim Page, social justice activist and folk singer-songwriter performed beautiful and powerful songs on his acoustic guitar. He was followed by a talk from Tamara Hansen, coordinator of Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC). Tamara spoke about the importance of the Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba and shared with participants a report from the successful 2015 Canada/U.S. Border crossing.

      The evening wrapped up with another musical performance by Laura Oviedo & Marc Smason. The Caravanistas said goodbye to the crowd of supporters before getting into the yellow school bus on their tour of the United States to challenge the immoral and criminal US blockade on Cuba!

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