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      July 26, 1953
      When Revolution Began in Cuba
      Vancouver, Canada

      By Tamara Hansen

      On Sunday July 26, 2015 our day in Vancouver, Canada began with rain. However, the forecast was in our favour: the rain would stop by 4pm, just in time for Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba's 11 th annual Moncada Day celebration of the gains of the Cuban revolution. As luck would have it, by 6pm all the clouds had vanished and the sun was out over Trout Lake Park where the Cuba banners and flags were up, yummy food was cooking on the barbecue and Cuban music was welcoming everyone gathering for the event.

      Over 120 people gathered lining up for food in anticipation for a great event, which was also a fundraiser for the campaign to bring a freezer truck and tractor to the Julio Antonio Mella Volunteer Work Camp in Caimito, Cuba.

      “Let us begin tonight’s program with the historic news this week. Once again, after 54 years of US government sabotage and hostility towards Cuba, the Cuban flag is waving in front of the newly established Cuban embassy in Washington, DC- in the heart of the empire.” Expressed Tamara Hansen, coordinator of Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) as she opened the event and welcomed participants. Tamara continued by explaining the importance of the fact that Cuba has stood firm in the face of US aggression since their revolution in 1959, and that the new US-Cuba relations represent a historic victory for Cuba. She also explained that the reason the US government has been so harsh towards the Cuban revolution is because it feels threatened by Cuba’s example, a socialist example. Also, that the ideas that form the base of the Cuban revolution and it’s success come from an other historic date: July 26, 1953. When Fidel Castro and over 120 other young revolutionaries attacked the Moncada Army Barracks in Santiago de Cuba with the goal of over throwing the cruel US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista. Tamara finished her opening talk with “Viva Cuba!” which was echoed back by the audience.

      Tamara then introduced the first musical group, performing for the first time together – Macarena Cataldo, Noah Fine and Maria Luisa Melendez. It was a treat for the audience who enjoyed singing along with their traditional Cuban and Latin American songs.

      The second speaker for the evening was Nino Pagliccia, editor of the recently released book “Cuba Solidarity in Canada: 5 Decades of People to People Foreign Relations” (Friesen Press, 2014). He spoke about the importance of solidarity and the development of new US- Cuba relations.

      Soon the microphone was filled with powerful Irish folk songs, sung by Gerry Alwell. His dynamic set reminded everyone of the struggles of the people of Ireland and their strong spirit.

      Gerry’s performance was followed by a speech by Michael O’Neil, an executive member of the Canadian-Cuban Friendship Association – Vancouver (CCFA-Vancouver). Michael brought greetings on behalf of his organization and emphasized the importance of continued solidarity with Cuba.

      It was then time for El Trobador Beto Fuentes to take the stage. Beto played many original songs relating his Latin American roots and his life today in Vancouver, Canada. It was then time for the final live performer, Oki. As a Cree/Nishnawbe artist, Oki rapped about the struggles of Indigenous people in Canada today and the importance of fighting back against oppression. She had the whole audience clapping along creating a communal beat for her flows.

      The sun was slowly setting, everyone had eaten a delicious meal, heard some inspiring speakers and many talented live performers. It could only mean one thing – it was time for the Salsa dance lesson! Janine Solanki, an organizer with Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba and her dance partner Alfredo encouraged everyone to participate, whether they were a salsa beginner, novice or expert! Many smiles, and even some laughs, were seen and heard during the lesson, many learned some new moves or refreshed their skills.

      As the salsa dancing came to an end, it was time for the special raffle. Everyone had their tickets out, hoping to win the beautiful framed Cuban artwork of Che Guevara by renowned Cuban artist Olivio Martinez, as well as the bottle of Havana Club rum. It was a very good night for the winner!

      The event wrapped up with everyone being invited to Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba’s next event celebrating the 89 th birthday of Fidel Castro, on Saturday August 15. Many cheered in agreement while shouting “VIVA CUBA!” “VIVA FIDEL!” “VIVA RAUL!” “VIVA LATINOAMERICA UNIDA!”

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